Dec. 18, 2009
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Containing a Georgia Tech offense that ranks second in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 307.2 rushing yards per game boils down to two main points according to University of Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker.
“The secret to the whole thing is you have to get off blocks and you have to run to the ball,” Parker said Friday at a press conference for the UI football offensive and defensive coordinators. “It’s about getting off blocks, playing the ball and reading your keys and playing football. That’s what you have to do. (Georgia Tech) is good, they’re very good.”
The No. 10 Hawkeyes (10-2 overall) will face No. 9 Georgia Tech (11-2) in the FedEx Orange Bowl on Jan. 5. The Atlantic Coast Conference champion Yellow Jackets feature a unique triple-option offense that veterans like Parker have seen before, just not consistently for at least two decades.
“The triple option goes back to like 1965,” Parker said. “There was a time in the late 60s, up to the 80s, that really all you defended was the triple option. (The Georgia Tech coaching staff) has refined it and never gotten away from it. They know what they’re doing, they’re excellent teachers, their kids play hard and they’re sort of the masters of this offense.”
Parker’s UI defense ranks 10th in scoring defense (15.5 points per game) and 11th in total defense (286.67 yards per game). Georgia Tech is 11thi in both scoring offense (35.31) and total offense (442.69).
“You’re not going to go in there and fool them on defense,” Parker said. “You’re not going to invent something that these guys haven’t seen before. It’s a different offense and they know what they’re doing with it.”
Parker said that the play of the Hawkeye defensive front four — Adrian Clayborn, Karl Klug, Christian Ballard and Broderick Binns — will be vital to the game’s outcome. He said the more the front four can expand the field horizontally, will make it that much easier on the Iowa linebackers and secondary.
“It all starts with what those four guys up front can do,” he said.
“The triple option goes back to like 1965. There was a time in the late 60s, up to the 80s, that really all you defended was the triple option. (The Georgia Tech coaching staff) has refined it and never gotten away from it. They know what they’re doing, they’re excellent teachers, their kids play hard and they’re sort of the masters of this offense.”
UI defensive coordinator
Although the Hawkeyes have not played a triple-option team in the past 11 seasons, Parker compared Georgia Tech to the 2007 Illinois squad that represented the Big Ten Conference in the Rose Bowl.
“They were probably the most dedicated team to the option that we’ve played since we’ve been here that I remember,” Parker said. “Illinois ran it out of split backs, but it’s basically all the same thing. Anytime you have the triple option, there’s really four things that you have to defend: the dive, the quarterback, the pitch and the dump pass. Those things have to be defended all the time.”
In that game on Oct. 13, 2007, the Hawkeyes outgained Illinois both on the ground (141 to 137) and in the air (192 to 150) and limited the Illini to two field goals during a 10-6 win. Parker also compares Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt to Juice Williams of Illinois.
“(Nesbitt’s) a tough guy and he’s hard to bring down,” Parker said. “He knows what he’s doing with the ball. They’re a running team, but when they throw it, they’re throwing for home runs and he’s pretty good. He’s not a frail guy that you can grab with one arm and bring down. He has enough strength to push you away and he has enough arm strength to get it down the field.”
Yellow Jacket wide receiver Demaryius Thomas has 46 receptions for 1,154 yards and eight touchdowns. The second-leading receiver on the team has eight catches.
“At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Thomas is a wideout with great hands and great speed,” Parker said. “He’s probably as dangerous as anybody on their football team.”
Parker’s Michigan State defense defeated Hawaii, 33-13, in the 1989 Aloha Bowl, when current Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson was an assistant with the Rainbows. To date, it is still the most difficult triple option attack Parker has tried to defend.
Repercussions from having a toe removed might keep Parker from coaching from the sideline at the FedEx Orange Bowl.
“It’s warmer up there and you can eat,” Joked Parker about watching a game from the press box. “I’d rather be on the field. I watch practice every day from the field. It’s not like when you’re on the field you have your eyes closed, but you’re away from the players. I like to be able to talk to the players.”
And Hawkeye fans can count on Parker returning as defensive coordinator in 2010.
“If I didn’t think I could do it, I’d be the first guy to say `That’s it,'” Parker said. “I don’t want to do it if I don’t really believe I can do it. That’s not fair to the team and that’s not fair to the other coaches. When I think I can’t do it, this cowboy’s heading the other way. I don’t want to be that guy that hangs on longer than he should hang on.”
Check back to hawkeyesports.com this weekend to read what UI offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe has to say about Georgia Tech’s defense.