Aug. 12, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
After being made to grow up a little faster than he otherwise might have at Georgia Tech, moving from cornerback to safety has hardly been an issue for Jerrard Tarrant.
Perhaps no Yellow Jacket sees the big picture more clearly, nor has become more adept at adapting. It just happened to take him a while. Besides, at 6-feet, 205 pounds Tarrant’s built a bit better for the position than Dominique Reese (5-10, 197), who has moved the other direction from safety to corner.
“When we evaluated the people we have and the talents and abilities that they have and what we’re doing scheme-wise, Jerrard probably fit a little more of what we were looking for at safety,” said secondary coach Charles Kelly. “Dominique . . . had some injuries the last couple years. He’s put together, but he’s still not a big, big guy. We felt like he would be more productive for us at corner.
“[Tarrant] has real good ball skills, he does a real good job in the deep field playing the ball. He’s got really good eyes . . . he’s got good range.”
Tech scored four non-offensive touchdowns last season, and it was Tarrant every time. He took two punts, one interception and one fumble back for scores and his field vision had a lot to do with each. He’s also got some shake and bake in those legs.
The redshirt junior seems to be fine with the position change.
“I was a safety coming in (out of high school) so I wasn’t surprised. I’m just happy to be able to do anything I can to help the team win,” he said. “Being at safety, you have to see the whole field and know where to fit on runs and be on passes. At corner, you just worry about your man or your side of the field.”
If those seem like the comments of a young man who’s learned a thing or two on The Flats, a player with a solid team-first attitude, that’s a very good thing.
Tarrant red-shirted in 2007, and was expected to compete for playing time – and maybe a starting spot — in ’08 before being suspended from the team the entire season while awaiting resolution of a legal issue.
The season away forced him to mature quickly.
“I see that in him. What we try to stress not just with Jerrard but everybody is to be as good as you can be every day at every thing you do, and don’t take anything for granted,” Kelly said. “I’m very fortunate to get to do what I do for a living; I don’t take it for granted. These guys are very fortunate to play college football and go to an Institute like Georgia Tech. You can’t take that for granted.
“There are some guys who mature a little bit earlier. I’ll take for example [senior cornerback] Mario Butler [who was a member of the same 2007 recruiting class as Tarrant and is about to become a third-year starter] saw the big picture early. He’s done really well and not just on the field. He’s got a plan for what he wants to do.”
The picture may have been small and or a little fuzzy at first for Tarrant. He can see clearly now, and not just when he’s playing in the secondary or returning punts for a 13.4-yard average as he did last year to rank No. 3 in the ACC and No. 13 nationally.
“Once you’re away from something you love, it just makes you want it that much more,” he said. “I really try to stay to myself or stay with my teammates, and go stay in my room. I try not to go out and put myself in any kind of a situation.”