Even though our defensive line wasn't that terrific last season, they did have one thing going for them. They were young. From the entire defensive line, Tech lost a grand total of three players, with only one of those being on scholarship during most of their time at Georgia Tech, that being defensive tackle Shawn Green.
Although Green had troubles maintaining his health, he was finally able to make an impact in his final year on the Flats. Starting next to Adam Gotsis, Green finished the season with 22 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in his 12 starts during the season. He also managed to break up four passes at the line of scrimmage.
The other two players leaving the Flats were two lesser known defensive ends: Kyle Travis and Adrian Gardner, neither of which have left a gaping hole in the defensive line, though we certainly appreciate their hard work and commitment.
There's a lot to be excited about here. We got some pretty good players for the defensive line. Even though it is still technically up in the air, the biggest addition Tech has for them this season is the return of linebacker-turned-defensive tackle Jabari Hunt-Days. We still don't know much of what we'll get from him since he's never played the position before, but if the reports are true that he was the toughest defensive tackle Shaq Mason faced last year, I think he will be just fine.
Looking at some of the freshmen joining Tech's defensive line is also a treat. Three players from this year's recruiting class really stand out to me. Starting with defensive end Anree Saint-Amour, I see this guy as someone who could very well play this season. From his film, he is a very capable pass rusher while still being able to set the edge against the run. Because of this and our potential need to move Pat Gamble back to defensive tackle for depth purposes could bode well for Saint-Amour getting playing time at strongside defensive end.
The other two players that really stand out to me both come at defensive tackle. There we've got early enrollee Kyle Cerge-Henderson and Brentavious Glanton. Both are currently reported to be in the 275-280 range, which also happens to be where Adam Gotsis stays. The key for both of these guys to get playing time is for them to get properly conditioned and to learn the playbook. Both are very talented players who could very well be stars by the time they're done on the Flats.
Tech's last two players joining the defensive line are Trent Sellers and Scott Morgan. While these two could very well contribute at a later time in their careers on the Flats, I'd say the likelihood of these two getting playing time isn't quite as high, though if it means that these two have fantastic seasons, I'd love to be proven wrong.
Projected Depth Chart
|Position||First String||Second String|
|SDE||Pat Gamble||Roderick Rook-Chungong
|DT||Adam Gotsis||Francis Kallon|
|NT||Jabari Hunt-Days||Kyle Cerge-Henderson
|WDE||KeShun Freeman||Antonio Simmons
The starting four was pretty much to be expected. If you're wondering what the difference is in the positions, you can check out the article I wrote about a year ago talking about the defense. It covers a basic four-man front, which is mostly what Tech will be running.
I do want to talk about my back-ups though. These projections are my guesses for the depth chart at the beginning of the season, so that's why Anree Saint-Amour isn't listed. I think it will take some time for him to work his way up the depth chart before he gets on the field.
The reason I listed all three of the freshmen as back-ups at nose tackle is just because I'm not sure how Mike Pelton and Ted Roof are going to want to work that out. I think it will come down to who knows the playbook better. Seeing as Cerge-Henderson was an early enrollee, I'd say he's probably the safe bet right now.
Also, don't expect this to look the exact same every time the defensive line comes out. Roof and Pelton will certainly change it up in different situations. For instance, we probably won't see Pat Gamble lined up on many third-and-long situations. It's more likely one of Antonio Simmons or Kenderius Whitehead line up over there, as they are more natural pass rushers.
What is to be Expected?
As I wrote about during Opinions Week, I'm very excited about this year's defensive line. While my prediction may not be totally accurate, I do think it's highly probable that our defensive line will be better than it was last season. If nothing else, the majority of Tech's line is another year more experienced and another year bigger. They also have more depth, mostly at defensive end.
What kind of year do you think the defensive line has? Who steps up on the defensive line?