Spotlight on the Yellow Jackets
Tiger Rag takes an up-close look at some of the key players and top matchups in Wednesday’s Chick-fil-A Bowl pitting LSU versus Georgia Tech in Atlanta
by Matt Deville
and Matt Reynolds
(At left) Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt has ran Paul Johnson’s option offense to near perfection in 2008
Game week has arrived for the last time in 2008.
The LSU Tigers (7-5) will take on the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech (9-3) tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.
The Tigers, led by fourth-year coach Les Miles, comes stumbling into the postseason having lost four of their last six games. The Yellow Jackets, who are enjoying a revival off sorts under first-year head man Paul Johnson, won their last two games of the regular season, including a 45-42 upset of arch-rival and 18th ranked Georgia.
Georgia Tech comes into the game ranked third in the nation in rushing offense (first in the ACC) putting up over 280 yards per game. The Yellow Jackets have multiple threats in Johnson’s option oriented offensive system.
LSU seems to be set on starting true freshman Jordan Jefferson against Georgia Tech. It will be his second straight start after Jefferson got the nod in the season finale at Arkansas, which the Tigers lost 31-30.
“We’ll see how it goes with Jefferson,” said LSU offensive coordinator Gary Crowton on Monday. “We’re planning on him being the guy. I know Jarrett Lee’s ready to go, and (Andrew Hatch is back now so he can play also if need be. But right now the emphasis is going to let Jordan be the starter because he’s very athletic. He gives you a run-pass threat all the time and puts added pressure on the defense, and with that in mind and the way he’s been practicing, I think it’s a very positive situation.”
Jefferson had flashes of brilliance in the loss at Arkansas, but ended the game completing just 9 of 21 passes. He threw two touchdown passes and ended the day without throwing an interception.
The Tiger defense will take the field for the final time under the tutelege of co-defensive coordinators Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto. Peveto was named the head coach at Northwestern State last week. Mallory’s future is uncertain at this time as rumors have been circulating about the eminent hiring of former Tennessee DC John Chavis.
PLAYER TO WATCH
West Laurens HS
It might seem odd for a wide receiver to be a notable player in an offense that relies on the rushing yardage of its flexbone option attack. The Yellow Jackets are the third ranked rushing offense in the country and have only attempted 140 passes on the entire season. Even though the Paul Johnson game plan is going to be to try and run it up and down the field on the Tigers, you can bet that the first-year Georgia Tech coach is going to try and test LSU’s venerable secondary at some point in the contest. That is where Demaryius Thomas comes into play. The physical receiver accounts for over half of the Yellow Jackets receptions on the season, as he has pulled in 36 passes for 595 yards and three touchdowns on the year. Along with his amazing size, the sophomore possesses incredible speed that gives him an advantage over most corners in the country.
KEY HEAD TO HEAD MATCHUPS
vs. Michael Johnson
LSU OG vs. Georgia Tech DE
Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson has the kind of size and skills that has had the pro scouts drooling since he arrived in Atlanta. At 6’7 and 260 pounds, simply put, Johnson is a freak of nature at the defensive end position. Johnson is a remarkable athlete who can change the direction of a game in the blink of the eye. After the loss of starting ends Darrell Robertson and Adam Oliver, Johnson has a chance to shine in 2008. Johnson was recently named to the All-ACC team after a season where he made 46 tackles, sacked the quarterback six times and even returned an interception for a touchdown. LSU’s offensive tackle Herman Johnson’s production got him a spot on the All-SEC team, but the massive tackle will have his hands full with the rangy Johnson. The battle of the two seniors, who both will be playing on Sunday, should be an intriguing one.
vs. Jonathan Dwyer
LSU LB vs. Georgia Tech RB
It’s no secret by now that teams were able to pass the ball at will on LSU all season. But the Tigers defense has been moderately successful against the run. With LSU using the dime and nickel packages, the Tigers big, physical linebackers have rarely been on the field in the 4-3 package, but when they have, LSU has been able to stop the run on a consistent basis. LSU linebacker Perry Riley was on the Butkus Award nomination list by the end of the season for his stellar defensive play toward the back end of LSU’s season. He and the rest of the LSU defense will be faced with the task of trying to slow down Paul Johnson’s biggest weapon in his flexbone option attack, Jonathan Dwyer. The sophomore running back churned out 1,328 yards and 12 touchdowns to lead the ACC in rushing on the year. Although the Tech offense has many weapons, stopping Dwyer could make things much easier on the LSU defense.