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Ken Sugiura

3 possible breakout players for Tech defense

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He is the only player on the Georgia Tech football roster from Illinois, authored the Yellow Jackets’ longest play of the season last year and was the backup to a player since graduated. Linebacker Tyler Marcordes may be a breakout player in Tech’s spring practice, which begins Monday.

“I feel like he’s going to have a pretty good spring,” nose tackle Shawn Green said. “He’s going to shock a lot of people.”

Marcordes was a special-teams standout last season, earning player of the week honors from coaches twice last season and the special-teams effort award at the end of the season. Playing well on special teams demonstrates two traits, at least – an ability to play well in space and a willingness to give full effort all the time.

Marcordes was credited with 16 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and a forced fumble – pretty good productivity for someone who mostly played behind Brandon Watts at the strongside linebacker spot. (The forced fumble and 1.5 tackles for loss were against Alabama A&M.) He ran back an interception 95 yards in the season opener against Elon, the fifth-longest interception return in Tech history.

“He runs like a gazelle,” Green said. “He can move. He’s relentless to the ball.”

Marcordes was Green’s answer to my question to him and fellow nose tackle Adam Gotsis about which defensive players might catch notice in the spring.

Gotsis named two – linebacker Paul “P.J.” Davis and cornerback D.J. White. Davis impressed as a true freshman last season and finished eighth on the team with 41 tackles. He’ll be in the mix to move full-time into the first string with Marcordes, Quayshawn Nealy and Jabari Hunt-Days back at linebacker.

White will be in a wide-open competition in the secondary with Jemea Thomas and Louis Young graduated. White finished the season well in the bowl game against Ole Miss. He had 11 tackles, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and an interception.

“I think D.J. might establish himself a bit more as more of a lockdown corner now,” Gotsis said.

Jamal Golden, Isaiah Johnson, Chris Milton, Demond Smith, Domonique Noble and Lynn Griffin are among players who have played significant time. Griffin, White and possibly Golden will be top candidates at cornerback.

“I feel like there’s a lot of spots that are people are battling for in the secondary, so that’s definitely going to be a big hole to fill,” he said.

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