Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Preview 2007 - Defense
2007 Georgia Tech Preview
2007 GT Offense Preview
2007 GT Depth Chart
2006 CFN Georgia
What you need to know: The
defense had two lousy games against Clemson and West Virginia
and was solid against everyone else. With just about everyone
returning, expect another great year holding almost everyone to
under 300 yards and around 20 points. The defensive line will be
one of the team's strengths with one of the best groups of ends
in America. MLB Philip Wheeler deserves All-America attention
while the safety tandem of Jamal Lewis and Djay Jones will be
one of the ACC's best. The corners are a bit suspect and the
proven linebacker depth is a bit thin, but those aren't glaring
Tackles: Philip Wheeler, 89
Philip Wheeler, 9
Interceptions: Djay Jones, 4
Star of the defense: Senior LB Philip Wheeler
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
LB Shane Bowen
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman DE Derrick Morgan
Best pro prospect: Wheeler
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wheeler, 2)
DE Adamm Oliver, 3) S Jamal Lewis
Strength of the defense: Defensive line, safety
Weakness of the defense:
A proven third linebacker next to Philip Wheeler and Gary
Projected Starters: The line might be the the team's strength,
and senior end Adamm Oliver is the best player up front. Huge for
the outside at 270 pounds, he's tremendous against the run with the
strength to play tackle if needed. While he's strong enough to hold his
own against most tackles, he also has the burst of an end able to get
into the backfield on a regular basis. His 70 tackles were good for
fourth on the team to go along with 3.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
While he's not always flashy, he got the recognition last season earning
Second Team All-ACC honors.
On the other side is 6-5, 245-pound senior
Darrell Robertson, who takes over a full-time starting spot after
working his way into the rotation and getting four starts. He's an
active tackler making 54 stops to go along with three sacks and seven
tackles for loss, and he should grow into a star of a pass rusher now
that he has experience to go along with his speed and quickness.
The tackles aren't huge, but they're very good. 285-pound junior
Darryl Richard made 20 tackles last season showing few effects of a
knee injury that cost him all of 2005. An excellent interior pass
rusher, he should be an All-ACC performer being a year removed from the
Sophomore Vance Walker will step in for
rock-of-the-line Joe Anoai, who was tremendous at collapsing the pocket.
He's only 6-2 and 275 pounds and has only seen time in a reserve role,
but he has the quickness to be effective right away and become a good
Projected Top Reserves: There has to be a way to
get Michael Johnson on the field more. Whether it means moving
Adamm Oliver over to tackle or getting Johnson more involved in the
rotation, the 6-7, 250-pound speed rusher needs more playing time. He
made 34 tackles and five sacks in a part-time role, and with his
athletic skills and quick first step, he'd be a double-digit sacker as a
Sophomore Robert Hall will battle with star recruit
Derrick Morgan for time on the other side. Mostly a special teamer
so far, Hall has the raw skills to be a sack-artist as either a big
outside linebacker or a tough end. The sky's the limit for Morgan, a
270-pound athlete who can do a little of everything well. He enrolled in
school early and will be a major part of the rotation.
Elris Anyaibe bulked up in the off-season and should be more of a
factor against the run. He got dinged up late in the year and missed the
bowl game, but he'll be back and fine playing behind Richard as a quick
option for the rotation.
Redshirt freshman Ben Anderson will be a
starter at some point in his career. He's a good tackler who's added
strength and bulk over the last two years to handle more of the workload
Watch Out For ... a tremendous rotation of talent.
There's a good backup option at all four spots to keep everyone fresh
and offer options to play around with. Tech used a three-man rotation
last season and it worked extremely well. On the end, the coaching staff
might throw five guys into the mix.
Strength: Depth and pass rushing ability. Tech can
get into the backfield at all four spots highlighted by an abundance of
riches at end. There's no excuse to not be dominant.
Weakness: Size in the middle. It's nitpicking for
a line that helped allow only 105 rushing yards per game and should be
even better, but there aren't any space-eaters. That's by design going
small and quick rather than big and burly.
Outlook: This should be one of the ACC's best
lines as long as the tackles hold up. There are too many good ends to
get on the field at the same time, and that's a good thing. The coaching
staff knows how to juggle talent creating a good result with plenty of
sacks, lots of fresh bodies late in the season, and plenty of plays
behind the line.
Projected Starters: The Yellow Jackets are solid up the middle
with one of America's best all around linebackers, senior Philip
Wheeler, who finished second on the team with 89 tackles and led the
way with nine sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. He's a hard-hitting
disruptive force who's as good in pass coverage as he is at getting into
the backfield. Athleticism, speed and tackling have never been a
problem, and now with his experience inside and out, always being in the
right position won't be, either.
Helping out Wheeler is senior Gary
Guyton, who had a decent year in a full-time role making 29 tackles
to go along with two sacks and eight tackles for loss. With good size
and a year of experience as a starter, he has to start making more plays
on the outside while being stronger against the pass.
Bowen will get the first look on the other side taking over for
leading tackler KaMichael Hall. A decent reserve last season making
seven tackles and a sack, he'll see plenty of time again on special
teams if he gets pushed out of the job by one of the slew of good
Projected Top Reserves: It's just a question of
time before redshirt freshman Anthony Barnes takes over one of
the outside spots. At 235 pounds, he has the size to play on the
strongside and the raw speed to be a terror on the weakside once he gets
used to the ins and outs of playing linebacker after starring as a
safety and receiver in high school.
Assuming Barnes progresses as
expected, he'll be a regular backup; the other spots are up for grabs.
Junior Taalib Tucker, a career special teamer and reserve, will
be tried out behind Guyton on the outside. If needed, he has the
toughness to play in the middle.
Junior Matt Braman has a little
bit of experience as a reserve in the middle, but it junior Travis
Chambers is healthy, he'll be the number two option behind Wheeler.
Chambers missed all of last year and hasn't been able to live up to his
Sophomore Sedric Griffin has the wheels to grow into a
good one on the outside once he recovers from the broken leg suffered in
the Gator Bowl. He spent his true freshman season on special teams, and
now he'll see time on defense once he's back this fall.
Watch Out For ... Anthony Barnes. Bowen is just
keeping the seat warm until Barnes shows he knows what he's doing. Until
then, there'll be a shuffle for the third linebackers spot.
Strength: Speed. Everyone up and down the depth
chart can move. They can all get into the backfield and they'll all do a
good job of swarming around the ball.
Weakness: Developed depth. Tech is loaded with
good prospects that haven't done much of anything yet. While Wheeler and
Guyton are set, there's a big question mark and a big concern if one or
both gets banged up.
Outlook: The situation is basically the same as
last year, only without KaMichael Hall. There's still a problem with
depth, Wheeler will be an All-ACC type of performer, Guyton will be
solid, and the coaching staff will hope to find the right blend of
backups to be productive.
Projected Starters: The safeties will be
fantastic. They're so good that senior Avery Roberson, who made
59 tackles last season at safety last year, will be a backup if he
doesn't take over a cornerback job.
Senior Djay Jones was out
this spring with a shoulder problem, but is expected to be back to shine
at free safety where he led the team with four interceptions. While big
enough to be a steady tackler, the 6-1, 200-pounder is more suited to
playing in space where he can use his good speed to roam.
Jamal Lewis will man the strong safety spot again after finishing
second on the team with 74 tackles with three interceptions and 6.5
tackles for loss. The All-ACC star began his career at corner before
finding a home at safety. He has good instincts, is all over the field,
and is a sure tackler in the open field.
Cornerback isn't exactly a question mark, but the situation isn't as
strong as safety. Junior Jahi Word-Daniels split time at corner
last year and finished up leading the team with 13 broken up passes. Now
he likely won't be picked on as much as the team's number one
Sophomore Laurence Marius spent last year on
special teams and now will take over the open starting spot left by
Kenny Scott. While not all that big, he's extremely quick and a decent
tackler in the open field.
Projected Top Reserves: Roberson might end up
starting a bit both at corner and safety throughout the year. The 6-2,
200-pound senior has good size and plenty of ability to shine no matter
where he plays. He might turn out to be a key backup corner unless one
of the Clark's becomes a steady regular.
Senior Pat Clark moved
over from wide receiver and ended up starting four games at corner
making 19 tackles and an interception. While he has the athleticism and
speed for the job, he's still trying to figure out the nuances of the
Junior Tony Clark can play either corner or safety with the
athleticism and talent to be more of a factor. While he hasn't done much
for the secondary, he's been a whale of a special teamer.
Gaston is back after missing all of last year with a knee injury.
Expected to start going into the season, he tore up his ACL in spring
ball of 2005 giving him more than a full year to recover. He's a pure
strong safety with good tackling ability and decent range.
Watch Out For ... the pass defense to be every bit
as good as last season's when it was ninth in the nation in pass
efficiency defense and allowed just 11 touchdown passes.
Strength: Safety. Between Lewis, Jones, Roberson
and the return of Gaston, Tech has four quality starters and two All-ACC
caliber performers in Lewis and Jones.
Weakness: A guaranteed lock-down number one
corner. Word-Daniels should fill the bill, but he's still a bit unproven
as the number one guy for a full season. If Marius isn't tremendous,
Tech will give up yards.
Outlook: It'll be good enough. With the killer
front seven Tech will trot out and all the pressure to come in the
backfield, all the secondary has to do is not screw up. It can do that.
A few more big plays would be nice after picking off 13 passes last
season, but avoiding getting torched deep will be all this group will
have to do to succeed.
Projected Starters: Senior Travis Bell doesn't have
the biggest leg around, but he's a good veteran with good consistency
inside around 45 yards. Four of his six misses last year came from
behind 45 yards, and he hasn't missed an extra point in his career. He
appears to be over the consistency problems of his sophomore year and
should be a major positive.
The punting will be one of the team's
strengths with the return of senior Durant Brooks, who had a
whale of a season averaging 45.5 yards per kick while putting a
ridiculous 35 kicks inside the 20. His net average of 40.66 yards per
kick put Tech second nationally behind Utah.
The returners likely won't
be decided until late fall with Jamaal Evans, Pat Clark,
Tony Clark and Rashaun Grant likely to get the first
looks. Evans led the way on kickoff returns averaging a solid 22.8 yards
Watch Out For ... the kicking game to be among the
best in America. Brooks has too good a leg to not have another strong
year, while Bell, despite his limitations, should be reliable.
Strength: Brooks. Tech's defense can almost always
rely on good field position with Brooks able to pin teams deep from
anywhere on the field.
Weakness: Kickoff coverage. Mohamed Yahiaoui will
likely handle the kickoff duties again, and while he has a good leg, the
coverage teams didn't help out his overall average allowing 27 yards per
return and two touchdowns.
Outlook: It would be nice if Bell could be a
weapon from 50 yards or so, but he's just not that type of kicker. He'll
hit around 70% of his chances and will come through clutch at least
once. Brooks will be an All-American, but he has to make sure he doesn't
outkick his coverage. If the coverage teams can be a little better, and
there can be more pop on kickoff returns, Tech's special teams will be