Clemson University

How Clemson has managed to slow down Georgia Tech’s option offense

Dabo Swinney previews Clemson game vs. Georgia Tech

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney looks ahead to the game against Georgia Tech.
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Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney looks ahead to the game against Georgia Tech.

If there is one team that has mastered how to defend Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense it is Clemson.

Georgia Tech has averaged more than 300 rushing yards per game over the past three seasons against teams not named Clemson.

In three games against the Tigers during that time, Georgia Tech has averaged 139 rushing yards.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney offered his theory as to why his team has performed so well against the Yellow Jackets earlier this week.

“Great players,” Swinney said. “We’ve had a bunch of good players that have bought into the scheme and what it takes.”

The Tigers have been particularly dominant the past two meetings between the schools, holding Georgia Tech under 100 rushing yards in 2016 and 2015 in a pair of wins.

The Yellow Jackets rushed for 71 yards against Clemson in 2015, the lowest rushing total of Johnson’s tenure.

Last season Georgia Tech accounted for 124 total yards, the lowest output since Johnson took over the program.

Swinney said you must play the cut blocks well, take good angles and focus on your keys to have success against the option.

“We play them every year. We’re very familiar with who they are. It never is easy to play these guys,” Swinney said. “It is always an incredible undertaking. Tackling is at a premium because of their style of play and the way they force you into one-on-one coverage and open-field tackles.”

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who has helped the Tigers to four wins in their past five tries against Georgia Tech, said preparing to face Johnson’s offense is always a tough task.

“I think he’s very smart in trying to manipulate the defense and create leverage and angles that are advantageous for them, and then they do a really good job of getting their guys to play competitively really hard,” Venables said. “They’re very patient with what they do as well. If they sense a weakness, whether it’s an alignment, structurally, or certainly a player, they’re going to attack you until you bleed to death.”

The fact that the Tigers face Georgia Tech every year as opposed to some teams that see the option only a few times a decade is another reason for Clemson’s success, according to Venables.

“I think planning ahead is probably important, and then from year-to-year when you have a lot of carryover from your personnel and your staff, I think that really helps,” he said. “You’re able to kind of get to the shortcuts quickly as opposed to helping guys try to figure it out .”

Game info

Who: Clemson (6-1, 4-1 ACC) vs. Georgia Tech (4-2, 3-1)

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson

TV: ABC Radio: 93.1 FM