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Position Battle Previews: Outside Linebacker

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A change in scheme creates new positions and competition for the Yellow Jacket defense

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Duke Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

After another year of sub-par defensive play, Georgia Tech decided to part ways with defensive coordinator Ted Roof. Into his place stepped Appalachian State defensive coordinator Nate Woody. With a change in coaching comes a change in scheme.

The biggest change Tech fans will notice is that Woody’s base defense is a 3-4; 3 down linemen, 4 linebackers, and 4 defensive backs, under Ted Roof, Tech’s base defense was a 4-2-5; 4 down linemen, 2 linebackers, and 5 defensive backs. This change creates 2 more positions that Tech will need to fill.

At Appalachian State, Woody played his outside linebackers as Field or Boundary outside linebackers. The field outside linebacker is the OLB that plays to the wide side of the field. He is better playing in space and better as a coverage drop linebacker. The boundary outside linebacker plays to the short side of the field. He is a better pass rushing outside linebacker. While Tech has multiple options and talented players that should be good fits at field linebacker, the number of players who are good fits at boundary linebacker is limited to mostly Victor Alexander and two freshman, Justice Dingle and Jordan Domineck.

The new scheme makes the outside linebacker competition even more intriguing than usual, because positions will likely not be established until fall camp or later. Here’s who we can expect to see on the field this fall at outside linebacker.

Contenders

Victor Alexander:

5’10”, 235, Senior

Victor is the most experienced player and will probably get first crack at locking down one of the starting slots. He was Tech’s leading tackler last season, with 60 total tackles, including 2 sacks. He has played in every game since arriving on campus in 2015.

Jaquan Henderson:

6’1”, 197, Sophomore

Jaquan played in all 11 games as a freshman, mostly on special teams. He started for the Blue team in the spring game, making 5 tackles, 2 for a loss. He has a chance to come into camp as a favorite for one of the starting positions.

Charlie Thomas:

6’2, 190, Freshman

Charlie is an early enrollee from Thomasville. He was rated as a 3-star safety, as well as the 49th ranked safety in the nation. Thomas committed to Tech over Auburn and Duke. He played mostly outside linebacker in the spring game, tallying 1 tackle.

Justice Dingle:

6’3”, 245, Freshman

Justice was a 4-star and the 25th rated OLB in the country. He has the size and agility to compete for playing time as a freshman. His opportunity depends on how quickly he picks up the scheme and the competition in camp.

Jordan Domineck:

6’3, 230, Freshman

Jordan was a 3-star and the 72nd ranked defensive end in the nation, but he projects to play OLB for the Jackets. Much like Dingle, Domineck has the size and the agility to come into fall camp and compete for playing time, but it will depend on how he learns the defense and how the other players around him show in fall camp.

Unlikely but intriguing

Anree Saint-Armour:

6’3, 247, Senior

Anree is slated to be a starter at DE for the Jackets. He is the top returning pass rusher for the Jackets and would be an interesting fit at boundary outside linebacker. For this to happen, the staff would have to be comfortable that another player would be able to play and make an impact at DE. If one of the younger DL players comes in to camp and really makes an impact, this would allow Saint-Armour to kick out to OLB and continue to provide a pass rush threat for the Jackets.

Other possibilities include Kaleb Oliver or Avery Showell to get a chance at outside linebacker, depending on how things shake out at safety.

Conclusion

Keep a close eye on the outside linebacker position at fall camp, as it is where the biggest changes from the new defensive staff will be seen on the field. It will be exciting and interesting to see who comes out of fall camp as the starters at outside linebackers and how much of a rotation the defensive staff is comfortable playing with.