Clemson put together perhaps its best defensive performance under Brent Venables last year against Georgia Tech, holding the Yellow Jackets’ triple option offense to 71 rushing yards.
An improved Justin Thomas will make it very tough for Clemson to repeat that performance on Thursday night in Atlanta, according to Tigers coach Dabo Swinney.
Georgia Tech’s senior quarterback struggled at times in 2015 for the Yellow Jackets (3-10) in a disappointing season, but Swinney said Thomas looks much improved on film.
Thomas is tough to defend because he’s a veteran at running the triple option, and because he has improved as a passer.
Through three games, he’s completed 50 percent of his passes, throwing for 335 yards on 19 completions, an average of nearly 18 yards per completion.
“He doesn’t get enough credit for his ability to throw the football,” Swinney said. “You turn the tape on and he’s making back-shoulder throws.”
Through three games, Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett, a finalist for the Mackey Award last season, has one catch for nine yards. Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson said he has tried to get Leggett involved, but it hasn’t worked out.
“People have a game plan for him,” Watson said. “They are doing a good job of double covering him.”
DRAWING ON THE PAST
Playing a Thursday night game on the road on a short week isn’t new for Clemson. The Tigers traveled to Louisville last year after hosting Appalachian State.
Clemson defeated the Cardinals 20-17 in a back-and-forth game.
“We do have some experience to draw on, which helps. We’ve been through it before and can say, ‘This was good, this was not good,’ ” Swinney said. “We planned for that during camp. We knew this week was going to come.”
MAKING IT COUNT
Clemson will likely get a limited number of possessions against Georgia Tech as the Yellow Jackets will attempt to control the clock and keep Watson and Clemson’s playmakers off the field.
“Their philosophy with the option offense is they’re going to limit your possessions. Yes you want to play fast, but you’ve got to be efficient too,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said.