There is a reason why Ben Boulware does not mind playing the triple option. He has played against it his entire football career at some point or another.
At nearby T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, South Carolina, Boulware’s team played rival Easley High School, who ran the triple-option attack. Those four years laid the foundation of what to expect when he came to Clemson and faced Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who the third-ranked Tigers will play on Thursday night in Atlanta.
However, getting prepared for Georgia Tech’s option attack is a little different than preparing for Easley.
“Obviously, they don’t cut as good as Georgia Tech does so there definitely was a transition that I was not used to,” Boulware said.
That transition is something Boulware and the other few veteran players are trying to express to their youthful teammates, who truly have no idea what they are about to see at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
No one has done a better job than Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables the last four years in slowing down Johnson’s triple-option offense. The Tigers limited Tech to 71 yards last season on 42 carries – the lowest total for a Paul Johnson coached team.
However, Venables has had the luxury of having a lot of experienced players the last several years, something he does not have this season. Of the Tigers’ 22 players on their two-deep defensive depth chart Clemson has 12 who have never really faced the Yellow Jackets.
And the most difficult thing to learn about Georgia Tech’s offense isn’t stopping the triple-option as much as it is fighting off all the cut blocks, which the Yellow Jackets’ offensive line has perfected as an art form. Even the wide receivers cut block better than most.
“It’s hard to kind of emulate it in practice because it goes so quick,” Boulware said. “They kind of know what to expect. They know they are going to try to cut you on every single snap. It is really getting cut and how quick they run their offense.”
Boulware says Venables spent three days in fall camp going over Georgia Tech’s offense, and said that laid down a good foundation, but there is nothing like experiencing it yourself.
“It stresses everybody out a little bit more because we have guys that have not played against it that much, especially on our D-line,” the senior said.
“We spent three days preparing for them in camp. It gave us a huge foundation. You need all the time you can get for that type of offense,” Boulware continued. “The fact, that we only have three days to prepare for that, those other three days helped out a lot.”
So far this week, Boulware says the defense has been on its Ps and Qs and there has not been much of a drop off on what they went over in camp. However, until a guy like Dexter Lawrence or Clelin Ferrell or Richard Yeargin is cut for the first time, or several times, nothing in practice is really going to register with any of them.
“Just playing the cuts is really the main difference. They have not been used that, though we have tried to simulate it in practice,” Boulware said.
Cut blocking is just something every defender has to experience on his own when playing Georgia Tech.