The Yellow Jackets have one starter more or less cemented in the starting lineup in Keshun Freeman, but the starting spot opposite him, formerly occupied by Rod Rook-Chungong, is wide open. Here’s a look at the options.
Simmons is a favorite of some of the staff here at FTRS. He was known as a pass rush specialist, but he showed some more versatility last season. The defensive line was not good last season, but a particular weakness was a total lack of a pass rush and nobody making plays in the backfield. At times it seemed like he was the only one who could make an aggressive play from the line. He somehow ended up with only one sack last season which seems crazy to me. He was second on the team with 5.5 tackles for loss and first with 12 quarterback hurries, all this despite little play time. He came up huge in the opener against BC with two TFL, a sack, and a forced fumble. To much consternation his solid play did not seem to lead to more playing time. If the staff is looking for more play-making, then Simmons should win the starting spot, but if they continue to see him as a specialist then they will look to someone else.
Anree St. Amour
Anree is now coming into his third season with the Yellow Jackets and he spent the last couple in much the same role as Simmons. He has been seen as a pass rush specialist and a depth guy. He had quite a bit of hype coming into GT, but we haven’t quite seen him reach his potential yet. He is very quiet on the field and struggles to get off of blocks to use his ability to make plays. He did end up with 4 sacks last season which is a positive, but he was not making the consistent pressure that Simmons was. I could see St Amour taking a big step forward and showing what he is really capable of.
Tyler Merriwether is coming into his redshirt Junior season looking to make a big bump in playing time. He has gotten lost in a crowded defensive end rotation, but it looks like he may have a chance to get on the field much more this season. I would be very surprised if he came out starting, but he should be on the field quite a bit as a rotational end.
The 2016 recruiting class saw GT pick up three defensive ends, but Desmond Branch and Chris Martin are both playing inside at DT and Jordan Woods transferred after his freshman season. That leaves a hole in the depth. One of the two true freshman coming in at the position, Cortez Alston and Kelton Dawson, should definitely see some time in the rotation. Again, I’d be surprised to see any of them starting, but Keshun Freeman did start as a true freshman so it’s possible.
I really like what I saw out of Simmons last year and joined in the frustration that was his lack of play time. Barring a big jump from Anree, which is possible, I’d like to see Antonio on the field across from Freeman on starting day.