ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia fifth-year senior inside linebacker Tae Crowder never will forget those moments in the meeting rooms when Bulldogs defensive coaches informed their players that they would be working on Georgia Tech's triple-option offense that afternoon in practice.
"Everybody would drop their heads, especially the corners," Crowder recalled this week with a smile. "They hated cut blocks."
The Bulldogs took time out in the spring and in August workouts to prepare for Georgia Tech's triple-option and the cut-blocking that came with it under former Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson. Cut-blocking is a blocking below the waist that is permitted by the NCAA for offensive players who are not in motion at the snap of the ball.
It is illegal to cut-block a defender who is engaged with another blocker, and it can be used only for straight-ahead blocks.
Johnson spent 11 seasons at Georgia Tech, so the Bulldogs spent 11 years preparing for the triple-option. Geoff Collins is now in his first season coaching the Yellow Jackets, and he has moved the offense to a more conventional, player-based spread despite inheriting a roster with 13 running backs and no tight ends.
That is welcome news for the Bulldogs, who were not shy in past seasons in showing their cut-blocking disdain.
"I'm going to wear two sets of knee pads," former outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said before the 2014 matchup won by the Yellow Jackets. "Every time we play Tech, we're all on the ground after that first play."
Said former defensive end Ray Drew: "I like cut-blocking as much as a cat likes a tub of water."
Although the all-consuming preparation for the triple-option no longer applies against the in-state rivals, Georgia coach Kirby Smart believes the Yellow Jackets will present unique challenges compared to the Bulldogs' first 11 opponents this season.
"They still have a lot of elements of the option," Smart said. "Obviously it's not as much as what they had previously, when they were all in with the triple-option. They still have elements of the triple, because you can't just flip it over completely when that's what your roster is made of.
"They have dive-pitch keys. They have reads. They have perimeter runs and inside runs. They've got elements of the option. It is different from a perspective of not having to do everything we used to do. It might be 50% difference now with some of the things they're doing."
When Collins was hired and began assembling his staff, Smart and his assistants started developing a preliminary plan for Saturday's game at Bobby Dodd Stadium. There were practice periods in the spring and preseason camp when the Bulldogs prepared for the Yellow Jackets, which wasn't any different from before.
Those practices just didn't contain cut-blocking.
"It has been nice," Crowder said. "Everybody who has played in this game knows it was crazy when we had to prepare for that."
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