Georgia Tech’s defense will have a much different feel this season at linebacker. Last season, the spot featured Charlie Thomas and Ace Eley who both just had incredible seasons. With some additions from the transfer portal and a new linebackers coach, Georgia Tech is trying to make sure the group doesn’t miss a beat.
Before I get into the transfer portal guys, there’s a guy who was already on the roster I want to talk about: Trenilyas Tatum. When he committed to come to Georgia Tech, it was big news! Not only did he flip from South Carolina, he was the highest-rated player in their class at the time. Since then, he’s been biding his time as a reserve, and this season, he is the clear frontrunner for one of the two starting spots.
Last season, he appeared in every game and started four, compiling 31 tackles, 2.5 TFL, a sack, and a forced fumble. Of note, the team also awarded Tatum the Keith Brooking Outstanding Linebacker Award following the end of Spring camp.
The other linebacker spot is still up for grabs, and it seems likely that one of the four linebackers Tech added from the transfer portal will take the spot, so let’s look at each of them.
Of the four, Texas A&M transfer Andre White is probably the biggest name. I wrote about him earlier in the 100 Days to Kickoff about how I thought he could be a breakout player for the Yellow Jackets defense. White struggled a bit in pass coverage, but he is a sure tackler and offered a lot of consistency for the Aggies defense.
The second of this group is Minnesota transfer Braelen Oliver. Oliver started 10 games for Minnesota last season but recorded just 33 tackles. It’s worth noting, I believe, that his performance came after missing the whole 2020 season due to some pretty significant injuries. Per an article on TwinCities.com: “Oliver is playing with the first-team defense in preseason, another sign in an incredible comeback from a “catastrophic” leg injury in spring 2020. He tore multiple knee ligaments and his hamstring, dislocated his knee and had nerve damage going down his foot, causing foot drop, where lifting the foot can be a challenge.” If he has continued to rehab that knee, he could certainly be another guy to watch. My concern would be the lingering effects of that injury on his in-game speed.
Next up is Idaho transfer Paul Moala. Last season, he was tied for third on the team with 61 tackles and led the team with 7 TFL. I think Moala could be a darkhorse candidate for this position. Coming from Idaho, one might not expect him to make such an impact, but he was initially recruited and signed by Notre Dame. While there, he made the switch from defensive back, where he played in high school, to linebacker, so he has a lot of coverage experience. That with his numbers from last season could play really well.
The last guy here is Rutgers transfer Austin Dean. Dean was primarily a reserve player for Rutgers last season, so his stats are nothing to write home about.
Right now, I’m not sure which of the four is in the lead for the other spot, but I’m very intrigued at the prospect of Moala winning the job, and I’m curious to see how this plays out through the Fall.
Who do you think will end up starting at linebacker?