Heading into 2020, Tech’s secondary was one of the most experienced units on a roster returning 94% of its defensive production from 2019. Stability in the defensive backfield is crucial — technique and situational experience matter more back here because one wrong step can easily lead to busted coverages and wide-open receivers. But Tech’s defensive performances in 2020 were a mixed bag: a defense projected to finish amongst the top 40 in the nation (per SP+) finished just off the mark at #58, marred by a pass rush that struggled to generate pressure at times to help out a secondary that often overextended itself trying to cover the field as opposing receivers ad-libbed on their routes to get open for their quarterbacks.
So where does that leave Tech heading into 2021? The Jackets return 84% of their defensive production from 2020, good enough for 23rd in the nation. Safeties Juanyeh Thomas and Tariq Carpenter return for their junior and senior seasons (or senior and super-senior seasons? Who knows — COVID has ruined roster management for us all), but throughout games, they’ll need effective deputies to step in and maintain rigidity along the defensive back-line. Redshirt sophomore (COVID junior?) Derrik Allen filled this role for Tech as the 2020 season progressed, and in 2021, he’ll be in the mix with true freshmen Sirad Bryant and Kaleb Edwards.
At 6’1” and 184 pounds, Bryant featured at both wide receiver and strong safety for Crisp County HS in Cordele, GA. Ranked a three-star recruit (with a 0.8702 rating) by 247Sports’ composite, Bryant blended his aggressiveness and speed with careful tactical thinking for Crisp County, effectively reading receiver positioning to get himself in the right spot to knock down a pass without being afraid to be aggressive in coverage. As Ben noted in his commit analysis from August:
In general, [Bryant] lets the play happen in front of him and reacts, but he is not afraid to come up and make contact. And when he does, he’s got pretty solid closing speed to make the tackle.
Don’t believe us? Watch the tape:
Notable: his older brother is Big Kat Bryant, a senior defensive lineman formerly at Auburn and now at Central Florida.
A 247Sports composite three-star recruit (with a 0.8842 rating), Edwards played baseball and was on the track and field team at Dacula HS (Dacula, GA), and you can see how that cross-training affects his game in his football highlights. At 6’0” and 195 pounds, he brings a lot of athleticism and flexibility to the table, but he’s also able to throw his weight around and be physical. Edwards primarily played safety for Dacula, but often moonlit as a running back and wide receiver. It’s possible that other schools that offered Edwards (like Stanford, Notre Dame, and Northwestern) may have wanted him in more offensive roles given this positional flexibility, but it seems that Geoff Collins and his staff saw something in Edwards’ coverage ability that convinced them he fit in into their plans for the Tech secondary.
Notable: Edwards’ profile on RamblinWreck.com notes that he finished on the podium for the high jump at Georgia’s state championship track meet as a sophomore in 2019. You can see this ‘vertical explosiveness’ in his film; he really extends to grab some of his interceptions.
How do you feel about Tech’s secondary reinforcements?