Posted: 2:45 pm Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
By Ken Sugiura
Behold, the Georgia Tech defensive depth chart, in all its double-stacked glory.
The group has defined itself a little more than it did going into spring, but depth and who ultimately will start are still question marks. Of the eight listed here, only Gotsis has started any games. Green figures to be an impactful player as a senior. But, if Gamble continues to develop – he missed most of spring practice after he was injured in a car accident – he would be a great help if he could earn his way into a tackle rotation with Green and Gotsis (for that matter, Kallon also, although Gamble would seem closer at this stage).
Coaches are eagerly awaiting for signee Kenderius Whitehead to graduate from Georgia Military College in late summer and join the team. A junior-college All-American after transferring from N.C. State, he’ll push for a starting job at one of the end spots. Freeman was impressive in spring practice as an early enrollee and will likely get playing time, although 230 pounds is obviously light. My suspicion is that Whitehead will ultimately end up starting at rush end.
Obviously, not having defensive end Jabari Hunt-Days, who will not play due to academic ineligibility, is a critical loss.
An old hand and a possible star on the rise. Nealy, going into his fourth season as a starter, and Marcordes, who will be in his first year as a starter after playing behind Brandon Watts for two seasons, were two of the most productive players in spring practice. Speed will be a particular strength of this group. I suspect McNair and Davis, even if not starting, will find ways to impact the team on defense or special teams.
Not a bad starting group, although the depth is a little bit of a concern, and there’s only one senior in the 10 players listed, safety Isaiah Johnson. At corner, White and Griffin haven’t gotten much notoriety playing alongside Jemea Thomas and Louis Young, but are both promising. Demond Smith, who will be a nickel back/safety in the 4-2-5 alignment, showed promise but has to become more consistent.
I’ll be curious to see how Johnson comes back after missing a year recovering from ACL surgery. At the time of his injury, during bowl practice in Dec. 2012, he was probably at the top form of his career to that point.
There probably wasn’t much question whether or not Durham, one of the most highly-rated players in Tech’s signing class and an early enrollee, would play this fall, but this is essentially confirmation.
Of the five second-stringers, Noble has played two seasons, Milton has also played two seasons but is at a new position and Marvin, Griffin and Durham will all be playing their first season.
Tech lost six senior starters and will have three in the lineup this year with Green, Nealy and Johnson. The two big questions, as they’ve been since the start of spring practice, are depth and the front. As is also the case with the offensive depth chart, there’s not a lot of players who have significant experience. Of the 11 backups listed here, there aren’t many that have enough experience that they could simply be plugged in and reasonably expected to play at a similar level to the starter ahead of them.
And, with three new starters on the line, how well they can stop the run and create pass rush without additional help.
On the other hand, it’s a group that will be going into its second year with defensive coordinator Ted Roof, which should help players player faster and with more confidence in their knowledge of the scheme.