April 13, 2004
Faced with replacing all three starting linebackers from last season, Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey seeks the best combination of players as the Yellow Jackets wrap up spring drills this week.
Tech concludes spring practice with a workout Thursday at 4:15 p.m., followed by the final spring scrimmage Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field.
Versatile junior Gerris Wilkinson began the spring at the strong side outside linebacker but is now working at middle linebacker, flanked by junior Chris Reis on the strong side and sophomore KaMichael Hall of the weak side.
“We’re looking at a lot of different combinations to make sure we don’t overlook any possibility that might be the best possibility, ” said Gailey, who must replace all-conference performers Keyaron Fox and Daryl Smith as well as starter Ather Brown at the three linebacker slots.
Reis, a 6-0, 210-pounder from Roswell, Ga., was a key backup at safety who was a starter in certain alignments last fall, but the move is an opportunity for him to get on the field as an every-down player. He collected 37 tackles with six tackles for loss last season.
“The players have adjusted pretty well so far,” said Gailey. “And I think Jon Tenuta and the defensive coaches have done a good job of adjusting also.
“Chris is not the prototypical ‘sam’ (strong side) linebacker, so you have to adjust some things that you ask that position to do. He’s not the biggest guy, so you want to put him in position to use his quickness and speed.”
Wilkinson, 6-3, 230, started every game last season at defensive end, a position to which he moved in the preseason. Linebacker is his more natural position, but he is playing the “mike” middle linebacker slot for the first time after beginning the spring at “sam.”
“I have a lot to learn,” said Wilkinson, who made 47 tackles with 12 tackles for loss last fall. “Playing ‘mike’ is a lot different than playing ‘sam’ but it’s going well for me. I just need to keep getting more reps.
“You have to know more about what’s going on in front of you and behind you at the mike position. Playing defensive end last year, I got a lot better at using my hands to shed blockers, and I think that is going to help me.”
Hall, a 6-0, 225-pounder from Houston, Texas, is looking to earn a starting berth after playing on special teams last fall, when he made 12 tackles.
PLEASE NOTE: For Saturday’s scrimmage, fan can access Bobby Dodd Stadium via Gate 9 (Techwood Drive) only, and all seating will be in the lower East stands. The gate will open at 9:30 a.m. and admission is free, with concessions on sale. Free parking is available on the lower level of Peters Parking Deck as well as the O’Keefe and Alexander Memorial Coliseum lots.