GT Beat: Defensive Outlook

Bobby Jones (Class of 1922, Mechanical Engineering) is The Greatest Sportsman Ever to Live.

That’s not true. The superlative does not exist. Anyone can be a great sportsman and a gentleman. Bobby Jones was well & widely known as both. He knew that being true to himself was the greatest gift he could give himself. If he had to take a drop and nobody was around to see it, it was still a penalty.

Before I get accused of being too messianic about Bobby here, please note that I am well aware that he had temperament issues when he was younger. He was strong enough to overcome this, and, quite frankly, it segues into my treatise on defense rather nicely.

Sportsmanship can be difficult to maintain on the gridiron. We don’t always see what’s going on at the bottom of a pile. Ankles are twisted, skin is pinched, and worse. We do, however, see what happens when, say, a standing player throws a punch at an opponent’s head. There’s really not much damage done, as helmets absorb the bulk of the blow. All it really does is expose frustration on the part of the punch-thrower. At any rate, there’s no excuse for what Jeremiah Attaochu did last year in the Virginia Tech game. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, and Jeremiah’s play otherwise has been clean — it’s not a pattern with this young man. I am confident, too, that Jeremiah has felt and expressed true contrition for his unsportsmanlike behavior, and that it will not happen again. We’ll not speak of it again in this space. But we’ll speak of Jeremiah, and hopefully a bunch!

Coach Al Groh is back for his third season as Defensive Coordinator for the Yellow Jackets. His experience, knowledge, and higher-level contacts make him a valuable asset for the organization. Motivating the troops is his specialty, and this will be vital for every game, especially those against Virginia Tech and Clemson. Let’s have a look at said troops.

Front Line: Returning starter and senior DE Izaan Cross (6-4, 292) is certain to start. Other experienced DEs that will play are Chris Crenshaw (6-3, 264), Euclid Cummings (6-4, 270), and Emmanuel Dieke (6-6, 264). Each has experience and size. T.J. Barnes (6-7, 347) is expected to start in the middle, but will see competition and/or relief from Shawn Green (6-0, 287). We like the depth, and the competition thus fostered, here. DE Francis Kallon (6-5, 245), an Englishman, has a shot to play as a true freshman. We hope he’s not an MI6 sleeper agent 😉

Linebacking Corps: Jeremiah Attaochu (6-3, 235) has a shot at the next level of play, and we expect more great things from this junior. Malcolm Munroe (6-3, 225) and Brandon Watts (6-3, 234) will compete for the starting position on the other side and both will see playing time, regardless. On the inside, Daniel Drummond (6-3, 248) and Quayshawn Nealy (6-1, 223) are the likely starters. Nealy is terribly strong (400 pound bench press) and plays bigger than his height/weight numbers. Tremayne McNair (6-2, 225) and Nick Menocal (6-3, 240) will also see significant action here.

Secondary: Rod Sweeting (6-, 184) and Louis Young (6-1, 201) return as starters on the corners. Their speed and experience will be a huge help this year. Isaiah Johnson (6-2, 205) returns as a starting safety. Jemea Thomas (5-10, 190) is very fast–he started as an A-Back- -and tied for the team lead in interceptions last year. Corey Dennis (6-2, 205), a sophomore, played in every game last year. Jamal Golden (6-, 237), also on the baseball team, is very big for a defensive back and will hopefully be used in some sort of banzai blitzing scenario.

Freshman Class: Many will be redshirted, but we know that Coaches Johnson and Groh do not hesitate to activate players when the maturity level is right. Marcus Allen (6-2, 210) can play running back or linebacker. Anthony Autry (6-2, 180), too, can play both sides, either in defensive backfield or as a receiver. Roderick Chungong (6-3, 250) is an end. Patrick Gamble (6-2, 275) is, too. Lynn Griffin (6-, 200) is a safety. Beau Hankins (6-1, 230) is a linebacker. Travin Henry (6-3, 227) will play either as a receiver or a defensive back. Micheal Summers (6-1, 190) is a very fast youngster who can play on either side. Tyler Stargel (6-3, 250) is a linebacker. D.J. White (5-11, 188) is yet another defensive back. Hopefully, merit will dictate more mention of these young players throughout the season. There are a handful of sub-4.4 40 guys here. We won’t mention them specifically, and will let opponents do their own homework.

That was the good, now here’s the bad and ugly. Daniel Drummond is already slated to sit for the first game. Louis Young, too, may be sitting out the first game. He did not travel to last year’s Sun Bowl and lacks one more sit to satisfy NCAA rules. I don’t know if coaches can pick and choose which games a player will miss, but if they can, and if it were up to me, I would not choose the VT opener. Logan Thomas has become a very, very good quarterback in his time in Blacksburg, and their roster does not end there, by any means. It is always rife with speed, strength, and hunger. We’ll get a little more into the specifics of the opener in a future column.

At this point, we have to be happy about the defense. We are deep and have some extreme talent that will force edits in opponents’ offensive strategies. I am confident about the level of speed from the front line out, and imagine that the new strength coach is improving this and other aspects of each player’s game. We are going to need it, but motivation will remain the most important factor in choosing to win.


Geofferson P. Burdell was awarded a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Georgia Tech in August 1999. He is an Austrian Economics devotee, a shadetree mechanic, a hiker, and an improving bridge player. He resides in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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