USF journal: Jackets defensive coordinator on scoreless streak

Alcorn State wide receiver Charles Hughes (5) fumbles the ball after a hit by Georgia Tech defensive backs Tariq Carpenter (29) and  Zamari Walton (21) in the second half of the Yellow Jackets' 41-0 romp Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) GAATJ105
Alcorn State wide receiver Charles Hughes (5) fumbles the ball after a hit by Georgia Tech defensive backs Tariq Carpenter (29) and Zamari Walton (21) in the second half of the Yellow Jackets' 41-0 romp Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) GAATJ105
Published September 5 2018

For all the talk of Georgia Tech's trademark triple option, it might not be the most troublesome alignment USF faces Saturday.

That distinction could belong to the 3-4 scheme of first-year Yellow Jackets defensive coordinator Nate Woody.

Related: Know the Foe: Georgia Tech

The former DC at Appalachian State, Woody enters Raymond James Stadium with one of the most unheralded streaks of defensive sturdiness in Division I. His units (including Tech and App State) have gone more than 130 minutes — more than two full games — without allowing a point.

Georgia Tech topped Alcorn State, 41-0, in last weekend's opener, and Woody's final Mountaineers team embarrassed Toledo, 34-0, in last year's Dollar General Bowl.

A Woody-coached defense hasn't allowed a point since Louisiana-Lafayette scored a touchdown with 11:05 remaining in App State's 63-14 rout on Dec. 2.

"Up front they went to a 3-4 (from a 4-2-5), so their defensive ends are really good players," Bulls coach Charlie Strong said.

"So the thing we're going to have to do is protect the quarterback. If we can protect the quarterback, then that's going to open up a lot of things that we can do with our offense. But defensively, they're a solid group."

The Jackets front includes senior NT Kyle Cerge-Henderson, a Plant High alumnus who had two tackles last weekend. In fact, seven of Tech's projected defensive starters are seniors.

"(The defense) played really well (Saturday)," Jackets coach Paul Johnson said.

"It was a shutout and they held the other team to (146) yards, so we played really well defensively. I think it's still a work in progress. We'll have a better idea after this Saturday. The competition's gonna be much better."

CRONKRITE TO DEBUT: Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert confirmed Wednesday transfer RB Jordan Cronkrite, sidelined for the Elon game with an unspecified minor injury, will be available Saturday. Cronkrite was listed atop the Game One depth chart.

"Jordan will be great," fellow TB Trevon Sands said. "Jordan's good."

ODDS AND ENDS: Adam Amin (play-by-play), Rod Gilmore (analyst) and Quint Kessenich (sidelines) will call Saturday's game for ABC (ESPN2 in some markets). … USF will attempt to gain at least 500 total yards for the fourth consecutive game. … The Bulls and Yellow Jackets are among four teams nationally to rank in the top 10 nationally in rushing in each of the past three seasons. … Georgia Tech returns 90.4 percent of its 3,381 rushing yards from 2017, while USF lost 92 percent of its 3,169 rushing yards. … Georgia Tech has won eight in a row against current members of the American Athletic Conference.

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