April 1, 2013
By Jon Cooper
When a defensive line is most comfortable, it’s making opposing offensive lines uncomfortable.
Over the past couple of seasons, Georgia Tech’s 3-4 was a work in progress in which its front men did their best to adapt but didn’t quite seem comfortable.
That’s expecting to change in 2013.
As the Ted Roof era begins, the Jackets are going back to a 4-3. How well the team handles the change is yet to be seen. But at first glance, the Jackets seem happier.
“I feel I’m a better fit for a four-man front,” said redshirt senior defensive lineman Emmanuel Dieke. “I feel like that’s what I got recruited for, for a 4-3 defense. Any defense, it doesn’t matter, I’ll play but if I had to pick I would pick a 4-3.”
“I welcome [the return to 4-3] a lot,” agreed fellow redshirt senior defensive end Euclid Cummings. “That’s what I played in high school and that’s what I thought, coming to Georgia Tech was the type of guy I was. So I’m pretty happy about that.”
Dieke, who recorded 24 tackles (15 solo), with 2 1/2 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a QB hit and a three pass break-ups, and Cummings (23, 15, 4.0 TFLs, 3.0 sacks, 1 QBH and 1 PBU) are the only returning starters on the D-Line. But the problem is they started at the same spot, sharing left end, with Dieke starting Tech’s first 12 games, while Cummings started the ACC Championship Game and the Sun Bowl.
This year they won’t necessarily share the same spot but do know they share an important responsibility as far as acting as team leaders, especially with the graduation of T.J. Barnes and Izaan Cross, who held down the other two D-Line spots last season, and a relatively inexperienced group that includes senior Chris Crenshaw, juniors Anthony Williams and Shawn Green, sophomore Adam Gotsis, and redshirt freshmen Patrick Gamble, Roderick Chungong and Francis Kallon.
“From them I take their leadership, just being a senior, being the old guy, trying to bring all the young guys up and letting them know that this is how we do it at Georgia Tech,” said Dieke. “Just let them know every time you step out there on the field, it’s business. You’re trying to accomplish one goal. Just go out there and just have fun.”
“I just feel like I have to be a leader,” said Cummings. “Me and “Too Tall” (a.k.a. the 6-6, 270 Dieke) are the new seniors. We just have to lead the way Izaan and T.J. did.”
They’re happy doing things the way Roof did. Roof played four years at Georgia Tech in the early ’80s under Bill Curry, recording 417 career tackles (seventh all-time). He returned to Tech in 1998 as linebackers coach then, beginning in 1999, was defensive coordinator for three years. He’d also be on the sideline for Auburn’s national championship in 2010 and last year was on the sideline for Bill O’Brien at Penn State, helping the Nittany Lions record the second stingiest defense in the Big Ten (19.1 ppg), while recording the most sacks, and having the best red-zone defense in the conference and the nation.
Needless to say, Roof has plenty of credibility.
“It makes a big difference knowing that who’s coaching you he’s been through it as a player, he’s been here, he’s coached at Georgia Tech,” said Dieke. “Just the fact that he came back, I feel privileged to be able to say he was able to coach me.”
“I just know that he’s a very personable guy,” added Cummings. “When he got here, he took time out to know us. Like if we were eating lunch he came to our table and talked to us. So I like how when he first came here, the personable approach he took toward us.”
The D-linemen have found that new defensive line coach Mike Pelton also likes to be up-close and personal.
“He’s very intense,” said Dieke. “He tries to get the best out of you but he tells you every day it’s not personal. He’s always coaching the number not the person. So he’s going to get the best out of you. He just wants to make sure everybody goes out there and does what they have to do, knows what they’re doing. Just go out there and have fun and play hard.”
Pelton, in his first season on the Flats, knows Roof, working with him for one year in Auburn. He is excited about being reunited with him and teaching the 4-3.
“Anytime you can get reacquainted with somebody that you worked with it’s not an adjustment. You just come in and go to work,” said Pelton. “I had worked previously with Ted. I knew what he expected, I knew what he expected from me. So we just hit the ground running.
“I’ve always been a 4-3 guy. So it’s an adjustment for them. Not for me,” he added. “But you have to also understand that what they’re used to doing, we have to get them to break some of their habits. But they’re working and the more you do it they understand what you’re asking of them and they’re a pretty good group.”