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Defense Makes Progress as Jackets Continue Spring Drills

ATLANTA (Mar. 27) – Georgia Tech’s young defense has shown progress as the Yellow Jackets enter their second week of spring drills.

Tech’s Monday workout was postponed by rain until Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. The Jackets are also scheduled to practice Wednesday and Friday afternoons at 4 p.m., followed by a Saturday morning scrimmage at 10:30 a.m.

The Rambling Wreck returns nine of 11 starters on defense, including the top four tacklers from last season, led by junior strong safety Chris Young (Senoia, Ga.) and sophomores Recardo Wimbush (Blakely, Ga.), Greg Gathers (LaPlace, La.) and Jeremy Muyres (Stone Mountain, Ga.). Still, the Jackets have only two seniors among the starting defense.

In particular, Tech’s defensive line returns intact, but one of the key experiments of the spring has Gathers moving from defensive end to defensive tackle.

“The defensive line should be ahead of the offense because they’re all back,” said Tech head coach George O’Leary, in his sixth spring on the Flats. “They’re moving around well. They look like they’ve had a good offseason from a quickness standpoint.”

Gathers, a 6-1, 255-pounder from LaPlace, La., earned Freshman All-America honors last fall when he led Yellow Jackets with seven sacks and 18 tackles for loss.

“Gathers gives you a little a more juice inside, but he’ll still play the end position also,” continued O’Leary. “He needs to learn to play both positions because the more flexible and versatile you are, the more valuable you are to the team.”

Gathers’ move creates an opening for junior Nick Rogers (East Point, Ga.) at defensive end opposite senior Felipe Claybrooks (Decatur, Ga.). Rogers, 6-2, 250, is a talented athlete who bounced between end and linebacker last season, making 36 tackles with seven tackles for loss.

“I think that’s his natural position because he has great athletic ability,” said O’Leary “We’ve got to continue to work with him there and make sure he understands his role.”

Junior defensive tackles Merrix Watson (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.) and Guenter Kryszon (Clark, N.J.), both returning starters, give the Jackets good depth on the front line, along with seniors Tony Robinson (Soperton, Ga.) and Bryan Corhen (Albany, Ga.) and sophomore Berwin Echols (Decatur, Ga.).

The Jackets must replace three starters on the offensive line, but O’Leary says that what the line lacks in experience, it makes up for with athletic ability.

Redshirt freshmen John Bennett (Woodstock, Ga.) and Clay Hartley (Bryceville, Fla.) are in line to earn starting berths at right tackle and left guard, respectively.

“On the offensive line, some of the young kids are doing some good things,” said O’Leary. “You can see the experience is on the other side of the ball, but I think we have some good individual athletes on the offensive line. John Bennett and Clay Hartley are good athletes, and they are only going to get better.”

Tech’s quarterback battle remains a four-man competition between junior George Godsey (Tampa, Fla.), sophomore Jermaine Crenshaw (Greenville, Ala.), and redshirt freshmen Andy Hall (Cheraw, S.C.) and Brian Camp (Dublin, Ohio).

“All four did some good things, but all four made some mistakes,” said O’Leary after Saturday’s scrimmage.

Tech’s depth at running back has been evident with sophomore Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.) and junior Sean Gregory (Homewood, Ill.) backed up by sophomores Mike Kitchen (Lebanon, Pa.), Gordon Clinkscale (Doraville, Ga.) and Sidney Ford (Lindale, Ga.), although Ford is likely to miss the remainder of spring drills with a rib injury. Redshirt freshman Jermaine Hatch (Baton Rouge, La.), who could be used at fullback or tailback, has also shown promise.

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