When Al Groh was hired as defensive coordinator and the switch to a 3-4 defense realized, many of you immediately began asking about the defensive line. Presumably for two reasons: Derrick Morgan wasn’t on it anymore and last year’s squad had its issues slowing down folks with four guys up front, how would they be with three?
So far, things seem to be looking up.
While Saturday’s T-Day Game (12:30 p.m.) will provide a much better measuring stick for progress, defensive line coach Andy McCollum said last week that he likes what he sees so far.
“It’s been a day-by-day process but I like the character of it, I like the worth ethic,” said McCollum, a Marietta native whom Paul Johnson hired away from N.C. State. “We’re eager and they want to learn a new system.
“We’ve got some older guys that are handling it a little bit better and some younger guys that need to get caught up.”
One of those older guys, defensive end Jason Peters, seems to be the spring standout, so far. He made a few more eye-popping plays during last Saturday’s scrimmage.
McCollum said nose tackle Logan Walls seems to be taking to the switch really well. He was disruptive on a few plays on Saturday, which can be tough to do when you are getting double-teamed. McCollum rattled off a few more names, including Izaan Cross, Euclid Cummings and T.J. Barnes.
“Izaan Cross, as soon as he keeps learning how to play hard, and play smart he’ll be good,” McCollum said. “Euclid Cummings is catching on. T.J. Barnes is a work everyday, but he’s lost 20-something pounds and he’s doing something every day that’s better. There’s still a long way to go but we’re getting there.”
Cross is running with the first-teamers at the other defensive end spot. He said the switch hasn’t been as difficult as one might think.
“Many of the things we do we were doing last year,” Cross said. “We’re doing a lot of slanting and a lot of moving. Last year we did a lot of staying on our block and pushing our blocker back.”
Cross said he did a lot of slanting in high school, so he’s enjoying playing an attacking style of football again. He’s also enjoying getting to know his new position coach.
He said the hardest part of moving from a DE in a 4-3 to one in a 3-4 is the positioning. He’s line up straight over an offensive tackle now, which he said makes it harder to pass rush (but points out that’s what the outside linebackers are for), but easier against the run.
How many of you will be watching the NFL Draft, which begins Thursday in New York?
I’m curious to hear where you think Tech’s big four will go in the draft, and what kind of pro careers they will have.
Derrick Morgan reminds me of a Patrick Kerney-type player, a guy who won’t impress you with flash, but will make you proud with his work ethic. Working on coverage skills will be his big thing.
Demaryius Thomas could be another Brandon Marshall or Terrell Owens, but without the mental fragility and me-me-me histrionics. He’s so big that he’s going to make plays.
Jonathan Dwyer could be another Michael Turner-type running back. A guy who will move the pile and break the big run when it’s there. Learning patience as plays develop will be the big thing for him.
Morgan Burnett, as NFL analyst Charles Davis told me a few months ago, will make his money on his second contract after he shows everyone that he’s a player that won’t have to be taken off the field when the offense motions into a spread formation.