Defensive end Kenderius Whitehead made waves around the Georgia Tech community in March of 2014 when he became the first JUCO player to sign with the Jackets in over a decade, landing on The Flats by way of NC State and then Georgia Military College. Previously a three-star recruit out of Martin Luther King, Jr. High School in Lithonia, Whitehead concluded his second round of recruiting by choosing Tech over offers from West Virginia, Marshall, and Auburn. Though the 2015 season will be Whitehead's first time seeing the field for Tech, he has actually been in the program for well over a year after falling just short of graduating from GMC in time to be eligible for 2014.
Now a redshirt junior with two full seasons of eligibility left, Whitehead will look to bolster what was a very weak passrushing unit for Tech last season. As a weakside defensive end in Ted Roofs 4-3 defense (or 4-2-5 if you planned on correcting me), Whitehead fits the bill perfectly in terms of what you look for in a 4-3 end with great quickness and athleticism. He stands at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds according to the most recent numbers I could find, but I'd be surprised if he didn't spend his year off bulking up to a more prototypical 250-pound size for a defensive end. Let's take a look at some highlights from his season at GMC to see exactly what kind of player to expect:
If those highlights weren't exciting to you then I'm not sure what is. Even while playing at the JUCO level (where he recorded 7.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles) Whitehead was making offensive linemen look silly. Just check out the first play of the Hudl video; he executes perfectly by lowering his left shoulder to get underneath the lineman's hands and then accelerates to turn the corner and force the fumble. It is also remarkable to watch how relentless Whitehead is when chasing down the ball carrier, as he does at the 0:36 mark. The plays that he makes are the same plays that plenty of college athletes give up on too quickly; tireless pursuit is a great attribute to see in a defensive lineman. Couple that with his speed and strength (seriously, how does someone playing at 220 push linemen around so easily?) and you have the formula for an instant impact player. That kind of explosiveness and drive is exactly what Tech has been missing since Jeremiah Attaochu departed two seasons ago. Whitehead reminds me a lot of Vic Beasley, and that is just flat-out exciting.
I'm not quite ready to pencil Whitehead in as a starter for 2015 quite yet -- he is currently second on the depth chart -- but his impact will be felt in some capacity no matter what his role on the team is. If he does manage to overtake Rod Rook-Chungong at the position, I could easily see him being a 6+ sack guy considering how much attention will be dedicated to Adam Gotsis, Jabari Hunt-Days, and KeShun Freeman on the defensive line. If all goes well for the veteran newcomer, a very productive career on The Flats could be in the works. Kenderius Whitehead has the potential to be an electrifying player as early as this season.
What do you expect out of Kenderius Whitehead this season? Will he be a four-down force or a situational passrusher to complement Rod Rook-Chungong?