Georgia Tech linebacker on playing Clemson: "we’re going to have something for ’em"
|Wednesday, September 19, 2018, 7:01 AM- -|
Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket squad is off to a 1-2 start this season and it doesn’t get any easier this weekend when Tech plays host to third-ranked Clemson.
A loss to Clemson would give the Yellow Jackets their first 1-3 start since 2003. The Tigers (3-0, 0-0) easily won the last three games in the series by a cumulative score of 93-41. They’re a 17-point favorite Saturday — the biggest spread against a Georgia Tech team during the Johnson era.
The Jackets are looking at the game as a chance to turn their season around.
“Definitely 1-3 is something we don’t want to do,” linebacker Jalen Johnson said. “We have an amazing opportunity. If we can upset Clemson, it could turn around the whole season.”
Linebacker Brant Mitchell is happy to be the underdog.
“I know we’re the underdog, but I love that. I’d rather be the underdog any day,” Mitchell said. “The whole country knows they’ve got some of the best skills players in the nation. But we’re going to have something for ’em. As long as we play to our ability, we’ll be just fine.”
Johnson understands the challenge the Tigers present.
This week will be a tremendous challenge. [Clemson] might be as talented a team as we’ve played since I’ve been here,” Johnson said Tuesday. “Defensively, they’ve got multiple first-round draft picks and offensively, they’ve got a great deal of skill. I think their running backs and receivers are as good as anyone’s in the country. It’ll be a huge challenge.
“They’ve probably got three, maybe four, first-round draft picks up there on the defensive line. So there won’t be many teams who will have that. The challenge becomes just trying to find a way to block them or read them to get to the second level. Hopefully, with the nature of what we do, we won’t have to block all those guys and we’ll be able to double some of them.”
Over the last three seasons, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ defense has gobbled up the Tech rushing attack. The Jackets have averaged 121.3 rushing yards per game. Over the same span, Tech has averaged 276.9 yards in the run game against all other power-conference teams.
“They do a good job. You can’t win as many games and be as good as they are without having a plan. They adjust fairly rapidly,” Johnson said. “If you find something that’s giving them a problem, they can adjust. They create a ton of negative plays and sacks. When you do that, you can play pretty good defense. If you watch their games, when you break down the Georgia Southern game, I think at one point Georgia Southern had run 30 plays for 39 yards.
“They had one first down in the first half. The Furman game wasn’t much different. Texas A&M, they hit some plays, they matched up a little better and they hit a few plays. But again like I said, it’s hard to put together consistent plays without them getting a sack or a negative play or something to get you behind the chains. You’ve got to be able to protect your quarterback if you’re playing them because they’re going to come after him.
However, Johnson believes the Yellow Jackets have a good chance to pull off the upset.
“You’ve always got a chance. I’m not saying it’s impossible but they’re a really good team. We’ll have to play better than we’ve played to this point,” Johnson said. “If you do that and you execute, you’ve got a chance. With the nature of what we do, it gives you a little bit of a chance as opposed to having to line up in an I-formation and having to block all those guys.
“They haven’t given up very much and, like in the Texas A&M game when you watch, one [touchdown for A&M] was busted coverage and one was a deflection off a guy in the end zone that another guy in the end zone caught. And really, the other touchdown they had really should’ve been an interception. It went through the guy from Clemson’s hands.”