Grant has been focusing on the offense the last couple of days (Part 1 & Part 2) and did a wonderful job with it. Now, I'm gonna take a look at the revamped defense that Ted Roof and the Yellow Jackets will be running next season. I'm going to break it down by position coaches and explain what each position will be doing and who (IMO) is the best fit for each position.
Defensive Line - Coach Mike Pelton
So in case you didn't know, the entire defensive line for the 4-2-5 is the exact same as one that would be used in any other base 4-man front (4-4, 4-3, 46 Bear). It is traditionally composed of two ends and two tackles. The way that these different positions are laid out on the defensive lines are by what is called techniques. This is basically where each player lines up in correspondence to the opposing offensive line, as shown below.
Georgia Tech will likely change up at which technique they will play the defensive line, so I'll stick with the traditional names for the sake of this explanation: weakside defensive end, strongside defensive end, under tackle (or just defensive tackle), and nose tackle.
Starting with the weakside defensive end (WDE), this is usually the main pass rusher on the defensive line. To literally play on the "weakside," this player must line up on the side of the field opposite of wherever the tight end (TE) is lined up. The tight end is typically lined up next to the right tackle (RT), allowing the defense's best pass rusher to go up against the offensive line's best pass protector in more cases than not.
Last season saw Jeremiah Attaochu grace this position. Unfortunately (for us) he graduated and needs to be replaced. Going into spring practice, it looked like there would be two main players competing for the starting job: Jabari Hunt-Days and Kenderius Whitehead (starting in fall practices). That was up until two things happened: Jabari Hunt-Days got suspended for academic reasons and KeShun Freeman showed off at spring practice. It will likely stay a two-horse race up until the beginning of (and possibly throughout) the season. I would like to see KeShun Freeman get thrown into the fire immediately simply so he has four years to become a great WDE. I also believe, however, that Ted Roof and Mike Pelton do not quite think like I do. Because of this, I believe that to begin the season, Kenderius Whitehead will be the starter at WDE with KeShun Freeman breathing down his neck the entire season and possibly even unseating him as the starter by the end of the season.
Moving to the other side of the defensive line, we have the strongside defensive end (SDE). This was always a very underrated position to me. The SDE is typically not going to put up All-American sack numbers, and because of this often gets overlooked. Instead of being a major pass rusher, the SDE is more of a balanced DE, that is one that is more of a run-stopper, but also has some decent ability to get to the passer.
This is another position where we will see a change, with the graduation of Emmanuel Dieke. Competing to replace him are two guys: Tyler Stargel and Roderick Rook-Chungong. Out of all of the positions on the defensive line, this one has me the most frustrated because the coaching staff has the perfect player for this position playing a different position: Adam Gotsis. Gotsis is a beast of a man that has shown good ability to get to the passer (5 sacks last season) and stop plays in the backfield (14.5 TFL). Unfortunately due to the lack of depth on our interior defensive line, Gotsis has been placed inside (so I'll talk about him later). Between Stargel and Rook-Chungong, I would like to see Rook-Chungong win the job because I think he is superior physically to Stargel, but I have heard that Stargel has a pretty firm grasp on the job currently.
Next up is the under tackle, or defensive tackle (DT). I like to think of the DT as the main pass rusher of the interior defensive line. He typically lines up to the inside of the SDE.
Playing this position last season was Euclid Cummings. He should be replaced by the man that played right next to him the majority of the season: Adam Gotsis. Like I said earlier, even though I believe Gotsis is best suited for SDE, he will be forced inside to due lack of depth. At the DT position, Gotsis should easily be able to replicate (and possibly improve) his numbers from last season.
Finally on the defensive line is the nose tackle (NT). While this is technically different from a NT in a 3-man front, for argument's sake, he basically has the same job: he takes up space and stops the run, while lining up virtually in the middle of the line or inside one of the guards.
Playing this position last season was a guy I've already mentioned a few times: Adam Gotsis. I believe this job is now down to four players after the recent dismissal of Jimmie Kitchen (who I thought would win the job): Shawn Green, Pat Gamble, Darius Commissiong, and Francis Kallon. Shawn Kitchen is the likely starter here if he can stay healthy. Gamble and Commissiong both have the talent to push Kitchen for snaps throughout the season. As for Kallon, whom I've been a big fan of since his commitment, I think he will be improved slightly this year, but until the light switches on for him, he'll never be anything more than a back-up player.
Linebackers - Coach Andy McCollum
Now, things start to change from the way they were last season. Last season, our base package consisted of three linebackers. We're now dropping one, causing the defense to look more like a Nickel Defense. These two linebacker positions are called the weakside linebacker (WLB or Will) and strongside linebacker (SLB or Sam).
Starting with the SLB, he lines up on the same side as the SDE, meaning that he will be able to add some more pass rush from that side while also being a solid tackler. Right now, there are really two players that will be competing for this spot: Tyler Marcordes and Anthony Harrell. After tearing his ACL during the middle of last season, it is likely that Anthony Harrell will not be the starter at the beginning of the season. Don't take this to mean that he won't see playing time there, however. He will, just probably not until he is closer to fully healthy. I am really excited to see what Tyler Marcordes will be able to do in this position. He is a very underrated athlete that should make an impact there right away.
The job of the WLB is, more often than not, to play coverage. In a perfect world, the pass rush will be balanced with the WDE bringing a lot of pass rush ability on one side and the SDE and SLB bringing their combined pass rush on the other side, leaving the WLB the ability to drop back into coverage.
Playing here, without any competition, will be Quayshawn Nealy. With last year's switch to a 4-3 defense, Nealy moved to WLB from playing ILB in Al Groh's 3-4 scheme. He had a pretty solid year last season, finishing with 66 tackles, 2 INTs, and 2 fumble recoveries. Also very likely to get playing time at WLB will be Paul (PJ) Davis. In limited playing time, Davis had 41 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 sack, and a fumble recovery.
Defensive Backs - Coach Joe Speed
The other major change from a 4-3 to a 4-2-5 is the addition of another defensive back, which is a position that is easily one of the most versatile in all of football. The positions that make up the defensive backs are corner back (CB; there are two), free safety (FS), strong safety (SS), and the nickel.
Starting with CB, the job of the CBs is to cover their opposing wide receivers. Whether it be man coverage or zone coverage, nine times out of ten, a CB will be in some form of coverage.
One of the two CB jobs is all but locked up by DJ White (enough said). The other one could be up for debate though. As of right now, Lynn Griffin is currently listed as the other starter at CB. I think he would do a fine job there, but I think he has a better fit elsewhere. Ideally, incoming freshman Step Durham would be able to come in and start right away. More likely to happen would be that Chris Milton win the job (pretty realistic IMO).
Moving on to FS, in the 4-2-5 base defense, I see the FS as basically a center fielder. By this I mean that the job of the FS is to play a deep zone for basically the entire game, occasionally changing it up to keep the offense on their toes.
There is virtually zero competition here. Jamal Golden will start here, barring any injury. End of story.
The other safety spot has a different job description. In a 4-2-5 defense, a SS can be used in a variety of different ways. He can be used in run support, coverage, etc. You name it, he should be able to do it (at least decently to an extent).
Again, there is virtually zero competition here. Isaiah Johnson will start here, barring a freshman coming in and somehow beating him out.
Now we get to my favorite position in all of football: the Nickel. I believe the Nickel to be the most versatile player in the back seven. By this I mean that with this particular defense, I want to have a guy in the nickel that can play at every linebacker and defensive back position.
Currently listed as the starter there is Demond Smith. I believe the best fit for this position, however, is currently listed as a starter at CB: Lynn Griffin. I have heard nothing but good things about Lynn Griffin's ability to hit. In my mind, this translates to the potential of being able to stop the run or get to the passer. Couple this with the fact that he is currently listed as a starter at CB, and it is implied that he is a good enough cover man to start at CB.
Now that I've done my best to explain each position, I'm going to show what I would like the depth chart to look like ideally.
I hope y'all enjoyed this breakdown. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. What do y'all think of the 4-2-5 defense? Who do y'all think will start by the time the season starts?