Reeling Jayhawks brace for No. 15 Yellow Jackets
Kansas offensive lineman Brad Thorson and Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson see eye-to-eye on one key aspect of their game on Saturday.
Whether Kale Pick or Jordan Webb quarterbacks the Jayhawks is not as important as the overall execution in the game between the No. 15 Yellow Jackets and the reeling Jayhawks, who in three whirlwind days lost their season opener, a huge chunk of self confidence and their athletics director.
Webb, a redshirt freshman, was named the starter this week. He will replace Pick, a sophomore who struggled in a shocking 6-3 loss on Saturday to North Dakota State. But Pick, who won the job in a close competition during spring and fall practice, will be at the ready if Webb falters.
''They're both young guys,'' said Thorson, the Jayhawks' senior right tackle. ''They've got very little experience. That means we need to be able to run the ball, the receivers need to be open and the quarterback needs to feel comfortable in the pocket.''
Johnson insisted that his Yellow Jackets (1-0) were not losing any sleep worrying about whether Jayhawks coach Turner Gill would make a switch or not.
''That doesn't change anything,'' he said. ''We get ready to play the schemes and the system. I think that's a myth and way overrated that teams get ready for certain people. There are very few people who play college football that people are afraid of. You get ready for a scheme or a certain offense or whatever.''
A bigger problem for Kansas may be a Georgia Tech offense that ran for 372 yards last week in a 41-10 dismantling of South Carolina State. Johnson's hybrid offense, a combination of wishbone and spread, is something most Kansas players have never seen.
So is the 3-4 defense the Yellow Jackets use. While currently popular in the NFL, the 3-4 is rare at the college level.
Unfortunately for a Kansas team coming off one of its most humiliating losses in years, unfamiliarity will be the name of the game.
It may help that defensive coordinator Carl Torbush has experience dealing with Johnson's offense. He was defensive coordinator last year for Mississippi State and schemed against it then.
''I've seen way too much of it,'' he quipped. ''It looks simple on that board. But we don't play on that board. If you're not careful, you get in a panic situation. And (defensive players) start not doing their job, and you've got a lot of things going wrong.''
While their coordinator may know something about the Georgia Tech offense, most of the starters do not.
''One missed tackle and they're gone,'' said Kansas cornerback Chris Harris. ''I never played against an option offense like this. But we've got guys on the scout team that ran the offense in high school. They'll be giving us good looks.''
Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt was one of just three quarterbacks to rush for three touchdowns in the opening week. The senior also ran for 130 yards. He hit just one pass for 8 yards, but that doesn't bother his coach.
''I'm just not as worried about it as everybody else seems to be. It is what it is,'' Johnson said. ''I just think that there's games where he's going to throw the ball really well and he has in the past. And there are games he may struggle sometimes. What you hope is that if he struggles you don't need to throw it.''
It's been quite a week for Kansas.
On Tuesday, three days after the Jayhawks failed to score a touchdown against a North Dakota State squad picked sixth in the Missouri Valley Conference, athletic director Lew Perkins unexpectedly retired. It's not the way Gill, hired by Perkins last winter, hoped to begin his Kansas tenure. And now his team, eager for something positive, will face one of the strongest opponents they'll see all season.
By the middle of the second half last week, fans were beginning to boo. In the Midwest, especially at Kansas, boos are not often heard.
''I can't say I really blame them,'' said running back Angus Quigley. ''We played terrible. I would rather they stay in their seats and boo us than get up and leave. We really need to go out there and play well for them this week, do something to make up for a terrible game.''