Our 100 Days to Kickoff Series continues with a look at five impact players for the 2018 season. We reach the midpoint of this series with a look at another defensive player who should benefit from this change to a 3-4 defense.
With Georgia Tech making the switch to Nate Woody’s 3-4 defense, there have been a few players who have had to change positions. Many, myself included, expected defensive end Anree Saint-Amour to be one of these players. With his prowess as a pass rusher, the move to rush linebacker seemed like a lock, but he will be staying at defensive end for his final season on the Flats.
While the move — or lack thereof — came as a surprise to some, it could still be a good fit for him.
In the 4-3 (or more accurately, the 4-2-5 that Tech ran), the defensive ends were the primary pass rushers. Switching over to a 3-4, those duties are altered, as the defensive line becomes more of a tool to take up space so the linebackers can make plays.
Given that Tech’s defensive line will be a little bit smaller than a traditional 3-4 defensive line — specifically Saint-Amour — this may prove to be slightly more challenging in year 1 of the new defense. Thankfully, Woody has worked with undersized defensive lines in the past, albeit the level of competition was different.
Looking at an explanation of his 3-4 defense (please note that Woody wrote this during his time at Wofford), a smaller, quicker end is actually what Wood prefers.
Using 3-4 personnel allowed us to put faster defenders on the field. For example, our defensive ends align over the offensive tackles. They rarely get double teamed so the higher priority for us is their quickness. Quick hands and feet make better pass rushers. Many of the offensive linemen we play against today are three hundred pounds or more. This past season our defensive ends weighed two hundred and thirty pounds. Their speed and quickness allowed us to not only rush the passer better but to gain leverage vs. cutoff or reach blocks. We get off those blocks quicker than if we played with heavier, slower footed defensive linemen. Our pursuit against scrambling QB’s and receiver screens is better with athletic type ends that can run and almost always their stamina into the fourth quarter is better than a bigger lineman. I don’t believe a bigger defensive end that weighs an additional thirty or forty pounds will put fear into an opposing lineman. An offensive lineman fears the guy that is too quick and athletic to block. No doubt the bigger and stronger you can get an athletic, quick end the better, but everyone is looking for that type of guy. If you settle for a smaller frame then you need to help him vs. the combination or double team blocks. We do this by not asking him to play down in the gap between the guard and tackle where he may be double teamed and knocked off the line into a scraping linebacker. We align him in a head up position on the tackle where double teams are less likely to happen.
While I don’t know exactly how this will translate to an FBS team, it sounds intriguing if it works. Saint-Amour is definitely on the lighter side and has the athleticism that Woody describes.
In obvious passing situations, I think we’ll see Tech use more of a 2-4-5 alignment, which would allow Saint-Amour to be in a better situation to rush the passer, given his skill set. Given the more aggressive nature of Woody’s defense compared to Ted Roof’s, that will also result in more opportunities for Saint-Amour to make some plays.
Saint-Amour has a great opportunity this year to show NFL scouts what he can do. He’s shown promise every year he’s been here on the Flats, and with a solid year of production in his senior season, you could start to see him move up some draft boards.
Here’s to a great senior season!
Days to Kickoff: 87