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Georgia Tech Football: Way-too-Early Look at 2016 - The Defense

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Today, we look at the defense as a whole.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Last Season

As bad as Tech seemed this season, they actually were not terrible on defense. The team as a whole gave up 368 yards per game, which isn't great, but managed to limit opposing teams to 25.8 points per game, which shows me that Ted Roof's defense is actually working since it tends to be a bend-don't-break style of defense.

The team also did a pretty good job against the pass. Opposing quarterbacks finished 202-of-379 (59.9 percent) for 2435 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. That's with facing some pretty good quarterbacks in Deshone Kizer, Marquise Williams, Everett Golson and Brad Kaaya.

Against the run, though, they were not that great. Opposing teams had 422 carries for 1981 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and 24 touchdowns. The team also only managed to recover eight of 17 total fumbles.

Who's Gone?

Position Name
DE/DT Tyler Stargel
DT Adam Gotsis
DT Jabari Hunt
LB Tyler Marcordes
LB Domonique Noble
LB Rusty Scott
CB DJ White
CB Chris Milton
CB Dante Wigley
S Jamal Golden
S Demond Smith

At the beginning of the season, seven of these guys were starters, eight if you count Tyler Stargel. That hurts. A lot. That means one major thing. This next year will be a rebuilding year for the defense. Thankfully, we had a bit of a blessing in disguise this past season with the what seemed like endless injuries.

With the countless injuries we had this season, we were able to get some of our younger players some semi-meaningful snaps and they actually produced fairly decently.

The biggest loss here is up front in the form of defensive tackle Adam Gotsis. Gotsis has been the cornerstone of Tech's defensive line for the last four years and following his injury towards the end of the season, we got a bit of a glimpse of live post-Gotsis. It will definitely be a process to replace him.

The other major loss here is the loss of four starters in the secondary. Each of these guys has brought so much value to the secondary and special teams, so replacing all of them will be a hard task.

Who's New?

Name Position Ratings High School (Hometown)
Jordan Woods DE Rivals - 5.8 (4-star)
247Composite - 0.8869 (3-star)
North Marion (Citra, Fla.)
Brandon Adams DT Rivals - 5.5 (3-star)
247Composite - 0.8501 (3-star)
Brentwood Academy (Brentwood, Tenn.)
Chris Martin DT Rivals - 5.5 (3-star)
247Composite - 0.8454 (3-star)
Grayson (Loganville, Ga.)
Jahaziel Lee DL/OL Rivals - 5.2 (2-star)
247Composite - 0.7678 (2-star)
Ponchatoula (Ponchatoula, La.)
Emanuel Bridges LB Rivals - 5.7 (3-star)
247Composite - 0.8634 (3-star)
Newnan (Newnan, Ga.)
Jakob Brashear LB Rivals - 5.4 (2-star)
247Composite - 0.8339 (3-star)
Dacula (Dacula, Ga.)
Jarett Cole S Rivals - 5.5 (3-star)
247Composite - 0.8473 (3-star)
Norcross (Norcross, Ga.)

This is a pretty solid recruiting class for Tech on defense. I would say it's definitely highlighted on the defensive line with the commitments of Jordan Woods and Brandon Adams.

The second Adams steps on campus, he will immediately be the biggest guy we have on defense, which will give Tech something they have been missing for a long time: a space-eater. Not since T.J. Barnes has Tech had such a monstrous space-eater. He will be a very welcome addition that could see playing time this season.

With Woods, the Yellow Jackets add another solid pass rusher. They have already done some great work here getting KeShun Freeman, Antonio Simmons and Anree Saint-Amour, so as that trio and Woods continue to grow and develop, it should bring some great hope to this defense.

Name Position High School/Former School
Desmond Branch DE Trinity Valley C.C. (Athens, Texas)
Brentavious Glanton DT Monroe Comprehensive (Albany, Ga.)
Scott Morgan DT Etowah (Woodstock, Ga.)
Trent Sellers DL Sandy Creek (Tyrone, Ga.)
Tyler Cooksey LB Greater Atlanta Christian School (Suwanee, Ga.)
David Curry LB/Nickel Buford (Buford, Ga.)
Lamont Simmons CB USC (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Meiko Dotson CB Mainland (Daytona Beach, Fla.)
Dorian Walker CB Mt. Paran Christian School (Kennesaw, Ga.)

There are some very good players here. Starting with our transfers, I believe that Desmond Branch and Lamont Simmons will both be starters from Day 1, Branch at strongside defensive end and Simmons at cornerback. Branch is already one of the most experienced players on the roster, and Simmons was a near-starter last year if not for his having to sit out for a year.

With the freshmen, there are also some great players here. Starting again on the line, Brentavious Glanton will make an impact this season. I think he'll stay at defensive tackle (as opposed to nose tackle), so he'll have to push Kyle Cerge-Henderson for playing time, but he'll definitely get some time.

At linebacker, I'm really excited for both of these guys. Cooksey is another guy that I think will be a starter from Day 1. I think he fills the role that both Brandon Watts and Quayshawn Nealy have left open at weakside linebacker. We did not have a linebacker for most of the season last year that was very capable at playing coverage, but now that all changes with Cooksey.

David Curry is another guy that could potentially start from Day 1, though he would be in the Nickel position. He's good in coverage and is also physical enough that if he really wanted to, he could be a formidable safety or linebacker. I think that makes him perfect for the Nickel. He'll have to push Lawrence Austin (unless he ends up starting at corner) for playing time, though.

Depth Chart Breakdown

Position First String Second String
Strongside Defensive End Desmond Branch OR
Pat Gamble OR
Roderick Rook-Chungong
Tyler Merriweather OR
Anree Saint-Amour
Defensive Tackle Kyle Cerge-Henderson Brentavious Glanton
Francis Kallon
Scott Morgan
Trent Sellers
Nose Tackle Pat Gamble OR
Brandon Adams
Francis Kallon
Scott Morgan
Weakside Defensive End KeShun Freeman OR
Antonio Simmons
Anree Saint-Amour
Kenderius Whitehead
Strongside Linebacker PJ Davis Vic Alexander
Inside Linebacker Brant Mitchell Tre' Jackson
Weakside Linebacker Tyler Cooksey OR
David Curry OR
Terrell Lewis
Chase Alford
Cornerback Lamont Simmons Meiko Dotson
Cornerback Step Durham OR
Lawrence Austin
Lance Austin
Dorian Walker
Free Safety AJ Gray Shaun Kagawa
Strong Safety John Marvin OR
Corey Griffin OR
Shaun Kagawa
John Marvin OR
Corey Griffin OR
Shaun Kagawa

So this is our base set. The only thing I really changed from the group posts was putting Lawrence Austin and Dorian Walker into the mix at corner.

Spring should be very fun for this group. There will be a good bit of competitions going on at every level of the defense.

Position First String Second String
Strongside Defensive End Anree Saint-Amour OR
Antonio Simmons
Desmond Branch
Tyler Merriweather
Defensive Tackle Desmond Branch OR
Kyle Cerge-Henderson
Francis Kallon
Trent Sellers
Nose Tackle Kyle Cerge-Henderson OR
Brentavious Glanton
Pat Gamble
Weakside Defensive End KeShun Freeman OR
Antonio Simmons
Kenderius Whitehead
Strongside Linebacker PJ Davis Vic Alexander
Weakside Linebacker Brant Mitchell OR
Tyler Cooksey OR
Terrell Lewis
Chase Alford
Cornerback Lamont Simmons Meiko Dotson
Cornerback Step Durham OR
Lawrence Austin
Lance Austin
Dorian Walker
Free Safety AJ Gray Shaun Kagawa
Strong Safety John Marvin OR
Corey Griffin OR
Shaun Kagawa
John Marvin OR
Corey Griffin OR
Shaun Kagawa
Nickel Lawrence Austin OR
David Curry
Lawrence Austin OR
David Curry

Now, this is the part that I really want to talk about. This is what I hope Tech's 4-2-5 set looks like. The major change here comes along the defensive line. This is the kind of line that would only be used in obvious pass-rushing situations. With situations like that, you want as much pass-rushing abilities as you can get on the line. Of our ends, I think Freeman, Simmons and Saint-Amour are best suited for the position and two of those three (probably some kind of rotation) will see the field.

If we see Desmond Branch on the field in obvious passing situations, I think it'll be at defensive tackle. There, I believe we are likely to see some combination of Branch, Kyle Cerge-Henderson and Brentavious Glanton.

Will the defense improve this year? How will the depth chart look?