Improving linebackers bear watching for Tech

The sixth in a series of position group breakdowns of the 2011 Georgia Tech football team:

Julian Burnett is small for a linebacker but could be Tech's best player.

Julian Burnett is small for a linebacker but could be Tech's best player.

Projected starters: OLBs Jeremiah Attaochu (So. 6-3, 233), Steven Sylvester (Sr., 6-2, 238), ILBs Julian Burnett (Jr., 5-10, 222), Daniel Drummond (So., 6-3, 236)

Others to watch: ILB Quayshawn Nealy was a star of the spring game and could be hard to keep off the field. OLB Brandon Watts moved from the inside and looks ready to take a step forward. OLB Malcolm Munroe and ILB Albert Rocker will also push for time, but will have to fend off a huge signing class. Tech brings in seven linebackers, including Jabari Hunt-Days, brother of Tech quarterback Synjyn Days.

Key losses: ILB Brad Jefferson had 84 tackles, second most on the team behind Burnett, and 7.5 tackles for loss. OLB Anthony Egbuniwe’s 61 tackles were fifth on the team. They made a combined 51 starts for Tech. The Jackets also lost backups Anthony Barnes and Kyle Jackson.

Key fact: Coaches have high hopes for Attaochu, who was one of the first players recruited specifically for defensive coordinator Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme. With size, speed and agility, he is an ideal fit for the OLB position. In limited snaps as a backup, Attaochu accumulated three sacks last year as a true freshman. He should have more this fall.

Key fact II: Burnett led the team in tackles in 2010 despite starting only eight games. Fast, exceedingly strong and quick to the ball, Burnett might be the best player on the team. As an established starter with a year’s experience at his position, he should make a run at All-ACC honors.

Key question: How much can the unit disrupt opposing passing games? Opponents completed 60.5 percent of their passes last year, fourth-highest in the ACC. The 3-4 defense is designed in part to free up linebackers to attack the quarterback, which didn’t happen nearly enough last season. This group will undoubtedly be more productive in the pass rush, but the degree is the question. Watch for Sylvester, whose 10.5 tackles for loss led the team, and Attaochu to play faster this fall.

Key development: The depth should be better than last year and the future looks even more promising. Attaochu, Burnett and Drummond were among the most improved players in the spring. After redshirting in 2009, being suspended in 2010 for an NCAA violation and a position switch from B-back, Drummond is ready to see the field. The true freshmen, large in number and size, will hike up competition for playing time.

Outlook: Good. This is an intriguing bunch, one that could be far better at the end of the season than the beginning.

Your turn: What do you think?

PAST POSITION BREAKDOWNS

July 7 – Offensive line

July 8 – Wide receivers

July 11 – Running backs

July 12 – Quarterbacks

July 13 – Defensive line

25 comments Add your comment

albanyfan

July 14th, 2011
8:37 am

The present and future is bright at this position! Puts to rest the idea CPJ can’t recruit.

AtWork

July 14th, 2011
8:37 am

Don’t have to see sacks…ints and fumbles will show me that the defense is being disruptive…gettings sacks and tackles for loss are icing on the cake.

5150 UOAD

July 14th, 2011
8:44 am

Groh’s D really needs to majorly improve.

Delbert D.

July 14th, 2011
8:54 am

Attaochu’s play late in the year was impressive. I’d like to see Hunt-Days on the field this year, starting with special teams. Burnett is a mini-beast. I don’t know what to expect at LB from Drummond, but this is his 3rd year on campus, so I imagine his strength and physical toughness has developed.

lanier

July 14th, 2011
8:55 am

the whole D will be light years ahead of last year, their 1st with the 3/4. imagine completely relearning your job in 3 months

Delbert D.

July 14th, 2011
8:56 am

51 – It’s early, and you’ve already split an infinitive. Slap yourself in the head 3 times and get that brain in gear!

BigTimeTECHFan

July 14th, 2011
8:56 am

Brandon Watts will be good one, bet he gets a lot of playing time

PerimeterCenterJacket

July 14th, 2011
8:59 am

I get it now, but the headline makes it look like our LB corps is up in the mountains “bear watching.” It was a great image.

Tokyo jacket

July 14th, 2011
8:59 am

Sylvester’s got the experience, Drummond’s got the size, Burnett’s got the heart, and Attaochu’s got the speed. This unit could be highly productive this year. This defense looks pretty good on paper w/ the experience of the line and the athleticism of the secondary. I hope it pans out. Could be the difference between 6-7 and 10-4/11-3.

Delbert D.

July 14th, 2011
9:04 am

PerimeterCenterJacket – I thought the same thing. Send ‘em up to camp at Toccoa and have them run the Curahee 3 times a day, and they might see some.

PerimeterCenterJacket

July 14th, 2011
9:05 am

Man, I love watching Burnett. This guy has the world’s biggest chip on his shoulder for being short, and he takes it out on ball carriers when he hits. I like to think of him a little like The Waterboy…but with the speed, skill and freakish power-to-weight ratio to back it all up. What an exciting player to have in our colors!

Go Jackets!

101 Airborne

July 14th, 2011
9:06 am

Curahee! Hi Ho Silver!!! Go Jackets

PerimeterCenterJacket

July 14th, 2011
9:08 am

Delbert D. Haha, but not Curahee, man…Ross from Friends forever killed the manliness of that hill for me when he ran it in shorty shorts on Band of Brothers (and then became a collosal D-bag for the rest of the series.) Make ‘em run the Duncan Ridge…with packs of rocks.

Delbert D.

July 14th, 2011
9:14 am

Used to run Crown Mountain in boots and fatigues for fun early in my college days. Not as tough as Curahee, but it was the only mountain handy. 5150 might relate to that.

PerimeterCenterJacket

July 14th, 2011
9:19 am

Respect. My college experience was at Tech, and the worst hill we have is Freshman Hill…not that bad.

Delbert D.

July 14th, 2011
9:23 am

By the time I finally got to Tech (postgrad prep work) I was too old to be running mountains.

PerimeterCenterJacket

July 14th, 2011
9:25 am

Not too old to come to games, I hope? Sounds like these linebackers will be attacking from behind a better line this season. If that can help amass just two or three more stops a game our offense should do the rest. It’s bound to be an exciting season if for no other reason than we really don’t know what this new group can do.

jbdawg

July 14th, 2011
9:31 am

Just for the record… this blog has been up for over an hour and there have been no UGA fans bashing Tech. Has the world stopped?

juvenal

July 14th, 2011
9:37 am

dauug hit the latest already…kansas should tell us if this a better D………PC, hard making up to the library winter quarter with all the 8am classes they used to have……..

Delbert D.

July 14th, 2011
9:44 am

PerimeterCenterJacket – Not too old physically, but I have to spend very wisely. Lots of obligations, much lower income at this time in my life. Supporting one of my kids and grandson who live with us. I attended a lot of games in the ’80s, when things were much different.

right

July 14th, 2011
11:32 am

Was it sylvester or burnette that UGA qb Joe Cox ran over in 09?

Freddy Blassie

July 14th, 2011
12:16 pm

right: It wasn’t you, you pencil neck geek. You’ve never been closer to a football field than the cheap seats.

Oledawg

July 14th, 2011
1:15 pm

Gee, I hope all this football chat won’t be for naught, now that the NCAA is coming down on P.J. and his high school offense. My guess is the NCAA finally got around to nailing Tech for impersonating Division I
football. This is too good———-P.J having to explain himself out of what’s coming, and Reggie Ball being accused of taking money from UGA to impersonate a Quarterback. This is going to be some of the best entertainment I’ve had in a long time.

[...] July 14 – Linebackers [...]

jacket

July 20th, 2011
2:10 pm

Tech will perhaps shock the world this year and win the ACC. The defense will be drastically improved, and they will rescue the offense at the beginning of the year. By the 5th game, I expect the offense to be finding a groove (possibly with V. Lee – especially if they make him the first game starter).
This all works out well with the schedule, which doesn’t get difficult until late October.
Like so many have said before, it all hinges on the OL coming together. CPJ has stated that he thinks they will be just fine by the start of the season.
I just hope they can avoid the early season embarrassing loss.