The fifth in a series of position group breakdowns of the 2011 Georgia Tech football team:
Projected starters: DE Jason Peters (Sr., 6-4, 271), DT Logan Walls (Sr., 6-2, 295), DE Izaan Cross (6-4, 292).
Others to watch: Ends Christopher Crenshaw, Emmanuel Dieke and Euclid Cummings and tackle T.J. Barnes should get extensive playing time, and possibly end Anthony Williams, as well. Barnes played considerably last year behind Walls. Dieke and Cummings played smaller backup roles.
Key losses: The line lost two backups, end Robert Hall and tackle Ben Anderson, who combined for 14 tackles.
Key fact: The line returns all three starters and is the only position group with two returning senior starters, Peters and Walls. Both are team-leader types with a combined 40 starts and 66 games played. Given the offseason talk about a renewed sense of purpose and the development of the defense in its second season with defensive coordinator Al Groh, it would stand to reason some of the biggest difference in form should come from a group with a heavy veteran presence.
Key fact II: Georgia Tech’s forced turnover total has declined the past two years, from 29 in 2008 to 26 in 2009, and then 21 last fall. Responsibility for reversing that trend will start with the defensive line – to free up linebackers to force fumbles on rushes or to generate pass rush to cause hurried passes that lead to interceptions. With plenty of young players in the back eight – all four secondary members will be first-time starters – the threesome up front will have to produce.
Key question: How much will the line improve? To hear players and coaches tell it, it should be significant, given how much more second-nature Groh’s scheme has become. That said, there is plenty of room for improvement. The Tech defense finished in the bottom half of the ACC in scoring, total defense, rushing, passing efficiency, interceptions, sacks and forced turnovers.
Key developments: Word could come soon on the availability of redshirt freshmen Shawn Green and Denzel McCoy. Green broke a bone in his leg in spring practice and McCoy had a medical condition that prevented him from participating in contact drills in the spring. The incoming freshman class includes only one defensive lineman, end Jimmie Kitchen.
UPDATE, 6:15 p.m.: Tech won’t have an update on the status of Green and McCoy until fall practice begins in August.
Outlook: Promising. One notable development from the spring is that Groh plans to give his backups plenty of snaps, which should in turn keep the starters fresher and more productive. Peters, who was among the most impressive players in the spring, may at last deliver on the potential he showed as a top high school prospect.
Your turn: What do you think?
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