The first word that comes to mind when Georgia Tech’s triple option attack is mentioned varies based on who you ask.
The first word senior defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter mentioned was fun, although he quickly followed that with a “not at all.” Senior outside linebacker D’Andre Walker said the phrase “patient, but fast” comes to mind.
One of the biggest focuses for Bulldog head coach Kirby Smart leading up to Saturday’s game against the Yellow Jackets is discipline. Against Paul Johnson’s triple option attack, an undisciplined defensive attack will likely result in Georgia’s third loss in five games against its in-state rival.
“You have to do your job and you have to key things the right way,” Smart told reporters Monday. “If you don't, they expose you. The ball does a tremendous job of seeing when people are out of place, seeing when people don't do things the right way.”
Smart added that discipline is necessary in every game, not just against against the triple option. Where Georgia Tech’s offense differs is that it requires players doing the same job repeatedly without making a mistake.
Since no other team on Georgia’s schedule runs the triple option, it can be hard to prepare for since the Bulldogs don’t see it at any other point in the season. Smart said the team has worked on it in some practice periods throughout the year, but that’s nothing compared to a team that runs it every day.
“You can't get enough reps to get really good at it and you're trying to multiply those reps in a small period of time and you can't catch up to the number of reps they've had, blocking what they see, compared to us doing it in one week,” Smart said.
Ledbetter said the scout team last season did a great job of preparing the Bulldogs to face the triple option. It showed on the field, as Georgia held the Yellow Jackets to 188 yards rushing on 46 carries.
However, he also said he feels like this game can’t be simulated.
“I honestly think it’s different every time you play them,” Ledbetter said. “It’s just so many options to what they do. You never know what’s actually going to happen, so you just have to be ready for everything.”
Those options play into Walker’s fast, but patient mindset. As an outside linebacker, he has to stay disciplined enough not to overcommit to the quarterback keeping the ball or pitching it.
“If you overrun it, then he’ll keep it,” Walker said. “If you slowplay it, he can throw it and then you won’t be able to make the play at all. You’ve just got to be patient.”
Discipline is also a key because of who is on the Georgia Tech sideline. Yellow Jacket head coach Paul Johnson has been running the triple option for years, with Smart saying he’s “as far [up] as you can be in the option world.”
If he notices Georgia defenders that are getting himself out of position, Johnson has the experience to adjust his offense to target those mistakes. That’s why if the Bulldogs want to defeat their arch rivals and remain in the hunt for a spot in the College Football Playoff, discipline is key.
“if you make a mistake, [Johnson] will make you pay or he'll expose you on it maybe the very next play, maybe the very next drive,” Smart said. “But he knows what complements what. So for us it's having the right eyes in the right place for our players' sake. If we don't play something correctly, you better get it fixed quick."