Struggles in spread-option offense have Georgia Tech rethinking game plan
ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech is unbeaten but far from perfect in the view of head coach Paul Johnson, who said Monday he plans a more streamlined offensive approach on Thursday night against Virginia Tech.
Johnson said there have been too many tweaks -- including a new diamond formation -- to his spread-option offense. The result is uncharacteristic struggles to run option plays.
"We're just not as good at it as we have been," Johnson said.
"We've got too much stuff going on. We're doing too much stuff and we're not good at any of it. That's not the way I like to play."
Johnson said quarterback Vad Lee gave a "hot and cold" performance as the Yellow Jackets (3-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) fell behind 13-0 and 20-7 before rallying to beat North Carolina 28-20 on Saturday. Lee, a sophomore from Durham, N.C., grew up cheering for the Tar Heels.
"I think he let his emotions get the best of him at the start a little bit," Johnson said. "Then in the second half he played better. He's still a young guy at quarterback and he's going to make some mistakes. But he also makes some plays.
"He's the kind of guy now in his career one play you want to choke him and the next play you're ready to hug him. That's the growing process, and the more he plays the better he'll get."
Lee lost a fumble but completed 7 of 12 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown and had 55 yards rushing with a touchdown.
"I could have made some better throws, could have kept drives going," Lee said. "I kind of settled down in the second half."
Will there be fewer plays on the game plan?
"What we've got to do is refine what we're doing and be good at what we do," Johnson said. "We can't go into the game with a long list of things to do and not be good at the thing.
"We'll have some limited checks this week, I'll just put it that way. The whole thing is not going to be wide open."
The goal is more consistency as Georgia Tech tries to strengthen its hold on the early lead in the ACC's Coastal Division race against Virginia Tech (3-1, 0-0).
"It's not just Vad," Johnson said, adding "I think it's everybody."
Johnson said the offense needs better blocking from running backs and better execution that will allow the Yellow Jackets to turn 20-yard gains into touchdowns.
"We've just got to work on it," Johnson said. "Rest assured we'll work on it this week. We'll get better at that."
This may be a good week for a streamlined approach. Each team has only five days to prepare for Thursday night's game.
Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said Georgia Tech, averaging 45.3 points per game, doesn't look like it is struggling on offense.
"You look at their offense and 60 percent of the time it's ended up in a touchdown on their drives -- 60 percent of the time," Beamer said Monday. "It's like fourth in the country. They're very efficient. They're very good."
Injuries are a factor for the Yellow Jackets. Linebacker Quayshawn Nealy and safety Chris Milton did not practice Monday. Safety Jamal Golden, who left Saturday's game in the third quarter with an injury, was cleared to practice Monday.
Johnson said senior safety Isaiah Johnson, who hurt his knee in bowl practice in December and hasn't played this year, will redshirt this season.
"The key this week against a very physical Virginia Tech team is trying to get to the gate and trying to get there as healthy as we can," Johnson said.
"We've got guys who will probably try to play Thursday without putting on pads all week because they're banged up and injured. On this level that's hard to do."