For a team who finished the season the way Georgia Tech did in 2014, to be able to return all but one starter in the secondary is definitely something that doesn't happen very frequently. For a defense returning so many starters, the expectations have risen for not only this defense, but for the team as well.
The secondary last season definitely had its moments, both good and bad. After missing two starters who missed all of 2013, in 2014 they both returned, and while some rust was there early, in the end this unit made the plays needed to win ball games. The lone starter from last season who has left the program, is Isaiah Johnson. Johnson, one of the starters who missed the entire 2013 season, was the fourth-leading tackler on the team in 2014. He ended his Tech career in the record book,finishing with 283 tackles, the most by a defensive back in the history of the program. Johnson will be missed both on the field and off, he was a true leader, and he now resides in Detroit with the Lions.
While Johnson may be gone, the Jackets have plenty of depth, including a few 2015 signees and 2014 recruits who were able to redshirt last season.
After signing several defensive backs in the 2014 class, Georgia Tech was trying to ensure that depth was no longer an issue going forward.. As a result, several Freshman saw playing time (Step Durham, Melvin Davis, Shaun Kagawa, Lawrence and Lance Austin) In the 2015 class, after seeing the contributions made by these Freshman, CPJ and his staff signed three new DB's to join the program. These three (Dante Wigley, Meiko Dotson, and A.J. Gray) should all make solid contributions during their time at Tech. It is not expected, however, that any of these three do that this upcoming season. Expect two of them to redshirt, while A.J.Gray, a freshman safety who also played QB from Washington County should see the field sparingly and help out on special teams as well. If you haven't been able to see his highlights, check them out here. These three incoming freshman will be expected to contribute going forward, because the majority of this unit are upperclassmen, including all four projected starters.
Projected Depth Chart
|Position||First String||Second String|
|CB||Chris Milton||Lynn Griffin|
|SS||Demond Smith||Shaun Kagawa|
|FS||Jamal Golden||Lawrence Austin|
|CB||D.J. White||Step Durham|
Don't expect much to change from the post-spring depth chart to the end of fall camp. With Smith, Milton, Golden, and White all being Seniors, the rest of the returning players will be fighting for snaps. While Step Durham may not be listed as a starter, expect him to see the field plenty throughout this season , and going forward he could become an impact player.
What Should Be Expected?
Going into this season, Tech has higher expectations than they have had in several, several years. If they are going to be able to capitalize on that, the secondary has to be better. With early tests against Notre Dame and Duke (still doesn't sound right when talking football) this unit is going to be tested, early and often.DJ White and Jamal Golden will be the two leaders, with White continuing to grow as a cover corner. Starting FS Jamal Golden, has been named to several Preseason All-ACC Teams, including Phil Steele's Second Team All-ACC. Having all of this experience needs to help elevate this unit above the others, especially if this team is going to take down Florida State, Clemson, and uga this season.
Considering how often it seemed last season that Isaiah Johnson played inside the box, Tackling is going to be crucial in the open field again this year, and Demond Smith is going to need to be the focal point of that. If Milton and White can prevent big plays from happening,and Smith fills the void left by Johnson, the sky is the limit for this unit, this defense and this team.