ATLANTA (August 16) — Georgia Tech’s defensive line looks to be one of the most improved areas on the squad as the Yellow Jackets continue preseason drills.
Tech, preseason ranked No. 11 by both major polls, opens the 1999 season with a Sept. 4 game at Navy (12 noon, Fox Sports Net).
Perhaps the best measuring stick for the strides made by the defensive line is across the line of scrimmage in Tech’s veteran offensive line, which is one of the team’s most experienced units.
“I think the defensive line is really giving the offensive line a good battle, and that’s a good sign,” said head coach George O’Leary.
“Obviously [the defensive linemen] have gotten stronger. They’re controlling the line of scrimmage better and getting off blocks. They’ve matured since last year. The offensive line they’re going against is a pretty good line, so we’re getting good competition.”
Senior tackle Jon Carman (Waldorf, Md.) leads an offensive line that returns four starters from last season, including junior tackle Chris Brown (Augusta, Ga.), junior guard Brent Key (Trussville, Ala.) and senior center Noah King (Panama City, Fla.), who started at guard last fall. In addition, senior guard Jason Burks (Vinemont, Ala.) started five games and earned second-team all-conference honors while hampered by injuries, and senior backup Bill Madigan (New Hyde Park, N.Y.), who can play tackle or guard, started two games in 1998.
Behind the veterans, O’Leary mentioned sophomores Jason Kemble (Canfield, Ohio), Brian Meager (Hatboro, Pa.) and redshirt freshman Dustin Vaitekunas (Chapin, S.C.) as the young players who have made the most progress.
“Those are three that we expect to help us out as backups,” said O’Leary. “I think they have the physical tools; now it’s just mentally, can they get it done.”
On the defensive line, Tech must replace both starting defensive ends. Junior Felipe Claybrooks (Decatur, Ga.), a 6-4, 255-pounder, steps into a starting role after collecting 10 sacks-third in the ACC-as a pass rush specialist last fall. Junior Andy Josephson (Fort Dodge, Iowa) is other starting end.
Both returning starters at defensive tackle are just sophomores in Merrix Watson (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.) and Guenter Kryszon (Clark, N.J.). Behind them, there is experience in juniors Bryan Corhen (Albany, Ga.) and Tony Robinson (Soperton, Ga.), as well as up-and-coming talent in redshirt freshmen Berwin Echols (Decatur, Ga.) and Tim Brown (Columbia, S.C.).
“We have a lot of young players inside,” said O’Leary. “We don’t have a senior there. Outside, I’m watching [true freshman] Greg Gathers (LaPlace, La.) more and more. He’s going to be a really good football player.”
Gathers is one of several true freshmen, primarily on the defensive side, to be mentioned by O’Leary as possible contributors this fall. Other likely candidates for playing time include linebacker Recardo Wimbush (Blakely, Ga.), cornerback Selwyn Scott (Boynton Beach, Fla.) and safety Jeremy Muyres (Stone Mountain, Ga.) as well as receiver Will Glover (Tampa, Fla.) on offense.
In addition, punter Philip Newman (Marietta, Ga.) and placekicker Luke Manget (Conyers, Ga.) are expected to win jobs.
Glover, a 5-10, 185-pounder with good speed and moves, and redshirt freshman Kerry Watkins (LaPlace, La.) are likely to be used as slot receivers, where Tech must replace last year’s Most Valuable Player, Charlie Rogers, now with the Seattle Seahawks.
“Glover keeps catching my eye,” said O’Leary. “He’s got a lot of shake-and-bake.”