In case you missed the story on myajc or in the paper this morning, Georgia Tech is trying out linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days at the rush end spot vacated by Jeremiah Attaochu. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said he is “bouncing back and forth” between linebacker and end. Time will tell if it will work or not, but it’s worth a shot.
1. There is no defensive end with significant playing experience, and this is clearly a difference-making position. It is critical to have a playmaker in that spot. Hunt-Days has the physical tools to play there, but obviously has a lot to learn. The line may prove to not be the right fit for him, but no better time than spring practice to give it a shot.
“It’s an experiment,” coach Paul Johnson said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
2. Roof started out spring practice with Hunt-Days with the first string, along with Adam Gotsis at “3 technique” defensive tackle, Shawn Green at nose and Tyler Stargel at the other end spot. Stargel could conceivably also play at rush end, as could Roderick Rook-Chungong, Nick Menocal and Chaz Cheeks or early enrollee KeShun Freeman. If one of them is the answer, there’s nothing wrong with increasing the level of competition.
Said Roof, “We’re going to reward performance.”
3. It’s conceivable that Kenderius Whitehead, who is expected to transfer in from Georgia Military College in the summer, could win the job in fall camp. But if coaches don’t have confidence in the options available in spring practice to contribute in the fall, it’s probably not wise to expect that Whitehead will come in and save the day in August.
Said Roof, “This is the time of year you want to do it because when you come out of spring ball, you want to say, ‘O.K., this is the plan for summer, this is the plan for camp. Here’s what we want your body weight to be, or whatever, because we envision you at this particular position.’”
4. A possible downside for Hunt-Days is that he could prove himself the top candidate in spring practice at end only to have Whitehead beat him out in August, which could put him in something of a musical chairs situation if roles have been concurrently set at linebacker. That said, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with having two capable options at end. Tech would likely be better off rotating the two.
5. Even if that were the case, snaps at linebacker could be relatively scarce for Hunt-Days. Roof said Monday that, for the first time in his career, he is considering the nickel defense the “base” defense. The nickel – four linemen, two linebackers, five defensive backs – is the standard alignment against offenses using three receivers, one back and one tight end. Roof said that the opposition used that configuration more than 600 times in Tech’s 765 defensive snaps.
Hunt-Days was not in the nickel last year, so his playing time dropped considerably. He had 45 tackles after having 84 in 2012 as a freshman.
“So this is a way to maybe get your best 11 guys out there,” Johnson said.
6. Again, if it proves a successful experiment, it shifts a body from a relatively deep group to a thinner one, particularly if the Jackets are typically only playing two linebackers. Quayshawn Nealy and Paul Davis are both back, and Roof touted the work of backup Tyler Marcordes.
“Going back and watching the (video) cut-ups, Tyler was really productive last year,” Roof said. ‘You look at the amount of times he affected the ball vs. the amount of reps he had, he was really productive. Every job’s open.”
7. It’s obviously been done before. Attaochu was an outside linebacker in the Al Groh 3-4 defense before moving to end. Certainly, though, it was an easier transition for Attaochu, as he mainly rushed the passer from his spot in the 3-4.