clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Georgia Tech Football: 2016 Position Previews - Linebackers

New, 8 comments

Well, we have two linebackers who are pretty good. Can we find a third?

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Countdown to kickoff: 51 Days

As our 100 Days to Kickoff series continues to tick down, we begin our position previews to provide an in-depth look at who will be on the field for the Yellow Jackets this year. Each position has seen some old faces leave and new ones take their place. This week is all about becoming more familiar with the depth chart and getting an idea of what to expect out of each position group this fall.

2016 Position Previews: Linebackers

Who’s gone?

At linebacker, Tech is only faced with replacing two linebackers (Tyler Marcordes and Domonique Noble), with just one of those having starting experience.

Marcordes, while never spectacular for Tech, has been a solid rock in the linebacking corps. After being recruited to play in Al Groh’s 3-4 defense, Marcordes was never able to find the perfect position for him when Ted Roof took over the defense, as he was not good enough in coverage to excel as a 4-3 linebacker, but was also not big nor strong enough to move to the defensive line. Roof and co. ultimately decided to leave him at linebacker. Even though he was a bit out of position, he did have some moments where he shined, including an interception returned for a touchdown in his redshirt-sophomore year and four forced fumbles throughout his career at Tech.

In Noble, we have a similar situation. He was never a guy who really had a position. He came to Tech as a safety, but ultimately outgrew the position and moved to linebacker. He never saw a whole lot of time, but did get some playing time last year and played decently.

Who’s back?

While I am pretty thankful that Tech didn’t really lose a whole lot at linebacker, I’m even more thankful at who Tech has coming back. The two big ones coming back are PJ Davis and Brant Mitchell.

Davis has been an absolute stalwart and leader on the defense, despite his smaller frame. He has been able to show that even though he is smaller than the rest of his competition, he can and will overpower them. It feels a little bit like we have Julian Burnett reincarnated in the form of Davis.

With Mitchell, he dominated as a freshman last season and is well on his way to becoming a great in the history of Georgia Tech football (in my opinion anyways). He finished last season with 36 tackles (2.5 TFL) and two interceptions.

Other than these two, Tech doesn’t have anyone that has really established themselves, but they do have some pretty talented players. The ones that come to mind immediately are Tyler Cooksey and Vic Alexander. Terrell Lewis is another veteran who should be able to get a chance to prove himself this year.

Who’s new?

In this last year’s recruiting class, Georgia Tech added two linebackers in Jakob Brashear and Emanuel Bridges. Both look to be exciting additions to Tech’s defense as they both pretty much play like their pants are on fire.

In terms of new players that we will see on the field this year, that list consists of Tyler Cooksey and David Curry. While I think Curry is a better fit as the Nickel back, he still has a chance to fill that spot at linebacker. I think these two will be the two main competitors for that position. The thing that gives them the edge is their coverage ability, which they both excel at.

What should we expect?

Like I was just talking about with Cooksey and Curry, the thing that I like about them is their coverage abilities. That’s what I think we should expect: improved coverage from the linebackers. While PJ Davis isn’t a stellar coverage guy, he certainly is passable for a strongside linebacker. Outside of Davis, Tech’s linebackers should fare better than league average in terms of pass coverage.

In terms of run stopping and pass rushing, I think Tech could fare just as well. What PJ Davis lacks in coverage skills, he more than makes up in his ability as a pass rusher and run stopper (though more so the latter). The thing I worry about here is whether Tech will also be able to set an edge on the side opposite of Davis. Neither Cooksey nor Curry have in-game experience at the college level, so it could take a few games for either of them to really get a handle on it.

Projected Depth Chart

Position First String Second String
Strongside Linebacker PJ Davis Vic Alexander
Inside Linebacker Brant Mitchell Tre' Jackson
Weakside Linebacker Tyler Cooksey OR David Curry Terrell Lewis

Most of this depth chart is pretty straightforward. Obviously, Davis and Mitchell are the two clear-cut starters among this group. Vic Alexander, while I think he will mostly be Davis’s back-up, could also slide inside and spell Mitchell. The most cycling among players we’ll see this season will be at Weakside Linebacker. As of right now, there just isn’t a clear-cut starter. That may change by the beginning of the season, but as of right now, it will be linebacker-by-committee.

In sets where we come out in the Nickel, I think that we will keep whomever ends up as the Weakside Linebacker and one of Mitchell and Davis (though I would prefer Mitchell for the coverage skills) in at linebacker.