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Ga. Tech’s Dangerous Special Teams

When No. 4 Virginia Tech is playing, there is always a chance for a special teams touchdown. But that has also been the case this year with No. 19 Georgia Tech, which hosts the Hokies on Saturday.

The Yellow Jackets rank first nationally in punt returns, averaging 26.7 yards per return. Georgia Tech’s return man, Jerrard Tarrant, was suspended last season but has played catch-up by taking two of his seven punt return opportunities to the end zone.

“He’s the difference,” Jeff Monken, the Yellow Jackets’ slotbacks and special teams coach, said in a telephone interview. “If you’re going to be good at returning kicks, you better have a good returner.”

Last year, Georgia Tech’s special teams struggled. The Yellow Jackets ranked 88th nationally in punt returns and 95th in kickoff returns.

Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said he has seen the Yellow Jackets use 18 different punt formations. Most teams, he said, have only one formation. “There’s three moving parts, and the way the parts go, it changes the formation,” Beamer said. “It’s pretty interesting, really.”

It also helps that Tarrant is back on the field. And after Georgia Tech’s struggles last year, Tarrant has made an immediate difference returning punts.

In a season-opening 37-17 win over Jacksonville State on Sept. 5, Tarrant had a 68-yard punt return touchdown with 55 seconds before halftime. He scored another the following weekend.

In a 30-27 win over Clemson on Sept. 10, Tarrant took a fake field goal turned a pooch punt, found a gap between a cluster of three defenders and went 85 yards untouched. It gave the Yellow Jackets a momentum-swinging 14-0 lead in the first quarter. [See video, below.]

“Bottom line is you have a to have a kid back there that’s special,” Monken said. “Bottom line, he is. He has a knack for finding a crease.”

By Mark Viera  |  October 14, 2009; 12:30 PM ET
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