This past season, Tech's defensive backs seemed to struggle quite a bit. A lot of that came from the great lack of a pass rush from this year. The secondary also didn't seem quite as opportunistic as they did a year ago.
As it was in 2014, Tech's two best defensive backs were DJ White and Jamal Golden. Golden led the defensive backs in tackles with 64 (45 solo) and also added 2.0 tackles for loss, an interception and four pass break-ups.
White had a solid season, finishing with 41 tackles (35 solo), two interceptions, a forced fumble and eight pass break-ups.
Though the other two main starting spots in the secondary were filled by seniors Chris Milton and Demond Smith, the secondary as a whole also saw an infusion of youth. Sophomore Lawrence Austin was the main player here. With Isaiah Johnson's gradation a year ago, Demond Smith moved from the Nickel position to Johnson's, which allowed Austin to step in and take the Nickel position. He had a pretty solid year there, finishing with 40 tackles (24 solo), 1.5 TFL, one interception and two pass break-ups.
True freshman AJ Gray also had a major impact, especially towards the end of the season. My original prediction of him finishing last season as a starter may not have come true, but he was still a good part of the secondary, finishing with 21 tackles (15 solo) and an interception.
Well, the short answer here is a lot of people. Georgia Tech loses their four primary starters from the secondary in Chris Milton and DJ White at corner, and Jamal Golden and Demond Smith at safety.
Milton took a little longer to make his name known, but following his move from safety, he became a key part in this secondary. With Smith, we lose a very versatile player.
The biggest thing we lose from this group is experience. Combined, this group played a total of 207 games. Losing that much experience hurts.
That pain is only furthered when we see that true freshman Dante Wigley has announced his intentions to leave Georgia Tech and transfer.
There's two major players that were on the roster this year that didn't play that should be key contributors moving forward: true freshman Meiko Dotson and transfer student Lamont Simmons.
Both of these guys could be very good very soon. Simmons originally committed to Southern Cal, but after a redshirt year, he opted to transfer to Georgia Tech. Dotson has a ton of potential to be a big-play guy.
In the recruiting class, Tech currently has one player committed to play in the secondary in Jarrett Cole, but the plan is probably to add at least one more player there, which is expected to be Nick McCloud or Romeo Finley.
Should Demetris Robertson commit to Georgia Tech (however unlikely that may be), there is also a possibility that he could make an impact in the secondary.
Depth Chart Breakdown
|Position||First String||Second String|
|Cornerback||Lamont Simmons||Meiko Dotson|
|Cornerback||Step Durham||Lance Austin|
|Free Safety||AJ Gray||Shaun Kagawa|
|Strong Safety||John Marvin OR
Corey Griffin OR
|Whoever doesn't win the starting job|
Lawrence Austin OR
|Whoever doesn't win the starting job|
Wow, we don't have quite as much depth as I thought we did. I haven't seen Lamont Simmons play quite yet, but I think he'll end up winning one of the spots with Step Durham winning the other one. The thing that I absolutely love about Simmons is his size. According to the roster, Simmons stands at 6 feet 2 inches and 190 pounds. If he bulks up to closer to 200 pounds, he will be a force to be reckoned with there.
This is also one of the spots where we will very much miss Dante Wigley. I don't know if he would have won the starting job, but he definitely would have competed for it.
At safety, the easy thing here is that AJ Gray is going to play free safety, taking over for Demond Smith. At strong safety, I think Corey Griffin will end up being the guy here. He's played some as a back-up and I feel like he tends to make a play whenever he gets in the game.
At Nickel, I know Lawrence Austin is the incumbent starter (the only one returning in the secondary), but I feel like this position is tailor-made for David Curry. Also, if Curry gets the starting job here, that would allow Austin to move to another part of the secondary where he could be of more use, whether that be safety or corner.