Over the past few seasons since Derrick Morgan's departure, Jeremiah Attaochu has been this team's biggest past rush threat as the outside "Jack" linebacker in Al Groh's 3-4 scheme. Under new defensive coordinator Ted Roof and his 4-3 scheme, Attaochu will be making a shift this season to play the Weakside Defensive End role -- traditionally a bit of a smaller defensive end (in the 260 pound range) who specializes in pass rushing and causing havoc in the backfield. (For reference, think of a guy like John Abraham, previously of the Falcons, or Jason Taylor, previously of the Dolphins and Redskins.) This shift should come fairly easily for Attaochu, whose strengths have never been a list with "pass coverage" at the very top.
Indeed, this role should allow Attaochu to focus on doing what he does best -- he recorded 10 sacks last season (almost entirely in the second half) and needs another 12 this fall to tie Greg Gathers with 31 as the school's all-time leader. He's widely recognized as one of the most physically gifted players on our defense, and opposing offenses pay more attention to him than most anyone else across from them.
For comparison's sake, in his first three seasons "Jerry" recorded 3, 6, and 10 sacks, respectively, for an average of 6.3 per season. Keeping true to that trend, though, this fall he'll record 13 (which would have been good for #3 nationally last year). However, those first two seasons saw Attaochu as a very young player who often struggled with injury. After maturing, becoming accustomed to the college game, and shaking off some injuries, perhaps his numbers will be better in his final season before moving to the next level. All this, as well as having Ted Roof aggressively directing the defense, bodes well for him to get to the magic number of 12.
However, I, for one, am going to take the Under on this line and say that Attaochu gets close, but doesn't quite reach the 12 he needs to set the record. I think he'll have a couple of growing pains in adjusting to Ted Roof's defense, he may struggle with the injury bug as he has a few times in his career, and won't get quite as much help from his comrades on the defensive line as he needs. I'd say he finishes with another solid 10 or 11 sack season, but doesn't quite hit 12.
Shocked at my pessimism here? Agreeing with me on it? Tell me how you feel about Attaochu's fortunes this fall, Tech fans.