Pittsburgh Georgia Tech Football

John BazemoreGeorgia Tech quarterback James Graham looks to passs against Pittsburgh in the first half last Saturday in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Ken Sugiura has been at the Atlanta Journal Constitution since 1998. Sugiura, who grew up just outside of Chicago, has been covering Georgia Tech since 2001. Sugiura took time out to answer questions about Georgia Tech going into Saturday’s game at Virginia.

1. ACC teams had to dump all their triple-option notes after the coaching change at Georgia Tech. What is the style of offense Geoff Collins wants to run, long term, with the Yellow Jackets, and what is he doing this season as he transitions his personnel?

Sugiura: Collins has described the scheme as an NFL-based offense. It’s a spread out of a shotgun. His vision is for a flexible scheme that can adapt to the talent on the roster. As for this season, given that he has more depth at running back and quarterbacks who came to Georgia Tech to play quarterback in Paul Johnson’s option offense, it leans to the run.

2. Running back Jordan Mason seems like’s been a bright spot for the offense. He had posted back-to-back 100-yard games before struggling against Pittsburgh. Is he the focal point of the offense and what does he do well?

Sugiura: I’d call him the focal point. As you noted, he had a tough day against Pittsburgh, as did the entire offense, as quarterback James Graham was a little off his game, also. Mason has really good vision to pick out holes and evade defenders and also the strength and agility to break tackles. While there are other running backs that Georgia Tech uses, namely Jerry Howard and Jamious Griffin, and Graham also is dangerous with the ball on keepers, Mason gets the ball the most.

3. Defensively, Georgia Tech looks more capable than its 2-win record would suggest. But the Jackets have given up a ton of rushing yardage. What’s gone well and what’s not working on that side of the ball? And how do you see the match up with UVa QB Bryce Perkins, who is coming off his best game of the year?

Sugiura: The defensive line is getting better, but is young and would do well to continue to add weight. But, as it is now, it’s a defense vulnerable to the run, as offenses try to overpower Georgia Tech along the line (Their 4.73 yards-per-attempt average is 91st in FBS). The strength of the defense is in the secondary, notably cornerback Tre Swilling. Safeties Tariq Carpenter and Juanyeh Thomas are solid tacklers and athletic. The defense plays a lot of press-man coverage, so completing passes could be a challenge.

I think the challenge for Georgia Tech with Perkins is similar to what most teams face: his accuracy on the short throws and his ability to run out of the pocket. Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker compared him to Tim Tebow and Cam Newton in that a) his delivery isn’t textbook; b) he is very hard to tackle; c) “As the momentum of the game continues to go, he gets better and better and better. So an unbelievably huge challenge.” Thacker is a fan. “He is one of the best players in the conference, period,” he said.

Georgia Tech may try to account for him with a spy and will obviously try to force him away from the throws he likes.

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