ATLANTA – A gifted athlete from East Point, Ga., Nick Rogers brings exceptional talent and a good knowledge of the game to the Georgia Tech defense this season.
The 6-2, 250-pound junior has lined up at linebacker, fullback and defensive end, his current position. The experience he has gained at his various positions has helped make Rogers a better and more complete player, he explained.
“Coming into this year, I think playing the linebacker position helped me because I know what the linebackers are doing behind me,” Rogers said. “We have the type of defense where everybody has a gap. It’s gap-control defense. And now I understand that. I know what the guys are doing behind me and that makes my job that much easier. I think the main thing on our defense this year is everybody knows what everybody is doing and helps each other out.”
As an inexperienced sophomore, Rogers was part of a young defensive squad that struggled to find its identity. But with 15 career games and seven starts to his credit, the growing pains are now just memories.
Rogers has embraced his job as a defensive end for Georgia Tech this season.
“I like it,” Rogers said. “It’s not as much thinking as linebacker. I know I have the athletic skills; I’m athletically gifted. For me, it’s the mental part of the game that is the hardest. If I know what I’m doing and I get the mental part down, it’s easy for me to let my athletic skills take over.”
Rogers freely admits that he has not always understood his role on defense.
“I was recruited as an athlete,” said the former honorable mention all-state running back from St. Pius X High School. “When I came in as a freshman, I was playing fullback for a little while. Even though I was playing fullback, they had me on the scout team defense. I guess they were preparing me to play defense. The next year I moved to linebacker. I was still on the scout team because I really didn’t know what I was doing. I never played defense in high school. My sophomore year (1999) I started six games and I still really didn’t have the concept of defense and what a linebacker is supposed to do. And then we had some injuries and I moved to defensive end. That’s a more physical type of game and I had to get used to that. I made some plays but I was still learning the position.”
As Rogers has learned his craft, he has become a key member of the resurgent Yellow Jacket defense. Georgia Tech limited UCF to just 255 yards – including only eight rushing yards – in the season opener on Sept. 2. The total yards mark was the best for the Yellow Jacket defense since Tech held North Carolina to 246 yards on Sept. 21, 1996. Perhaps more impressively, the eight yards allowed on the ground were the fewest in five years and the fifth-best rushing defensive total in school history.
Rogers played a key role in the team’s season-opening effort. He recorded seven tackles, tying for the team lead, and one sack for 15 yards against the Golden Knights.
A true team player, Rogers attributes the squad’s turnaround to improved teamwork and unity.
“I think this summer we gelled together as a whole team, more than just the defense,” he said. “We have good team unity. When you have good unity, you’re able to talk to all the guys on the team and I think that helps you out on the field. You’re able to communicate out there. I think that’s the key thing for the defense. We’re able to communicate, and if something’s going wrong we help each other. We’re a lot closer.”
The unified Yellow Jacket defense is playing with confidence early in this 2000 season.
“I think it’s very promising,” Rogers said. “I was talking to a couple of the players and they said (the game against UCF) was the worst game they have played. If that was the worst game they’ve played, we have a lot to look forward to down the road. I think it’s very, very promising. I think it gives the players and defensive coaches confidence.”
With Atlantic Coast Conference action about to begin, the Yellow Jackets will lean on the experience and confidence of the improved defense. Rogers believes if the team works together to accomplish its goals, and if he continues to strive to achieve his, the united Georgia Tech squad will be a force with which to be reckoned.
“Personally, I want to get two sacks every game,” Rogers said of his goals for the season. “I want to be mentally prepared every game and give good effort every play. Our goals for the defense are to give good effort, know our assignments and be accountable. If we do all this I think we’ll have a real good season.”