Looking at the linebackers

Linebacker was not a particular strength last season.

Inexperience was one factor: Tech entered 2008 with no returning starters at LB.

Injuries were another factor. Brad Jefferson missed games two through five with a dislocated wrist and didn’t regain his starting job until Nov. 8 at North Carolina. Kyle Jackson battled a sore Achilles (though he only missed one game). Shane Bowen’s career ended due to a neck injury. Sedric Griffin hurt his knee against Miami and missed the Georgia game. Anthony Barnes missed two games with a shoulder injury, then broke his leg against UGA. You get the point.

As a result, Tech played two linebackers and five DBs a lot. And speedy linebacker Tony Clark was used as a hybrid LB/safety called “Husky.”

We’ll see that again this season as Cooper Taylor moves from safety to what they’re now calling “Wolf.” Safety Mario Edwards, Barnes and LB Malcolm Munroe also could see time at the hybrid spot.

I asked linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary if we’d ever see Griffin, Jefferson and Kyle Jackson (the top three true linebackers) on the field together.

“We’re going to have different looks where we’ll have three true linebackers in the game,” he said. “We’ll have a bigger butt in the game — you don’t want that slender butt when people are trying to run the ball on you — so we will definitely match that.”

Griffin (53 tackles, 8 for loss, 3 sacks in 2008) has looked awesome in spring practice. You hear it when he hits someone. Jefferson is running with the first string. But don’t count out Jackson (61 tackles in 2008), who can play inside or outside, as a possible starter.

“Coach Johnson is big on competition and if a guy is outplaying another guy, we’re going to jump him in front because we want to put the best 11 out there,” Jean-Mary said. “The guys who started the Chick-fil-A Bowl are the ‘ones’ right now, but it’s an open competition.”

Here’s what Jean-Mary had to say about Jefferson: “The No. 1 thing is he’s healthier, and has a better grasp of the system, which is helping him play faster. I think he’s taking more ownership of the middle linebacker position, which is traditionally the leadership position on the defense…He’s a year wiser, a year smarter, been through the wars. He’s been up to Athens, to Blacksburg even though he didn’t play, been to North Carolina where we kind of got our noses bloodied. And he’s better for it.”

I asked who has stood out among the backups.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Steven Sylvester. Kyle Jackson is obviously solid as usual, and B.J. Machen has made some plays, made some strides,” Jean-Mary said. “The biggest positive is we’re building some depth. We had the injury bug bite us last year. We feel like if that happens again this year, we’ll be ready for the long stretch of games guys will have to fill in for.”

Jean-Mary said he’s noticed a huge jump between Year 1 and Year 2.

“You have to remember we were going through a totally different mindset on defense, where we changed our philosophy from a blitz team almost every play to more of a true 4-3, cover 2-type of team,” he said. “But I think now the guys have hit the ground running. There’s a lot of carryover from what they did last year. You can see they’re playing faster. They don’t seem as confused. They’re not thinking as they’re trying to make a play. It’s made a big difference.”

Barnes, who could be used at the hybrid or OLB, agreed, saying “there isn’t a lot of thinking. Everybody is playing faster, playing more physical and not making as many mistakes.”

Griffin — the only rising senior in the group — said the linebackers are tired of hearing about how they were the weak link last year. He said they’re eager to prove they can lead the defense.

“We feel we can do a lot of things that a lot of people can’t,” he said, noting the speed and athleticism among the linebackers.

The unit’s added experience can’t be overestimated, he said.

“You see things that you never saw before. You learn how to attack your opponents. It’s a big advantage, playing 13 games,” Griffin said. “Even the second and third team, they’ve got retention of the plays. So everything is almost like second nature.”

So what are your expectations for this group of linebackers?

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46 comments Add your comment

addicted

April 3rd, 2009
7:02 am

This is really why I am excited about defense this season. The additional experience, especially with the new defensive system (people constantly forget that the defense was facing almost as new a change in philosophy as the offense was last year, after Tenuta, and his blitz, or blitz scheme).

The experience in the LB corp and (hopefully!) relatively less injuries, combined with more experience amongst the safeties should help mask the loss of 3-4 NFL prospects on defense.

Mr. Skynyrd

April 3rd, 2009
7:52 am

Did he have to mention the Chic Fil A bowl? I almost had it forgotten.

Go Jackets!

AMG

April 3rd, 2009
8:58 am

We have one really fast 5′8 linebacker coming in. He runs a 4.3 40. He is not here till this summer, any chance he starts?

ODW

April 3rd, 2009
9:17 am

AMG, I think we have enough talent and experience at LB to the point where we don’t need to start a true frosh LB.

RAMBLE ON!!!

April 3rd, 2009
9:20 am

Griffin is a stud…He was everywhere till he got hurt last year. I think overall as a unit the defense will be better this year.

Reebok

April 3rd, 2009
9:22 am

tech will be a lot better than last year at LB, that’s for sure…hopefully we’ll be get the other team off the field quicker, give our offense more shots at the other team’s D. keep bringing up the chik-fil-a bowl, i hope it keeps the team and the coaches pi$$ed off and motivated all the way to the kickoff.

yellowblood

April 3rd, 2009
10:16 am

HAHA! Got ya again! GO Dawgs you bunch of NERDS!

Supersize that order, mutt

April 3rd, 2009
10:53 am

What does that jerk do, just sit there at his computer waiting for new Tech articles just so he can show his ass? GET A LIFE !!!

cluett peabody

April 3rd, 2009
11:29 am

Good blog. Thanks. Keep putting information up like this one. If you can, put up some info on the OL. Like any offense GT’s is very reliant on sound line play.

PTC Jacket

April 3rd, 2009
11:37 am

I’ve been waiting to hear this for a while. Good stuff.

P.S. Yellowblood: If Joe Cox is so good, why didn’t he start instead of Stafford ;)

WePeeYellow2

April 3rd, 2009
11:57 am

Hey geek squad employees in training, you won one in seven; whoop eee! Face the facts, your lousy team got HAMMERED in the chicken bowl, your team hasn’t won a conference championship since before your current graduating class was born! CPJ is praying the nerd herd will be able to throw and catch the ball this season, since everyone has seen his running schemes, and LSU showed aggressive Corner and end play will stop it like a female laughing a date proposal from a tech grad. Your fans and students suffer from an extreme inferiority complex, because you know you’re inferior, to EVERYONE, Hell Ga State fans and students are more respected then you bed wetters. You idiots are always clamoring about your great jobs when the reality is you end up working for the UGA management school graduates. So shadup and go back to warcraft…

AlphaBetaU

April 3rd, 2009
11:59 am

I hear RAMBLE ON has personal knowledge that Griffin is a stud!

yellowblood

April 3rd, 2009
12:13 pm

Looking at the linebackers! Now there is a great suggestion. Linebackers? Strong and Fast!!

NerdLuv

April 3rd, 2009
12:18 pm

That Pic of CPJ on the nerd sports frontpage is priceless! “Now josh, your boyfriend will really like this technique” LOL

RAMBLE ON!!!

April 3rd, 2009
12:45 pm

These fleabags best rebuttals are making homosexual references.

As Shakespeare would say, “ …Me thinks thou doth protest too much”… but they are the school with the transgender bathrooms.

45-42

RAMBLE ON!!!

April 3rd, 2009
12:47 pm

These fleabags best rebuttals are making homosexual references.

As Shakespeare would say, “Me thinks thou doth protest too much”… but they are the school with the transgender bathrooms.

D it Up!

April 3rd, 2009
12:53 pm

If they stay healthy, the LBs will be a dominating force in 2009. They would have been dominant in 2008 if not for so many injuries.

I’m beginning to question Tenuta’s eye for talent the more I hear about Cedric Griffin (a senior), and after what I saw from him [Griffin] in 2008. And add to that all the INTs for the Jackets last season compared to 2007 under Tenuta. Morgan Burnette’s 7 INTs were 2 more than Tenuta’s entire blitz-happy D had. Heck, I wonder if all of Tenuta’s Ds combined under his watch added up to as many INTs as last year??

At any rate, let me repeat myself in saying that I believe a healthy LB corps in 2009 will be dominant. And to go along with a talented group of DBs, these units will take tons of pressure off of the inexperienced D-line everyone seems so worried about.

FireChipTowers

April 3rd, 2009
1:13 pm

Chip Towers needs to be handed his walking papers by the AJC after his shameless attempt to “report” that UGA was seeking to hire Oliver Purnell or Frank Haith. He was so far from the actuality of the situation that he had to sink to “backtracking” by saying that the AD did speak with both yesteday. This is the worst type of reporting, saying stuff without foundation or substance while trying to “be the first in the know” – hopefully, the AJC brass will terminate this type of minor league “reporting”.

Why would we care about YOUR Beat Writer?

April 3rd, 2009
1:23 pm

Go compain about Chip Towers on the Dawg Blog you idiot. Also, why do you NEED someone to get fired in times like these? Will it make you feel better in your life to see someone lose their job? Especially over something like THIS? Sad sad existence you lead my friend….Hey maybe we should just fire anyone who upsets YOU because YOU are all that matters.

Supersize that order, mutt

April 3rd, 2009
2:13 pm

Looks like the mutts had to “settle” for their latest coach. I guess they really don’t care anything about b’ball in cow town. I hope he soaked ‘em on the contract. He might as well get something out of the deal. He sure won’t win any championships. I just wish they had spent their money on hiring Hewitt away from Tech.

NerdLuv

April 3rd, 2009
2:40 pm

Its “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” dummy, that nerd diploma makes good toilet paper doesn’t it?

Hey Nerdluv

April 3rd, 2009
4:11 pm

Go Back to Dawgland douchebag. You’re needed over there to puff up your chest and act real tough on the internet. Did you hear the rumor…you guys might be PREASEASON NATIONAL CHAMPIONS again. And about your screename and homo comments….how bout some “dawgluv” instead….see example below:

http://deadspin.com/258009/i-guess-you-cant-be-a-successful-quarterback-until-youve-been-with-a-man

Baba O'Riley

April 3rd, 2009
4:22 pm

AMG- our top linebacker coming in is Julian Burnett from Westside-Macon. Great player and great kid.

Supersize that order, mutt

April 3rd, 2009
4:37 pm

NerdLuv, it’s good to know there’s a lady in the house to keep us informed on such matters.

Joseph

April 3rd, 2009
4:40 pm

How does it feel to be a member of a hated minorityand not even the most popular team in your own home town.

surfrider

April 3rd, 2009
5:03 pm

If not mistaken, The Black Watch defense had some of this scheme of 3 to 4 DL, 2 to 4 Lb’s, and up to 5 DB’s. Cleve Pounds sounds like what Taylor and the others are being groomed for part of the time. It was ranked #4 in Nation and had great turnover margins. If we couple the Black Watch defense with this triple option offense we’re top 10 material.

Supersize that order, mutt

April 3rd, 2009
5:54 pm

Feels fine, Joseph. How does it feel to be an a**hole in a room full of intelligent people. I think you should know, since you are one.

NerdLuv

April 3rd, 2009
7:43 pm

Hi, my name is NerdLuv and I am a LOSER who talks real big on the internet. I would go down to Techs campus and act like a tough guy but I would probably get b**chslapped by a guy named Ramesh.

macrotech

April 3rd, 2009
9:46 pm

NerdLuv, ever hear of the pot calling the kettle black?……… WeePeeYellow2, mighty big words from a mutt fan that got beat THIS PAST SEASON by SUCH disrespected team……YOU’RE A FAN OF A LOSER TEAM. There’s a fact for ya! GO TECH!!!! ;0)

BS Patrol

April 3rd, 2009
11:18 pm

Want a real hoot? Go to T. Moore’s blog. The Doggies are really pleasuring themselves about the omnipotent SEC. Delusional!

MChammer

April 4th, 2009
10:13 am

Supersize that order, mutt

April 3rd, 2009
2:13 pm
Looks like the mutts had to “settle” for their latest coach. I guess they really don’t care anything about b’ball in cow town.

WOW!! Supersize! You’re one brilliant dumbazz! I guess it’s better to be a basketball school like tech that sucks at that sport too, huh shortbus?.

Yankee Transplant

April 4th, 2009
10:22 am

GT will finish no better than 3rd in the Coastal in 09. They can’t beat VT or UNC and to be real about it all, expect UGA to beat the mortal hell out of GT in 09. CPJs one trick pony show was a one hit wonder.

What was that LSU score again? How many games had LSU lost in the SEC before handing GT that embarrassing butt stomping in the Dome?

Jacket fan

April 4th, 2009
11:03 am

You may not know this(or may not have the manpower to cover it), but the Jackets have a big baseball series going on this weekend with NC (both are highly ranked). In fact, I believe UGA has the same type of deal going on over in Athens. Interestingly enough, the Jackets took two out of three from Miami (#2 ranked at the time) last weekend in Miami. Just thought you would like to know.

chad

April 4th, 2009
2:23 pm

What are the bitc%s going to say next year when tech spank that arese again? I love hearing all the muttle coming from these jack offs. The pup nation must really be scared of what is going on at the flats. Name calling and belittling that is put out by these idiots is funny. The future is so bright at tech the whole world is jealous. I suspect the ball lickers will get used to it in a year of two.

braveshater

April 4th, 2009
3:55 pm

Hey NerdLuv, when was the last time Tech was considered a favorite in anything clown! Dont worry, I’ll wait.

braveshater

April 4th, 2009
3:55 pm

U better hope the only real player u have can cover the entire secondary. Uno is God.

superDawg

April 4th, 2009
6:13 pm

well the phrase for the day is tech still sux!You tecksters need to run your mouth now because 7 more years of dawgs rule is a long time.bring some new info.out 45-42 is kind of lame now.The baseball game is getting closer so get ready for some hard core ridacule.ZING 1 RUN ZING 2 RUNS…. DAWGS WIN DAWGS WIN!TECH SUX!!!

macrotech

April 5th, 2009
3:19 am

Yankee Transplant, you MUST be using the same crystal ball that was used to give uga a preseason #1 ranking last season! Hope you kept the receipt….it’s BROKEN!!!! GO TECH!!!!

macrotech

April 5th, 2009
3:22 am

superDawg, you bring up the seven year streak and YOU’RE telling US to bring some new info?! We’ll run our mouths like Tech ran the ball against your little turd eaters……fast, often and effective!!!!

m

April 5th, 2009
10:13 am

All of the things that contributed to ugag beating Tech seven years in a row are GONE. All of the things that contributed to Tech beating the preseason #1 ranked ugag hushpuppies at Sanford and Son stadium are BACK. Even you stupid dawgies ought to be able to understand that.

SugarHillDawg

April 5th, 2009
9:39 pm

Hey Ramble On, I bet you have a poster of that RB of y’alls in a leopard print thong on your ceiling!I just hope you don’t hide like the rest of the NERDS on here after next years BEATDOWN at Bobby Dump Field.

SugarHillDawg

April 5th, 2009
9:40 pm

Hey M (for Moron) what contributing factors for Tech are gone that led to us owning you LOSERS???

790 THe Zone

April 5th, 2009
9:48 pm

Nice Recap on 790AM the Zone today (11:55AM on Sunday’s) by Larry Hartstein. Does anyone know if Hartstein will continue to do updates on this? First time I caught it, and will carve out time in the future if it’s a weekly thing.

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Wal-mart Dawggies

April 7th, 2009
4:49 pm

Did GT throw the ball to pick up 45? HHmmmmm….

BUZZ97

April 7th, 2009
7:13 pm

Do you know what the one thing is that every tech athlete will get that no UGAY athlete will ever get? It is called an education. Don’t believe me? Just read the blogs, quite easy to tell who the UGAY fans are.