Notes: Third-down defense not up to par thus far

Georgia Tech linebacker Beau Hankins is in the running to move to the top of the depth chart at the middle-linebacker spot. (GETTY IMAGES)

Georgia Tech linebacker Beau Hankins is in the running to move to the top of the depth chart at the middle-linebacker spot. (GETTY IMAGES)

1. It hasn’t been a great week thus far for Georgia Tech’s third-down defense. In spring-practice sessions Monday and Tuesday, the offense and defense worked on third-and-6 (Monday) and third-and-5 (Wednesday) situations. The offense was more successful than coach Paul Johnson and defensive coordinator Ted Roof would have preferred.

“We’ve got to get better on third-down defense,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to.”

Improving on third down is a priority for the Yellow Jackets this spring. Tech was 114th in third-down percentage (46.1 percent) last season. The offense, meanwhile, tied the NCAA all-time high for third-down rate (57.9 percent).

“They converted too many,” Roof said. “At times, we didn’t tackle well, at times we weren’t aggressive enough, at times we didn’t play good technique. It wasn’t good.”

Johnson wasn’t overly concerned. As he is wont to point out, the offense and defense typically take turns getting the better of the other in the spring. It was in last Saturday’s scrimmage, for instance, that the defense had controlled play.

“It’s a give and take,” he said. “Nobody’s going to dominate. We’re not that good on either side.”

2. After Wednesday’s practice, Johnson gave praise to two young offensive skill-position players, wide receiver Ricky Jeune and B-back C.J. Leggett. He said that Jeune is “doing a nice job. He’s made some nice plays the last two days.”

Jeune played largely on special teams last season as a freshman. Like fellow redshirt sophomore Antonio Messick, he’s in competition for a starting job.

Said Johnson of Leggett, “I thought he did good. He had a couple nice long runs today. Of course, I’m not sure there was anybody to get him, but he made some nice long runs.”

3. Anthony Harrell and Beau Hankins are in competition for the top of the depth chart at the middle linebacker spot in the 4-3 defense along with P.J. Davis and Tyler Marcordes. Tre Jackson is third.

“There’s good competition,” linebackers coach Andy McCollum said. “Beau Hankins is improving every day, too. And they’ve both played in some games.”

McCollum mentioned that Harrell, who tore his ACL in Oct. 2013, is moving with more explosiveness and confidence than last season. A particular goal for him in the spring is to become more confident and knowledgeable in the scheme.

“He’s got to learn to play better in space and, like I said, learn everything going on around him,” McCollum said. “He’s just got to keep getting a feel for of what he’s doing every day. That’s the challenge for him.”

4. The Jackets will continue Friday with their seventh spring-practice workout, followed by the eighth Saturday morning.


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