By Dave Glenn and staff, ACC Sports Journal
November 11, 2002 ATLANTA This is the Georgia Tech offense many remember. Offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien opened up the playbook against Florida State, utilizing a free-wheeling, aggressive and balanced attack. The results: 396 yards of offense, despite a banged-up offensive line.
While the Yellow Jackets offense bogged down in scoring opportunities, the creativity in the plan offered a glimpse of the possibilities under O'Brien and head coach Chan Gailey.
Gailey gained acclaim as the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, especially with his use of quarterback Kordell Stewart. Stewart began the Slash phenomenon, as Gailey used him all over the field. In the NFL, particularly in discussions with former Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, Gailey gained an appreciation for constantly shifting personnel and formations.
With the specialization in modern football, the defense trots out players to match the offensive makeup on the field each play. By substituting liberally, the offense gains the edge on a defense that's always trying to match personnel.
Tech did exactly that against the Seminoles. With the exception of some no-huddle work at the end of both halves, rarely did the Yellow Jackets use the same formation or personnel grouping on consecutive plays. Instead, O'Brien called plays for a four-wide receiver, one-back, no-tight end alignment, followed by a two-wide, one-back, two-tight end set. Tech also worked out of their standard three-receiver, two-back set.
It wasn't just the formation changes that kept the Seminoles on their heels. Tech's diverse play-calling also worked.
The Yellow Jackets threw the ball deep, something they haven't done much this season, on their first three plays. All three fell incomplete, but Tech's intention was to get the Seminoles' safeties to back up and open running lanes. Tech continued to take shots deep throughout the game but never did connect a problem in a game where Florida State made a number of big plays.
All-ACC offensive tackle Nat Dorsey (shoulder) missed the game. Backup Jeremy Phillips went down in the second quarter, re-injuring his left knee. Kyle Wallace, the starter at right tackle, was hobbled by a sprained ankle. Despite the injuries there and at tailback, Tech rushed for 185 yards.
O'Brien did it by taking FSU defenders out of the play. Tech ran far more option than in any other game, a move designed to occupy defenders without having to block them. The Yellow Jackets also ran two reverse options to wide receivers to take advantage of FSU's aggressive defense. Also, in a move first seen in last year's Seattle Bowl, Tech lined up receiver Jonathan Smith at quarterback. With Suggs split out, Smith ran draws.
It was just another wrinkle in an offense that has been revamped. O'Brien and Gailey should get credit for transforming the entire offense in-season. Gone are the power running plays and long play-action passes that dominated the offense when tailback Tony Hollings was ripping off 150-yard games. Hollings' season-ending injury forced a departure in style that led to the spread offense.
It has worked, with Tech averaging 417 yards per game against some strong opposition since making the switch. The Florida State game plan was merely an extension of the Yellow Jackets' developing offensive philosophy.