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Georgia Tech Football: Way-too-Early Look at 2016 - Defensive Line

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And now on to the defense!

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Last Season

Georgia Tech's defensive line had some huge expectations last season. Freshman All-American KeShun Freeman and Adam Gotsis were expected to get some help, mostly from Jabari Hunt, who had received fantastic reviews prior to the season.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite happen like that. Hunt proved to be nothing more than just another body, one who didn't have nearly the impact some thought he would (13 total tackles, 1.0 TFL in eight games).

Of the defensive linemen, Freeman and Gotsis predictably put up the best stats. Freeman finished with 44 tackles (23 solo), 4.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, a pass break-up and a forced fumble. Gotsis finished with 31 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and two fumble recoveries, while only playing nine games.

Don't get me wrong, these two are both good defensive linemen, but they got no help whatsoever, so it was easy for opposing offensive lines to key in and stop both of them effectively.

Outside of those main two, Patrick Gamble was Tech's best defensive lineman. Gamble finished with 38 tackles (19 solo), 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack and two pass break-ups.

Francis Kallon and Kyle Cerge-Henderson both got more extended playing time as the year went on, but neither put up eye-popping numbers, though both showed some considerable promise.

Who's Gone?

Georgia Tech lost some solid contributors from the defensive line, but none hurt worse than the loss of Adam Gotsis. Gotsis has been a mainstay on Tech's defensive line since he first came in as a freshman and then only got better. Since Jeremiah Attaochu's graduation, Gotsis has been Tech's best pass rusher, so losing him hurts a lot. Tech's younger pass rushers will have to step up to replace him.

After Gotsis, Tech's biggest loss is Tyler Stargel, who opted to take his bachelor's degree and move on with his life instead of playing his final year of eligibility for football. Stargel spent time between strongside defensive end and defensive tackle (this past season).

Even though he didn't make as much of an impact as some thought he would, Tech also loses Jabari Hunt. If nothing else, it's just one more body that Tech loses and that hurts depth.

Who's New?

The recruiting class isn't quite full yet, but Tech has already gotten some dynamite defensive linemen. The incoming freshmen are highlighted by recent commits Brandon Adams and Jordan Woods. The Yellow Jackets also add Chris Martin (who has been a fantastic recruiter for Tech) and Jahaziel Lee (should he not move to offensive line). And though it's probably unlikely, Michail Carter is still a target for Tech.

For the redshirts, the name that stands out most is Brentavious Glanton. Glanton will add some much needed depth to the defensive tackles. Trent Sellers and Scott Morgan also redshirted for the Jackets this year. Sellers still has plenty of room to grow and could end up at strongside defensive end or at defensive tackle. Morgan won Scout Team Player of the Year on defense for Tech.

Perhaps the biggest new guy on the defensive line is JUCO defensive end Desmond Branch. Branch joins the Jackets after spending time at Trinity Valley C.C. in Athens, Texas. He could play either end spot, but I expect him to slide in at strongside defensive end.

Depth Chart Breakdown

Position First String Second String
Strongside Defensive End Desmond Branch OR
Pat Gamble OR
Rod Rook-Chungong
Tyler Merriweather OR
Anree Saint-Amour
Defensive Tackle Kyle Cerge-Henderson Brentavious Glanton
Francis Kallon
Scott Morgan
Trent Sellers
Nose Tackle Brandon Adams OR
Pat Gamble
Francis Kallon
Scott Morgan
Weakside Defensive End KeShun Freeman OR
Antonio Simmons
Anree Saint-Amour
Kenderius Whitehead

The only thing that is certain on this defensive line is that it's pretty uncertain. At SDE, I think Branch will be the guy. It will be nice to get some fresh blood in there. I feel he's gotten a lot better since his time at New Mexico, and with his current size, he should be solid there. It won't be easy for him to just win the job though. Pat Gamble proved in 2014 that he is more than capable of playing the position, while Rook-Chungong has also shown some promise there. The biggest problem with that spot has been the lack of pass rush there, which is something that Branch should be able to do well.

At defensive tackle, I think Cerge-Henderson will be the guy. Glanton, Kallon and Morgan will certainly keep things interesting, I think, but talking pure talent, I'm taking Cerge-Henderson. Sellers could get some time here, but I think he still needs to add some more weight before he's ready to make an impact.

At nose tackle, I'm sticking with my bold prediction that Brandon Adams will start from Day 1. He's already the biggest player on defense and has a serious mean streak at nose tackle. He probably won't put up eye-popping numbers, but hopefully he'll be able to take on multiple blockers to help the pass rush. If CPJ opts to redshirt Adams, Pat Gamble will probably be the guy. Kallon could make some noise, but I'd rather see Gamble there.

At weakside defensive end, I'm pretty sure KeShun Freeman is going to be the job, since he's had it for the last two seasons, but Antonio Simmons and Anree Saint-Amour will be right there keeping the pressure on him. An idea that could be fun to play with is the idea of having Simmons stand up and play some linebacker in clear passing situations, while also having a defensive line of Freeman, Cerge-Henderson, Branch, Saint-Amour. Presently, that looks to be our best setup to get to the quarterback. Unless Kenderius Whitehead has improved drastically, he probably won't be seeing a whole lot of playing time.