Continuing our look at newcomers in the middle of the GT defense, today we’ll highlight the two linebackers who will join Tech in the fall of 2021. With David Curry’s departure and some inconsistent play from the rest of the linebackers in 2020, there’s ample opportunity for new faces to make an impact here this fall. GT brings in 2 linebackers, one from the transfer portal, as part of the effort to shore up the middle of the defense.
Trenilyas Tatum was a huge priority for the GT staff throughout the 2021 recruiting cycle. Their hard work finally paid off when he flipped to GT from South Carolina on November 25th:
A 6-2, 215 pound linebacker from Mount Zion HS in Jonesboro, GA, Tatum looks ready-made to play outside linebacker in Coach Thacker’s defense. He’s already enrolled, and the opportunity to get significant spring and summer reps could pay huge dividends in Tatum’s efforts to see the field early. He was rated as a 5.8 4 Star on Rivals, and came in just barely below the 4 star line on 247 (88 rating) and in the 247 Composite (88.71 rating). He reported an impressive offer list that included South Carolina, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisville, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Tennessee, UVA, and VT.
In his breakout junior season, he recorded 91 tackles, including 31(!) for a loss and 14 sacks. Unfortunately, we don’t have senior film or stats on him, but his junior highlight tape shows the explosiveness that had the GT coaching staff so excited.
In our defensive review of 2020, one of the things we mentioned was the importance of the defensive coaching staff being aggressive in blitzing, with the right personnel. Tatum demonstrates that he is the kind of guy we are talking about. He gets into the backfield unblocked time after time, and when a blocker does properly account for him, he has the physicality to make the play anyway (see the play at 1:25). Two other plays stood out to me: his impressive adjustment and tackle on a QB scramble (2:10) and a tremendous demonstration of where he essentially tackles the blocker and ball carrier together (2:20). It’s not hard to see why the GT staff stuck with him even after his South Carolina commitment; he’s a linebacker unlike anyone else on the roster right now, and early snaps certainly wouldn’t be a surprise.
Andrew Thacker completed the additions to his linebacker room when Ayinde Eley announced his transfer from Maryland to Georgia Tech on December 28th:
Eley was part of the 2017 recruiting class out of Good Counsel HS in Olney, MD. Originally rated as a wide receiver, he has put on about 45 pounds and grown into a big linebacker (6-3, 240 pounds) during his four years at Maryland. He will have up to two years of eligibility to finish out at GT and should compete right away for significant snaps.
Eley’s standout year at Maryland came during his redshirt sophomore campaign in 2019, when he accumulated 79 total tackles, half of a sack, and 2 fumble recoveries while showing off his coverage skills with 3 pass breakups and 1 interception. He played in only three games this past fall, as Mike Locksley opted to play more young guys in the COVID shortened season, which paved the way for Eley to come to Atlanta.
From his sophomore highlights, you can see that his responsibilities match up with the Will position at GT, where Quez Jackson returns this fall. His combination of size and speed is intriguing and should lead to ample opportunity to make an impact. There’s no true area where Eley dominates, but he shows skill in defending the run, defending pass catchers, and rushing the passer. He’s an experienced, versatile player that can only help fill out depth at Georgia Tech’s previously thin linebacker position.
Following the departure of David Curry and the move of Demetrius Knight back to offense, the opportunity to earn playing time at linebacker is wide open. Coach Thacker has to be pleased at adding a steady, experienced contributor like Eley to go with a dynamic true freshman in Trenilyas Tatum. Quez Jackson will likely continue to get a large number of snaps at Will, but these two newcomers will join forces with Tyson Meiguez and Khatavian Franks to take the linebacker position to heights that we have not seen in several years on the Flats.