Tech Defense to Speed Things Up

| August 16, 2015

Georgia Tech Football

ATLANTA — While gearing for the second scrimmage of fall camp and getting ready to transition into another phase of preseason preparation, Georgia Tech’s defense is going about business somewhat differently than its offense.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof and coaches have more functional depth than in recent years, and with the return of eight starters and considerable experience beyond them the Yellow Jackets are growing toward regular-season form faster.

“Yes, yes, yes. We’ve been really aggressive in our installation process because of the experience,” Roof said this week. “Guys have done that, and [it’s] the really, really fine details . . .

“You’re repping the things that beat coverages because every coverage has strengths and weaknesses. You’re not repping [basics as much]; you’re repping the things that beat it. We’re further ahead.”

Across the line, head coach Paul Johnson and offensive coaches have more sorting. Just three of the team’s top 12 rushers – quarterbacks Justin Thomas and Tim Byerly and A-back Broderick Snoddy – are back.

They’re also vetting replacements for right guard Shaq Mason and wide receivers DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller. They’re all in NFL training camps.

The leading candidates to replace departed defensive starters Shawn Green, Quayshawn Nealy and Isaiah Johnson have been there and done that.

Tackle/end Patrick Gamble (14 games, four starts), linebackers Tyler Marcodes (14 games, seven starts) and Beau Hankins (14 games), and defensive back Chris Milton (14 games, 10 starts) are not exactly wet behind the ears, as will be several offensive players who will see their first college game action soon.

Gamble is likely to move into Green’s spot, even though a significant portion of his time last season came at end when he wasn’t backing up tackle Adam Gotsis and Green.

“Since we’ve got more experience, we’re moving faster in terms of putting defenses in; we’re really taking them on,” Gamble explained. “We’ve been here for three years now [under Roof]; we know the defenses and we can be faster.”

Gotsis, freshman All-America KeShun Freeman and Rod Rook-Chungong entered camp as returning starters along the line. Backup linemen Antonio Simmons and Francis Kallon are joined by Jabari Hunt-Days and Kenderius Whitehead, who were academically ineligible last season.

Others are to be determined, Gamble saying that freshmen Anree Saint-Amour and Brentavious Glanton and sophomore Tyler Merriweather have caught his eye.

Leading tackler Paul Davis is back at linebacker, and so are Marcordes and Hankins. The search for newcomers is on, and Marcordes and Hankins are competing to be the second linebacker with Davis in passing situations.

“It makes us a lot more comfortable, the older guys, knowing the young guys are flying around out there,” Hankins said.

Senior cornerback D.J. White can see a difference from the back.

Freshman corner Meiko Dotson has impressed him, and he senses the front four being able to apply more pressure, perhaps without the increase in blitzes that Roof so often called later last season.

“I think so. You have guys who’ve been in the system three years with coach Roof, and we’re able to implement more things and we don’t have to keep going over stuff,” he said. “When those guys get pressure on the QB, it makes my job easier. I can sit on routes. I like what Meiko is doing; he’s a very physical guy.”

“Camp” ends today, and after Saturday morning’s scrimmage – which is closed to the public –on Monday, with the start of fall classes, will transition into practices geared more toward games.

Roof may have a head start on Johnson with the season opener against Alcorn State two weeks from next Thursday night.

“Depth has increased. We’re getting close to where we’re going to start making decisions [about the depth chart and playing rotations],” he said. “We have more depth, and we’ve got more defenses installed so we’re further ahead. How much further ahead you really don’t know until you play a game.”

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