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Veteran Coach Helping Groh Build Tech's Defense

Aug. 28, 2010

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

In a perfect world, Andy McCollum would be a head coach right now. So much is a matter of timing, however, and perhaps the time will again come for Georgia Tech’s first-year defensive line coach.

For now, he’s helping new defensive coordinator Al Groh install the 3-4 at Tech, and even with nearly 30 years of coaching experience, the former Middle Tennessee State head coach is learning a thing or two and loving it as Tech’s first-year defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator.

“We were 3-4 when I was at Baylor [from 1994-`98],” he said. “The biggest difference is terminology. The great thing is no matter how long you’ve been in coaching, it’s great to learn. Being with Coach Groh, he’s been a lot of places and coached a lot of football and to be able to sit in there and pick his brain, and listen to him . . . it’s exciting every day to come to work.

“Coach Groh is very open-minded to ideas, too. He’s been through a lot, but he wants input.”

In general, Baylor had more size on the defensive line than what McCollum is working with now, and that had some effect on how the Bears played their version of the 3-4. “We had big guys who kept [blockers] tied up and that allowed our linebackers to run a little bit,” he said. “We were maybe a little under-sized at linebacker.”

Sophomore T.J. Barnes, who is likely to be a backup nose tackle at 6-feet-7, 333 pounds, is the only massive defensive lineman that McCollum is working with although J.C. Lanier may be over 300 pounds as well.

Don’t be fooled into believe, though, that the absence of a monolith ruins the 3-4.

“In a perfect world you’d like to have a big, physical guy that commands a double-team and knocks people back, but regardless of where they are they’ve got to have good feet,” McCollum said. “They’ve got to have good hands. The body sizes can be different. Casey Hampton’s as good as anybody in the country sitting there at 6-foot, 6-1 with the Steelers.”

Well, that’s true, although Hampton’s also about 325-330 pounds.

The Yellow Jackets are still experimenting. It seems highly likely that Logan Walls, although he’s not on the depth chart right now because of an injury, will start at nose tackle, and the starting ends likely will be Jason Peters and Izaan Cross.

All three, however, might play some either inside or outside. Versatility . . . there’s that word again.

“At end, you’re going to play in more space, but in our scheme the No. 1 thing is whip the guy in front of you,” McCollum said. “So whatever position you’re in, that’s the No. 1 thing; can he use his hands, get off blocks, whip the guy in front of him? T.J.’s going to be a nose tackle. He’s not going anywhere else.

“Anybody else can be interchangeable, I think. We’ve just got to find the best guys. I think with the different packages that we use, what with early downs, passing situations, what have you, there will be different guys that we use.”

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