Nov. 20, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Jeremiah Attaochu has learned that, as is often the case in life and football, streamlining his approach can lead him faster to a quarterback.
Georgia Tech’s senior defensive leader long has been good at pressure, yet upon transitioning this season from outside linebacker to defensive end it was slow going for a while.
In the Yellow Jackets’ first seven games, he had two total sacks.
While becoming healthier as the season wore on, he also abbreviated some of his methods. In turn, he’s racked up two sacks in each of the past three games, while totaling seven of his 11.5 tackles for lost yardage on the season.
The young man has been on fire in part because he’s finishing what he starts.
“Early in the season, he was giving up on his first move,” said defensive coordinator Ted Roof. “If it didn’t work immediately, he was working a counter whereas now he’s staying with it and finishing things better.”
Yes he is; Attaochu had two sacks against Virginia, two against Pitt and two against Clemson.
That’s 27 for his career, putting him within sight of Greg Gathers’ school record of 31. He’s also second among current FBS players in career sacks.
“It’s not really about the [sack] numbers, it’s about pressure. Sometimes you have to watch a tape to really understand that,” Attaochu said. “My thing was that I wanted to get it right and if I didn’t get the sack or make the play, I would kind of quit on the move. It’s about being patient with pressure and just focusing on technique.”
Beyond the sack numbers, there is affect. Roof is more concerned, actually, with affect. Sacks are a peak result. Attaochu is affecting many more plays lately even when he’s not getting all the way to a quarterback.
“He just keeps getting better, which is great for a guy who is a senior . . . making jumps, and as a result of that his production has increased,” the coordinator said. “I think just getting used to the position; his body control is getting better.
“With the sacks and all the quarterback pressures, the penalties [drawn by offensive linemen and backs working against him], those don’t show up in the stats but he’s had a whole bunch of those the past few weeks.”
There is plenty of homework involved.
Attaochu studies not just the nuances of his upcoming opponents, but the styles of other defensive ends at the college and professional levels. He’s not out to re-make himself when he does that. He’s just looking for an edge to help him get off the edge.
“I watch everybody in college. I watched the [South Carolina’s Jadaveon] Clowney tape against North Carolina because we played [UNC] right after they did. I watched [Clemson’s Vic] Beasley against Georgia,” he said.
“Everybody has their own game. I can’t try to be like somebody else because I don’t have the same body type or physical attributes. But I do my research on NFL guys, too, like [San Francisco’s] Aldon Smith and his length and moves with his hands. Watching that, I can add a few things.”
Attaochu is careful not to add too much.
He said he limits himself to three different pass-rushing moves per week. The NFL prospect tweaks his repertoire on the basis of film study after watching the opposing players who will try to slow him come game day. He fits his moves against theirs.
“You don’t need more than three real pass-rush moves. Anything more than that is just too much; you’re not going to be able to use all of them,” Attaochu said. “It just depends on the guy I’m playing. Doing film study on guys, that’s probably the biggest thing that goes into it because that’s your plan on the field.
“There’s so much going on, so much adrenaline, that you want to be kind of programmed when you’re on the field. So during practice, you’ve done your film study and you know your guy and his weaknesses and strengths and you program yourself to use this move until it works. That’s kind of my trick.”
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