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Ken Sugiura

5 Tech spring notes: Who is rising?

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Quayshawn Nealy, georgia tech yellow jackets

Quayshawn Nealy among Jackets with experience at linebacker. (Johnny Crawford / AJC File)

The Georgia Tech linebacking group is probably the most experienced position group on the team, and now position coach Andy McCollum has fewer snaps to divvy out, as the Yellow Jackets are using a nickel defense – four linemen, two linebackers, five defensive backs – as their base defense instead of the 4-3.

Some notes from an interview with McCollum following Monday’s practice, the fifth out of 15 for the spring.

1. Quayshawn Nealy, Tyler Marcordes, Jabari Hunt-Days and Paul “P.J.” Davis all have experience, particularly Nealy and Hunt-Days.

If you’ve been following along, you know that Hunt-Days has been working at the rush end position that Jeremiah Attaochu played last year. For the time being, McCollum said, he is spending most of his time there because he is trying to learn it. (I wrote a story about the line for myajc and the paper, link here. Line coach Mike Pelton compared his development at this stage to a freshman’s.)

But, Hunt-Days will get some more time with the linebackers as time goes on.

2. Thus far, Nealy and Marcordes are operating as the first unit, Tremayne McNair and Davis with the second, early enrollee Tre Jackson and Beau Hankins with the third and Chase Alford and Marcus Allen with the fourth. Jackson’s adjustment is “what you’d expect,” McCollum said, meaning it’s a bit overwhelming.

McCollum said that all of the early enrollees – cornerback Step Durham, defensive end KeShun Freeman, quarterback Matthew Jordan and Jackson – “have a good attitude and a good work ethic and they’ll fit in well.”

3. McCollum’s ideal is to be able to swap out linebacking pairs in games. “But for them to get on the field, you’ve got to have trust and they’ve got to understand what they’re doing,” he said. “It’s great work for us in the spring to develop that right now.”

4. Marcordes looks the part, at 6-foot-4, 243 pounds, up 11 pounds from his listed weight last season. He walked into the football lobby just as McCollum was talking about him.

“Tyler’s a big, long player,” he said. “His whole thing (to improve) is just base footwork. He’s a physical player, he’s growing into it. I mean, look at him. He’s what you look for. He’s got it, but every day, he gets better and better. Tyler’s got a tremendous work ethic. It means something to him.”

I think the last sentence is at the high end of compliments a coach can give to one of his players. By comparison, again referring back to the story about the defensive line, line coach Mike Pelton said of a few players, “You don’t guys to be just satisfied with where they are. You want them to take it to another level.”

5. Allen was a highly-touted signee coming out of high school in Hilliard, Fla. He picked Tech over Florida State and Tennessee, among others, in part for the chance to play running back. Allen was at B-back for a year but moved to linebacker last year and appeared in the Alabama A&M and Ole Miss games. According to his bio, he is majoring in chemical and biomolecular engineering.

McCollum said “the light’s not on, but looks like it’s starting to” come on. He was pleased with his play in the brief scrimmage Saturday.

“He didn’t have many snaps,” he said. “He got 14, but I told him today, ‘I saw something. I saw a little something that I’ve been waiting to see.’”

If you are a football or men’s basketball season-ticket holder, I’d be obliged if you could e-mail me for a story I am working on. ksugiura at ajc.com. Thanks.

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