ATLANTA – Georgia Tech basketball coach Brian Gregory knows he’ll soon be short, at least roster-wise, in the post.
Center Daniel Miller and sixth-man forward Kammeon Holsey will exhaust their eligibility next March. Power forward Robert Carter Jr. is a potential NBA early entry candidate.
Newcomers Quinton Stephens is more comfortable playing outside the lane than in it, and transfer Robert Sampson has just one year of eligibility remaining, meaning he’ll play only the 2014-15 season.
Gregory bolstered the Yellow Jackets’ inside game in September by gaining a verbal commitment from Texas high school star Ben Lammers. The 6-10, 225-pounder is in the Miller mold – a shot-affecter and good rebounder with a still developing offensive repertoire.
Lammers has an athletic pedigree. His father played football at Texas A&M.
Lammers is one of at least two high school recruits expected to sign with Georgia Tech during November’s weeklong early signing period. The other is shooting guard Tadric Jackson, a 6-2 scoring guard out of South Georgia with the ball-handling skills to potentially play point guard as well.
Jackson’s commitment could complicate Gregory’s recruitment of another sought-after Georgia recruit. Augusta’s Ahmed Hill, a 6-5 shooting guard and arguably the state’s best at his position, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he considered Tech’s scholarship offer to Jackson a slight.
“Maybe they don’t need me,” Hill said in a videotaped interview that appears on ajc.com.
Gregory is forbidden from speaking publicly about unsigned recruits, but his intentionally shunning Hill is unlikely.
Georgia Tech has an additional scholarship to offer in the class of 2015-16, at least at this point. Transfers and other departures could open up more, of course.
Up Is Down For Football Team
Georgia Tech’s season is taking on a “Bizarro World” quality.
The defense is playing well. Head coach and offensive coordinator Paul Johnson is calling pass plays. And the offense is struggling with the option running game.
The situation reminds fans of the “bizarro” concepts introduced by DC Comics and made famous by a Seinfeld episode. In “Bizarro World,” the polar opposite of what one expects happens.
And while the Yellow Jacket faithful are encouraged by the defense’s improvement under first-year coordinator Ted Roof and downright excited to see quarterback Vad Lee throw the ball downfield, they are troubled by the results. Georgia Tech struggled to defeat what is proving to be an overrated North Carolina team, lost to Virginia Tech on national television and is in danger of falling out of the ACC Coastal Division race with a game at Miami looming.
“We’re not very good with the option – we’re terrible, in fact,” Johnson said. “I’m confident that we’re going to get better at it. We’re either going to get better at it orwe’ll have other people playing.”
The option run game has carried Georgia Tech to success under Johnson. Tech ranked among the top-three teams nationally in rushing each of Johnson’s first five seasons, offsetting a porous defense and non-existent passing game.
Starting Lee, a third-year sophomore, at quarterback this season and matching him with a veteran offensive line and experience running backs was supposed to elevate the offense. Lee’s passing skills would keep defenses from keying on the run and he is as athletic a runner as his predecessors, Tevin Washington and Joshua Nesbitt.
But Lee is uncomfortable taking the snap from under center and remains uncertain about his option reads. Johnson admits he goes through periods where he’d rather choke his quarterback than hug him. And he’s yet to find the right chemistry with his offensive linemen, who couldn’t block Hokie defensive tackles Derrick Hopkins and James Gayle and committed six false start penalties in the Virginia Tech game.
“If we have offensive struggles, I put it on me,” Lee said following the loss to the Hokies. “I’ve got to command the huddle better and maybe those offsides penalties won’t happen.”
There remains a sense the offensive juggernaut will return. The Yellow Jackets rushed for almost 300 yards in the final 30 minutes 23 seconds against North Carolina. And Virginia Tech does boast one of the best defenses in the country and is one of the few defenses to consistently stymie the option.
Fullback David Sims summed up the situation best, saying “anytime our defense can hold people to 17 points, we should be able to win.”
Georgia Tech’s defense is impressive. The Yellow Jackets blanked North Carolina coach Larry Fedora’s high-octane offense for the final 39 minutes in that Jacket win and made Virginia Tech’s offense one dimensional.
The Hokies rushed for just 55 yards, and 10 of their 17 points came off short-field situations: a 27-yard touchdown drive set up by a Lee fumble and a field goal drive that started at Georgia Tech’s 48-yard line. Virginia Tech punted on six of its 10 full possessions in the game.
Johnson, echoing Sims, said “points are what are important, and we held them to 17, and that should be good enough to win the game.”
Defensive line play has keyed the turnaround. Defensive tackles Adam Gotsis and Emmanuel Dieke are getting consistent penetration, and end Euclid Cummings is winning one-on-one matchups as offenses focus on his counterpart on the other end of the line, Jeremiah Attaochu.
The linebackers are cleaning up behind the line. Starters Brandon Watts, Jabari Hunt-Days and Quayshawn Nealy rank first, third and fourth in tackles through four games.
Yet the defense’s biggest challenges lie ahead. Miami’s offense has looked potent, although quarterback Stephen Morris’ nagging ankle injury could be a factor. Georgia Tech plays Clemson and Georgia later in the season.
Plus, Georgia Tech’s defense has a developing weak spot: safety. Jamal Golden hurt his shoulder against North Carolina on Sept. 21 and will miss the rest of the season. Veteran Isaiah Johnson, the leader of the secondary, was already out with a knee issue. Johnson suffered the injury in 2012 and underwent surgery, but a slow recovery led him to claim a redshirt in mid-September.
Domonique Noble started in Golden’s place against Virginia Tech and recorded one tackle. Roof could stay with Noble or he could shuffle his secondary, moving cornerback Jemea Thomas to safety – he played the position earlier in his Georgia Tech career – and inserting D.J. White at Thomas’ spot.