Contributing Freshmen on Defense

Defensive End Michael Johnson

One of the most exciting aspects of summer/fall practices is getting a first look at true freshman as a part of the team. Many freshmen will not see the field until at least their second year in the program but there are always some who you get to see play early.

One of the most exciting aspects of summer/fall practices is getting a first look at true freshman as a part of the team. Many freshmen will not see the field until at least their second year in the program but there are always some who you get to see play early. You could see an early contribution from a true freshman is he's just too good to not play, if there are depth issues at his position or if he can contribute on special teams. I'm going to take a look at who could possibly fit that bill for Georgia Tech in the 2005 football season.

Defensive Line:

Newcomers:
Vance Walker, Michael Johnson, Jason Hill, Brad Sellers

Depth:
DE: Eric Henderson, Jon Morrison, Brad Sellers, Jason Hill
DT: Joe Anoai, David Brown, Omar Billy (NCAA eligible?)
DT: Elris Anyaibe, Marcus Harris, Vance Walker, Darryl Richard (INJ)
DE: Adamm Oliver, Darrell Robertson, Michael Johnson

My take on who plays:

First off, Vance Walker better come to campus ready to play. With Darryl Richard out for the year due to an injured knee from spring practice and Travis Parker off the team for academics, the possible candidates for depth at tackle are dwindling. Additionally, Joe Anoai will be nursing an upper body injury to start the season and may not be 100% and Omar Billy is tussling with the NCAA to gain another year of eligibility. It's not a must that Walker contributes early but he certainly has a great opportunity to. If Vance is close to being ready to play, he may need to slip into rotation. The one thing that could change my answer on Vance playing early is if the coaches decide to move Mansfield Wrotto back to the defensive line. With a rosier outlook on Anoai's injury, I'm guessing that Wrotto will remain on offense.

Michael Johnson has a similar opportunity at Defensive End. Additionally, he may fall under the category of having too much ability to redshirt. MJ is one of the cornerstones of the 2005 recruiting class. With Parker gone and in experienced depth behind Henderson & newly anointed starter Adamm Oliver, the opportunity is there for the talented end. Many teams liked Johnson as a Tight End, which just goes to show the kind of athletic potential he has. He's freakishly tall and needs to add some weight but the same things were said about Darrell Robertson last year and he didn't redshirt. Speaking of Darrell, he's locked up one backup spot at DE and will no doubt play a lot. The other side is open though. Jon Morrison is a convert from TE in 2004 who showed some promise in spring at his new position. Having said that, I believe the door is open for Johnson to work his way onto the depth chart.

Linemen don't usually contribute much on special teams, so without a rash of injuries I envision Jason Hill and Brad Sellers taking next season getting stronger and learning their positions. Hill played a lot on the offensive line in high school and can now get focused on defensive line. Sellers has good strength already but projects as more of an inside linemen. In that case, he'll need to add weight during his first year in the program.

Linebackers:

Newcomers:
Taalib Tucker, Matthew Braman

Depth:
LB: KaMichael Hall, Gary Guyton, Eric Williams
LB: Gerris Wilkinson, Matthew Braman
LB: Phillip Wheeler, Travis Chambers, Taalib Tucker

My take on who plays:

Right now I'd have to say that both Tucker and Braman will see the field in 2005. First, either guy could make his way into the rotation since GT is fairly thin at linebacker (especially at the Mike or MLB position). Additionally linebackers make for good special teamers. Unless one of these two are not physically or mentally ready to play then I think it will be hard to sit either. Both are built well so I don't see any issues physically as long as they are working out a lot over the summer. You can never tell who isn't mentally or emotionally ready for the speed of the game until they get to practice but I'll make the assumption that both Taalib and Matt will be ready to go.

Defensive Backs:

Newcomers:
Anthony Barnes, Tony Clark, Jahi Word-Daniel, Jake Blackwood

Depth:
CB: Reuben Houston, Jamal Lewis, Brian Fleuridor, Tony Clark
CB: Kenny Scott, Dennis Davis, Finesse Usher, Sam Williams, Jahi Word-Daniel
SS: Chris Reis, Joe Gaston, Anthony Barnes
FS: Dawan Landry, Djay Jones, Avery Roberson, Jake Blackwood

My take on who plays:

I see two newcomers in the defensive backfield playing. As you can see above, depth certainly is not a pressing issue at this time for Safety and definitely not for Corner. Despite that I think you look at AT Barnes as one of those special athletes who will just be too good to keep off the field. He close to outgrowing a defensive back position and becoming a Linebacker but the Jackets will need him to remain a Safety with the two starters being seniors. Barnes should be the future at Safety and will need to get some game experience this year. If he's as good as billed then he could cut into the playing time of either Gaston or Jones. That will just depend on where he projects to play in 2006. Gaston has certainly earned some significant playing time himself though from his outstanding play in spring. Even if AT doesn't see a lot of time at his position he can still learn a lot about the speed of the game on special teams. I'd be shocked if he were not a factor there this season.

Barnes could conceivably be the only true freshman from the secondary to play but defensive backs make such good special teamers that I can see another shedding his redshirt as well. I'll take a wild stab at it and predict that Tony Clark's speed (finalist in state track meet for the 100) and athleticism will make him a strong candidate to play as well. He could also get a strong look at being a kickoff returner.

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