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#TGW: Young Depth At D-Line

Aug. 9, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

Given the flux within his player ranks, it should not have surprised anyone after Saturday morning’s scrimmage to hear Mike Pelton say, “Up and down, which you would . . .”

Georgia Tech’s defensive line coach didn’t finish answering the question, which was, How is the D-line shaping up? Perhaps not even Pelton knows what to expect as the Yellow Jackets are 10 days into “fall” practice.

Junior tackle Adam Gotsis is the lone returning starter among four front men.

Tech fans may want to hope that their defensive line shapes up as a unit in somewhat as tackles Pat Gamble and Francis Kallon have re-modeled their bodies.

Gamble has bulked significantly up, and Kallon has slimmed dramatically down.

Both figure to play much more this fall as third-year sophomores.

D-line losses include starting ends Jeremiah Attaochu, who was drafted in the second round by the NFL’s Chargers, and Emmanuel Dieke, who was invited to the Giants’ camp. Tackle Euclid Cummings moved on as well.

That’s not the half of it.

Graduation saps a college roster every year, yet Pelton and the Jackets also are dealing with the departures of another eight defensive linemen who either were dismissed, transferred, quit football or became academically ineligible.

There is churning up front, and Pelton is left dis-inclined to single out players.

Here’s the full answer to that first question:                                     

“Up and down, which you would . . . (pause) . . . a bunch of new guys. The common factor is they’re working, and they have a great attitude when they come to work,” he said. “Right now, they have to learn through their mistakes and we’ve just got to add reps with these guys.”

At end, Nick Menocal, Tyler Stargel, Roderick Rook-Chungong, and Chaz Cheeks are competing, and freshmen Tyler Meriweather and especially KeShun Freeman, who enrolled in January, bring potential.

“Nobody has really said, `Hey, I’m the guy.’ It’s got to be by committee this year,” Pelton said. “It’s not Attaochu; he’s playing on TV now. We’ve got to do it by a group. One day, one guy will do it, the next day another guy will do it. Hopefully, we can get a better rotation because last year we really didn’t have a rotation.”

At tackle, there are no freshmen.

Senior Shawn Green remains likely to start along Gotsis, although he’s been injured recently and was therefore unavailable for interview.

Gamble and Kallon better now by far look the parts, to lean on language that head coach Paul Johnson might.

The redshirt sophomores each played token minutes last season. It’s a good bet that will change this fall.

At Central Carrollton High, Gamble was a long, lean menace.

Once he arrived at Tech, he was a 6-foot-5, 240-pound sign post. His redshirt season helped some, last season hopefully helped more. He had a pair of sacks in Saturday’s scrimmage.

“I got in the weight room and got stronger, put on some weight that I needed to put on to play on the inside as a D-tackle. I know the scheme better,” he said Saturday. “I know the plays, and I feel like I can go out there and play 100 mph.

“I’m about 285 pounds now. I’m comfortable with where I am, but if I do put on weight I want to put on good muscle weight.”

The 6-5 Kallon probably was more lost than Gamble when he made it to The Flats.

He played just one season of football, at Central Gwinnett High, before college. Obviously, he showed great promise in short order after having played rugby in England previously, but that did not translate so well at first.

“Coming into Tech and having to learn everything all over again has been a long process. It’s paying off, and I know this year is going to be a great success,” said the Brit. “It was very confusing because in high school I was only told to run straight up the field and make a tackle, which I did.

“But coming here, I had to learn different positions . . . being able to read the offense, where people are lined up and how it affects me as a defensive tackle.”

Kallon’s waist size has shrunk as his football IQ has grown.

Where Gamble was skinny, he was not.

They’ve worked in opposite directions with the same goal: help the D-line.

“When I started, I was as high as 316 [pounds], really heavy,” Kallon said. “I think it was 30 percent [body fat]. Now it’s 21, and I weigh 292. I’ve had to cut down on fried foods, drink more water and Powerade instead of sodas.”

Pelton was not in the mood to get too specific about players.

“I think the effort has been there,” the coach said. “You can’t have days where you don’t show up and make a play. You’ve got to show up consistently day in and day out.”

Regarding Gamble and Kallon, Pelton said, “They’ve got a better understanding of the defense, but we don’t slow down because they’re young. We put it in, and we make them learn it.”

Kallon said he misses calzones in his new way of living, yet he’s changing for the better, and for the betterment of the Jackets.

“I miss waking up at 2 in the morning and going to Waffle House, or anywhere I feel like going to eat,” he said. “But it’s one of the sacrifices you have to make to be the best you can be.”

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