Opposite ending: Braves looking to erase past with Georgia Tech

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 14, 2018

In 2015, the Alcorn State University football team traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during Week 1 of the season. The result was one the Braves would like to forget — a 69-6 loss.

Nearly three years later, Alcorn returns to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech during Week 1 of this upcoming season. So Brave fans are wondering: Will this time be different?

The Natchez Democrat answers what this year’s edition of the Braves against the Yellow Jackets might look like with the help of questions from Twitter.

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Where can Alcorn State create matchup problems for Georgia Tech when Alcorn State is on offense? — @icedout1906 on Twitter

From the research I have done on Georgia Tech, the consensus is that the Yellow Jackets’ strength on defense is along the defensive line and at middle linebacker. So even though Alcorn does have a pretty good offensive line for FCS standards, the best way to attack Georgia Tech’s defense is on the outside and through the air.

The Yellow Jackets have to replace all four starting defensive backs from last season and their outside linebackers are relatively still inexperienced, which is good for the Braves. Alcorn can a create a matchup problem with running back PJ Simmons, who does his best work on the outside.

“I think he is very good in outside zone and power read situations,” said offensive coordinator Ryan Stanchek, “where he can exploit his speed on the edge.”

Expect the Braves to try and get Simmons on the outside because he has shown in the past, if can make the first defender miss, he is likely to run for a big gain. As for attacking the secondary, Alcorn will still probably be working on expanding its passing game. However, I would imagine the Braves will try to utilize players the size of players such as Chris Blair and Tim McNair Jr.

In 2015, GT ran wild with their option attack, have the Braves developed new ways to slow them down any? — @incogv on Twitter

Here’s the thing about Georgia Tech’s option attack: there is no blueprint to completely stopping it because it is so hard to replicate. However, Alcorn is trying hard to do so, but its coaches know it can’t fully mimic the scheme.

“We practiced Georgia Tech’s offense every day this spring,” said defensive coordinator Cedric Thornton. “We had a Georgia Tech period every day. There is no way you can simulate the speed they do offensively. Coach (Paul) Johnson has done a phenomenal job everywhere he has been. There is no way can just start preparing them a week or two before we play them because you can’t simulate their speed in practice. We have been having a period just solely focusing on Georgia Tech’s offense.”

So Alcorn has and is trying to develop new ways to stop the option, but don’t expect them to completely stop it. Teams that face Georgia Tech every year such as Virginia Tech, Miami and Pittsburgh still have trouble stopping its option offense.

If you are the Braves coaching staff do you play the Yellow Jackets with mostly vanilla schemes and plays or go all out to win? — @TayJota_ on Twitter

It depends on the situation. If Alcorn falls behind early, expect it to utilize basic vanilla schemes and plays, which wouldn’t be all bad because then it could sharpen those sets and plays. That would be beneficial longterm.

If the Braves are playing close with the Yellow Jackets and have a chance to pull off the upset, they definitely could dig deep in the playbook and deploy plays that Georgia Tech might not be ready for. But don’t expect Alcorn to use its full scheme Week 1 because as a coaching staff, you want to make sure you have plays and sets that teams have yet to see on film to employ later on in the year.

Do you think playing a game against an FBS school such as Georgia Tech is beneficial for Alcorn? If so, then why or why not? — @pwolfe23 on Twitter

OK, I believe playing Georgia Tech is beneficial for Alcorn. Yet, at the same time, I don’t believe it is either.

The reason why this game will be valuable for the Braves because they will play against athletes that are bigger, faster and stronger then they typically see in the SWAC — main emphasis on the faster part. So having thr experience will serve Alcorn down the road when it takes on schools such as Grambling State, Jackson State and Southern University, who will probably be the Braves’ toughest opponents this year. On the flipside, Alcorn doesn’t benefit playing Gegoria Tech because it won’t face another option team this season.

Alcorn would likely benefit more if it scheduled an FBS team that will run an offensive scheme it will see throughout the year — like Arizona or Southern Mississippi — but facing Georgia Tech will still provide some dividends for the purple and gold.