Georgia Tech welcomes 25 newcomers to the 2021 football roster, 16 high school recruits and 9 transfers. This week, we’ll be taking a look at five of those guys we are most excited about here at From the Rumble Seat.
When I’m looking for a newcomer to watch, I’m looking for the intersection of opportunity and talent. When I see the lack of returning experience at linebacker and the potential of Trenilyas Tatum, I’ve found my newcomer to watch for 2021.
This defensive coaching staff has showed a willingness to play young guys. 6 true freshmen defensive players appeared in 4 or more games in 2020 after 3 did so in 2019. I expect that willingness to continue this fall, especially at linebacker. The linebacker position is marked by great uncertainty entering 2021, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. David Curry chose to move on from GT after his sixth season, and his departure removed some stability but also a limited upside at the linebacker position. Right now, it seems most likely that Quez Jackson and Ace Ebey (transfer in from Maryland who will get a look later in the week) will start at linebacker, with Charlie Thomas, Khatavian Franks, and Trenilyas Tatum competing for significant reps.
The spring game showed that the coaches are willing to give Tatum an opportunity to earn those reps, and he showed he’s got the talent to push the older guys for playing time. If you’ve followed my coverage of GT, you know that I like to talk about run stuffs and havoc plays as areas for growth at the linebacker position. For years now, Tech’s linebackers have been limited in their ability to create disruption for opposing offenses. Tatum flashed some of that disruptive ability in the spring game, backing up much of what he showed in his high school tape. He recorded one havoc play on a PBU, when he was in a great spot on an arrow route run by Jahmyr Gibbs. That immediately followed a play that should have been blown dead and resulted in a Tatum TFL. Later, he recorded a pressure on a nice edge rush.
If Tatum can join together the ability to provide coverage on intermediate routes and to rush the passer, he would be a huge weapon to deploy on passing downs. GT struggled immensely in both of those areas last year. The staff made Tatum a huge priority for the 2021 class; they must have seen his ability to provide potential immediate help in those areas of need. Tatum provided one of the finishing touches to the class when he flipped to GT from South Carolina on November 25th. 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.
A 6-2, 215 pound linebacker from Mount Zion HS in Jonesboro, GA, Tatum looks readymade to play outside linebacker in Coach Thacker’s defense. He enrolled early, and his performance in the spring game showed the value of getting those extra reps. In his breakout junior season, he recorded 91 tackles, including 31(!) for a loss and 14 sacks. His junior highlight tape shows the potential that he again flashed this spring.
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). A couple of other things that stand out are his impressive adjustment and tackle on a QB scramble (2:10) and a great demonstration of strength 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. I’m watching Trenilyas Tatum this fall, and I expect to see him filling up the stat sheet from the second level of the defense.