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Georgia Tech focused on playing better defense
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Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta

TV, radio: ESPN2

Web site: www.ramblinwreck.com

ATLANTA Georgia Tech’s talk of a simplified approach on defense is causing Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer to wonder what changes are coming this week.

For Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, almost any change on defense would be welcome.

The No. 19 Yellow Jackets have allowed a combined 75 points in their last two games but somehow have managed to win both games.

Johnson says his defense will need better production against No. 4 Virginia Tech on Saturday night, prompting Beamer to say the Yellow Jackets are "difficult to prepare for."

Johnson says the unit didn’t play as poorly as it seemed while giving up more than 400 yards in the first half of last week’s 49-44 win at Florida State.

Earlier in the season, the Yellow Jackets survived a 30-27 win over Clemson.

Johnson has called for a less complicated approach on defense.

Beamer says he’s not sure if Georgia Tech’s defensive schemes he sees on game film will be what he sees at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

"I know they talked about maybe cutting back on their schemes a little bit, but they’re difficult to prepare for because you’re not sure where they’re going with this," Beamer said.

"The defense gives you a lot of looks. They change up from week to week, and they change up in their scheme. They have got some eight-man front principles, and then they can go back to the two-deep."

Johnson says picking a defensive look is not as important as proper execution.

"I think it’s no secret we’ve got to play better," he said. "When you watch the tape, in my mind when you play like that, everybody is accountable."

The guys one the field are accountable. The coaches are accountable but number one, I’m accountable because I’m the number one guy."

Johnson said he wants his defense to play fast and with confidence. For an example, he points to Virginia Tech.

"What I want is to find something where our guys can play fast," he said. "You watch Virginia Tech play defense, those jokers are playing fast, now, and they’re playing physical. There’s not anybody standing around looking trying to figure out what’s going on, I can assure you of that. They know what they’re supposed to be doing. That’s where we need to get."

Johnson said coaches must accept responsibility if the defensive players appear to be tentative.

"When I look at it and I see guys not playing fast and not flying to the ball and not doing those things, I don’t think it’s because they don’t want to," he said.

"I think there’s something holding them back to some degree. So what we’ve got to do, if we’ve got too much stuff that they’re having to think, we’ve got to simplify and turn them loose and let them play, and that’s what I’m talking about."

Georgia Tech (5-1 overall, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) has allowed 27 or more points in four of its six games. The Yellow Jackets rank ninth in the ACC in scoring defense, allowing 26.5 points per game. Virginia Tech gives up an average of 17.7 points per game, second in the league.

Georgia Tech ranks 11th in the league in pass defense, eighth against the run and 10th in total yards allowed.

Florida State’s 403 yards against Georgia Tech in the first half was the most allowed by the Yellow Jackets in a half in at least 20 years.

Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor said the Hokies are not expecting an easy day against Georgia Tech, even though the yards and points allowed at Florida State were startling.

"They did give up a lot of yardage, but I’m pretty sure they’re going to buckle down and play us tough," Taylor said. "We just have to go out there and execute the plays that are called and work off that."

Johnson said Florida State did "whatever they wanted" on offense. He said he offered some halftime reassurance for his defensive players.

"It’s like I told the guys at halftime on defense ...’It’s usually never as good or bad as you think it is,"’ he said.

"It’s usually little things that make big things happen and you’ve got to do little things right. You’ve got to get lined up right. You’ve got to get your eyes right."

Johnson said he does not know if safety Cooper Taylor will return this week.

He hasn’t played since leaving the Sept. 17 33-17 loss at Miami with dizziness and a rapid heartbeat. He had surgery after he was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome.

"Coop is a good player," Johnson said. "Certainly he would help us. ... He’s probably out of shape a little bit. If Cooper plays Saturday it will be a limited role. He’s not going to start and play 60 snaps."

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