More from an interview with defensive line coach Mike Pelton.
How much can Branch contribute?
Georgia Tech defensive line coach Mike Pelton likes what he’s seen from junior-college transfer Desmond Branch, but there’s work still yet to do.
“He’s showed flashes, but he’s still kind of getting adjusted to what we do in practice than what we do in actual scrimmages,” Pelton said. “He’s a guy that showed flashes and is going to help us in the fall. It’ll be interesting to see what he retains from spring to fall.”
Defensive coordinator Ted Roof has said that Branch, based on what he had seen in the spring, would be part of the rotation at defensive end. That Branch showed flashes is encouraging, in that he was making plays at least some of the time. But the goal is consistency, to be making plays on a regular basis and to be playing the assignment correctly on each snap. It’s not a surprise – Branch joined the team in January – and he has yet to play a Division I snap yet. Branch was at New Mexico for one semester as a redshirt, then transferred to junior college for a year before coming to Tech.
“You can bring him along faster than you can a freshman, because he’s obviously been in some fire, maybe not the fire playing in the ACC, but he’s a little older,” Pelton said.
Branch could possibly be a helpful pair with Roderick Rook-Chungong if he can play with some consistency. The more he can play, obviously, the more effective it would make Rook-Chungong. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if that takes some time, though, given has lack of playing experience.
Part of the spring work on the pass rush – a priority after the Jackets tied for 120th in sacks per game at 1.17 – was spent on keeping linemen in their rush lanes to keep the quarterback in the pocket. Getting out of the designated rush lane can open up gaps in the line that quarterbacks can run through. The line had a helpful training partner on the offense.
“Not a better quarterback in the country to make you do that than Justin Thomas,” Pelton said. “He’s going to keep you honest with your rush lanes. He’s going to keep you honest with all that stuff. If you break down, he comes out of there.”
Playing time for freshmen?
Tech will have four incoming freshmen on the line – tackles Brandon Adams and Chris Martin and ends Jahaziel Lee and Jordan Woods.
The past two seasons, KeShun Freeman and Kyle Cerge-Henderson have played as first-year freshmen. The challenge for the four incoming freshmen is greater because there’s a little more depth and also because Freeman and Cerge-Henderson were early enrollees, giving them more time to learn the defense and adjust to the game at the college level.
“I tell ’em all, the best will play,” Pelton said. “And best thing a freshman can do, like I told the freshmen last year, Sit down and shut up and put your head down and go to work. Because I don’t want to hear anything you’ve got to say. I just want to see what you can do that.”