Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
When you play linebacker for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, you have some impressive footsteps in which to follow. It has to be a bit intimidating to think that you are playing on the same field that Maxie Baughan, Bill Curry, George Morris, Pat Swilling, Gary Guyton Keith Brooking, and of course, current defensive coordinator, Ted Roof, once played.
Junior linebacker Quayshawn Nealy could be developing into the next great name to be added to that list.
Nealy has been an outstanding player during his time with the Yellow Jackets, but in 2013, he’s beginning to turn things up a notch. He was named the ACC linebacker of the week after tallying an interception, a fumble recovery and a pass break-up in Georgia Tech’s 56-0 romp over Syracuse this past Saturday.
The interception was the second of the season and the sixth career pick for Nealy, who is now only one INT shy of senior DB Jemea Thomas for becoming the team’s active career leader. Nealy has also picked off passes in two straight bowl games.
This is the second weekly honor Nealy has received, being named to the same honor in 2012 following the win over North Carolina.
The leadership that Nealy brings is one of the intangibles you might not see in a box score. He is the emotional and vocal leader on the defense, and has learned how to set the defense against some of the most potent offenses in the FBS. It’s a sure thing that when offensive coordinators around the ACC are calling their plays, they want to know precisely where number 54 is.
Watching Nealy play is like watching a throwback from the 1960s at times. At 6’1 and 230 pounds, he’s not the biggest linebacker around, but his quickness and ability to move to the ball make up for any slight of build. And flying to the ball in pass coverage isn’t Nealy’s only strength. In 2012, he finished fourth on the team in total tackles (79) and recorded 3.5 tackles for loss, including 2.0 sacks.
Although Nealy’s numbers are slightly down in terms of total tackles, his overall game has seen marked improvement. One result of having a reputation as a quality defender is that teams tend to stay away from you, as has been the case this season with Nealy.
Nealy is becoming one of the best linebackers in the ACC, and continues to improve as each week passes. You have to think that the tutelage of Ted Roof has something to do with his emergence this season.