Hokies gear up to take on triple option of Georgia Tech

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BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech always ends its pre-practice huddles with a little question-and-answer session among coach Frank Beamer and his players. Beamer calls out a topic, the players bellow the response.

Since practice for this season began, that huddle ended with Beamer saying “Beat” and the players answering “Georgia Tech.”

This week, the Hokies will do more than mention the Yellow Jackets, their opponent in the Sept. 3 season opener. They’ll get to work preparing for Georgia Tech’s unusual schemes on both sides of the ball.

The Jackets use the triple option of coach Paul Johnson on offense, a dizzying array of fakes and misdirection combined with physically punishing blocking.

Defensively, former Virginia coach Al Groh coordinates Georgia Tech’s 3-4 scheme, giving a different look from the majority of teams that base their defense on a 4-3 look.

That’s why Beamer said his Hokies will turn their attention to their first opponent this week, a week earlier than normal.

“When you think about it, it probably shouldn’t be that hard,” junior defensive end James Gayle said of the Jackets’ offense. “‘Oh, they’re going to run the ball. We’ve just got to stop the run.’ But it’s not like that. They have so many options, trick plays. Sometimes you don’t even know who has the ball. They just go for 3 yards, 3 yards, t3yards, and then they break one.”

A year ago, the Hokies beat Georgia Tech 37-26 in Atlanta, holding the triple option to 243 rushing yards, well below its season average of 316.5 and equaling its second-lowest output of the season.

The coaches and players watched tape of that game Monday.

Virginia Tech’s defensive coaches said success against the triple option begins with having a scout team capable of simulating both the technique and the speed of the Yellow Jackets’ attack.

Graduate assistants started that process Monday morning, getting the scout team acclimated with the triple option.

They have walk-on safety T.J. Shaw, a redshirt freshman, playing quarterback for the scouts, emulating the moves of Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington.

Shaw played quarterback in a similar offense at Franklin County High School.

“It’s a tough offense,” defensive line coach Charley Wiles said. “One person breaks down, and they’ve got a big run on you. They keep coming back, and it’s physical and they’re chopping.”

• Read more about the Hokies at TimesDispatch.com

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