When Ted Roof returned to the Flats as Defensive Coordinator in 2013, Georgia Tech’s defense quickly became a strength, as Paul Johnson’s personnel was more aptly suited for Roof’s four-man front than Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme.
2014 will be a new challenge, however, as three of last year’s defensive line starters—led by the ACC’s all-time sack leader Jeremiah Attaochu—are now busy vying for spots on NFL rosters.
Today, in my first post for Yellow Jacked Up, I will break down the depth of Roof’s new-look defensive line and tell you why there is reason for optimism with regards to this unit on The Flats.
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The lone returning starter on the defensive line is junior Adam Gotsis , an Aussie with big-play capability and the work ethic needed to become the leader on the youthful Jacket defensive line. Last season, Gotsis registered 14.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, ranking only behind the aforementioned Attaochu in both categories.
His ability to rush the passer from the defensive tackle position is a luxury that many teams would kill for, and he will need to continue his high level of production in 2014 to elevate the play of the inexperienced front.
He recently spoke with the AJC’s Ken Sugiura and expressed that he eagerly awaits the challenge:
Surrounding Gotsis on Roof’s defensive front is a group of talented, yet unproven, Jackets. Competing for the starting spot alongside Gotsis will be Patrick Gamble (R-So), Francis Kallon (R-So), and Shawn Green (R-Sr).
Gamble is an intriguing young player with size, weighing in at 280 pounds and standing 6’5” tall. He’s the early favorite to flank Gotsis as a starter on the line, and he impressed coaches during his red-shirt season as he was named Scout Team Defensive Player of the Year.
Kallon, like Gotsis, was raised outside of the states—he was born in London and didn’t strap on the cleats until he was 18 years old. His has incredible size, however, and his 296 pound frame should help him secure a spot in the rotation as a run-stuffer.
Rounding out this bunch is the experienced Green, whose 2013 campaign was marred my injuries. He proved to be a capable tackle in 2012, however, with a forced fumble and an interception of Clemson’s Tajh Boyd.
The more interesting position battle along Roof’s defensive front will be at the defensive end position. There are no incumbent starters at the position, and Attaochu leaves enormous shoes to fill. Jeremiah led the team with 12.5 sacks a year ago, etching his name atop the ACC record books with 31.5 career sacks.
The candidates to replace Attaochu won’t get much national attention, but I’m optimistic about their potential.
Kenderius Whitehead (R-So) is a standout transfer from Georgia Military College who was a quarterback’s worst nightmare in the NCJAA. He recorded 7.5 sacks and forced 2 fumbles a year ago. I would have expected his name to be called with the starters against Wofford on August 30th. However, it was reported a few days ago that he is going to have to sit out a year before being eligible to play.
KeShun Freeman (Fr) is another player fans should familiarize themselves with, as he was hotly recruited as a speed rusher by teams throughout the Southeast. He’s a testament to Buzz Preston’s impact on the Yellow Jacket recruiting trail, as he drew offers from six other ACC schools.
Rounding out the notable defensive ends on the roster are Roderick Rook-Chungong and Tyler Stargel, a pair of red-shirt sophomores who will figure into the mix.
Rook-Chungong missed the entire 2013 season due to injury but has all the measurables to be an impactful pass rusher.
Stargel is a high-motor player who saw action in 11 games last season. If nothing else, he should help the Jackets on special teams, as he blocked an incredible four kicks during his senior season in high school.
While the names in this group lack the same cachét of defensive lines of old, the future is bright on Bobby Dodd Way. I expect there to be growing pains in 2014, but Defensive Line Coach Mike Pelton has a stable of big bodies and young minds to mold. If Roof’s experienced secondary plays up to their potential, the defensive front should get after the quarterback and challenge ACC foes in the trenches sooner rather than later.
I’m jacked up to see what they can do.