Assignments key to stopping Tech offense

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- An injury relegated Vince Williams to the sideline when Florida State last faced off against Georgia Tech's frustrating triple option offense in 2009.

It allowed Williams to skip out on the carnage as Tech racked up more than 400 yards rushing, but he bore witness to the dangers his defense will face Saturday, and the memories have stuck with him.

"There was a play [Jonathan] Dwyer broke they cut the defensive end, middle linebacker and safety on one play,” Williams said. “I was like, 'Man, that's crazy.' "

Williams is among a select group of FSU's defenders who knows firsthand the challenge that awaits. Only four active members of Florida State's defense played in that game in 2009, and only Nick Moody had a significant role.

For everyone else, preparing for the option is a new experience, and Williams said it's as much about forgetting what you've already learned and starting from scratch with a new system.

"Your same keys don't really work for this offense," Williams said. "You're going to have to do a complete overhaul of what you've already learned about football."

Based on last week’s defensive performance, that might not be a terrible idea. FSU allowed 244 rushing yards to Florida, the most it had given up since 2009, and the Gators’ 5.19 yards per carry was nearly double FSU’s season average.

Of course, the Tech offense -- which boasts the fifth-best yards-per-carry average in the country -- provides a far different challenge, and Moody said it's not one Florida State should fear. The triple option offense is unique, but it also leaves room for good teams to succeed on defense.

"It's kind of simplified, actually," Moody said. "You don't have to think about as many possibilities. You can kind of tell what to expect -- it'll be here, here or there."

“Here, here and there” are the A-back, B-back and quarterback -- all of whom can get the ball on any given play. Few other teams run a true triple option, which makes preparing for Tech in just one week a tall task.

The two keys to success revolve around defenders sticking to their assignments and defeating the immense amount of cut blocks that Georgia Tech runs effectively, but few teams practice during the season.

That puts a ton of pressure on the defensive linemen and linebackers to both get up field and control the perimeter.

"You've got to make sure your defensive linemen make a lot of tackles inside the box before a linebacker has to pursue out to the numbers," Williams said.

The triple option doesn’t make life easy on the secondary, either. Tech doesn’t throw the ball often -- it is attempting the fifth-fewest passes in the country -- but the Jackets lead the ACC in yards per attempt. When they do throw, it tends to be for big yardage because defenses were caught looking for the run.

“It’s definitely a game where you have to key in on your keys, read your keys,” safety Lamarcus Joyner said. “If you’re not, you can easily be embarrassed.”

That means the responsibility for shutting down Tech's offense won't fall on one defender, but rather on the unit working together as a group. Maturity and patience will be tested Saturday, but Moody said he's already been driving that point home with the myriad teammates who haven't already seen first hand how tough Tech's offense can be.

"Across the board we know we have to take care of our assignment for it to work, to stop them," Moody said. "That's what gets the job done."