Aug 17, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Let’s call this mirror day, when one Sting Daily story details the deepest spot on Georgia Tech’s offense – the B-back position – and this one looks at the similarly well-stocked safety position on defense.
Even with the presupposed leader of the group, Isaiah Johnson, limited as he works his way back from knee surgery, the Yellow Jackets have a deeper inventory than in most seasons; not just bodies, but players who can contribute.
Junior Jamal Golden and redshirt sophomore Chris Milton would be the likely starters if a game were played today, yet there is enough competition that several others need to be mentioned. It is not clear when Johnson will be clear for a full return to work.
Noble is interesting. The redshirt sophomore from Mount Ulla, N.C., has not struggled in the conversion from cornerback.
“In about two-thirds of the practices, he’s picked off a ball,” said defensive coordinator Ted Roof. “He’s got good vision, good instincts and good range.”
Noble is the biggest of the group, at 6-feet-2, 204 pounds, other than Johnson (6-2, 210).
“It’s a big learning experience, but I’m gradually picking it up,” Noble said. “Corner is generally man-on-man, you against the receiver. Safety you’re over the top of the whole coverage. You basically run the defense. I love it. It feels natural.”
Roof has gradually let safeties run more of the defenses.
“He’s starting to give us permission to take over disguises, take ownership of the defense back there to control the show,” Golden said. “We’re pretty much the quarterbacks of the defense. We see everything from back there, and we help adjust.”
While the big picture is growing, the Jackets’ safeties also are tending to details.
In the case of Golden, and to some degree all of them, tackling skills are a point of focus. Their responsibilities in supporting the run defense are, of course, vast.
“I feel like I’m moving forward. My tackling is a little better than it was last year,” Golden said. “I just need to keep that going into the season.”
Roof said, “Jamal and I have talked extensively about that. That was an area of his game that he thought last year was lacking.”
The master plan is to create a defense that is more flexible and efficient. Roof is allowing safeties more decision-making responsibilities both to accomplish that and to promote players’ investment in the scheme.
“We’re going to have some base looks, but as they start to understand the coverages I want them to understand the strengths and weaknesses of them. When you understand that, then you can disguise [coverages] a little bit,” Roof said. “When they have the flexibility to do that, then they take ownership.
“We’re moving in the right direction. We’re not to where we need to be, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
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