Quayshawn Nealy buying in for Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh doesn’t so much shower praise as he does leak it. However, midway through the Yellow Jackets’ preseason camp, he was showing inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy video clips from a recent practice and speaking with appreciation.

As Nealy recounted it, Groh told him that Nealy had been playing more physically, taking on running backs head on and delivering hits.

“I just like the way you’re playing,” Nealy said Groh told him.

Besides lifting Nealy’s confidence, the meeting demonstrated the connection developing between the sophomore and his defensive coordinator. In Nealy, Tech has a player in a leadership position who has become a Groh follower and appears ready to make a jump in performance.

“He takes all the information you give him and he tries to use it,” Groh said. “He sees that it works, so he comes back for more, so he’s always looking for more and then he’s trying to put it into play. He’s fun to go out there with every day.”

Nealy’s ascension would help fill the chasm left by former inside linebacker Julian Burnett, whose Sun Bowl neck injury ended his career. Burnett twice led the Yellow Jackets in tackles and inspired teammates with his passion and energy. Nealy makes no claim to replacing Burnett, but has begun to assume a leadership position.

It will be no small matter in the team’s opener at Virginia Tech Sept. 3. Inside linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days, starting in place of the suspended Daniel Drummond, will be playing in the first game of his career.

“He usually doesn’t have that much to say, but he’s a big factor on our defense,” inside linebackers coach Joe Speed said of Nealy. “He’ll be leaned on a little bit.”

Nealy started seven games last year as a freshman, making 52 tackles. Most memorably, he intercepted a pass in the Sun Bowl and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown. Going into the spring, one of the goals Groh set for him was to rely less on his speed and to take on guards and backs with full force.

A tenet of Groh’s scheme is for defenders to build a wall along the line of scrimmage, filling gaps and staying in assigned spots to force running plays sideways. Nealy’s style, using his speed to run around blocks rather than take them on, was not conducive to wall building. Given that guards can outweigh him by 70 pounds, this is not an unreasonable tactic.

Nealy had to change his thinking, he said, “just put it in your mind you have to do this every play and build a wall.”

He also re-fashioned his physique, putting about 10 pounds of muscle onto his frame, now 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, to make him better able to withstand the collisions along the line. In fall camp, Nealy showed coaches that he had advanced in his familiarity with Groh’s defense and his commitment to it. The expectations of significant playing time and improved performance have accelerated his buy-in.

“That’s why I took the initiative to go up there (to the coaches’ offices) and meet with Coach Groh a lot and build that bond,” Nealy said. “I mean, if I see something going wrong out there on the field that he can’t see, I want to be able to go to him and let him know.”

Nealy spoke on Tuesday afternoon, following practice. He was, he said, on his way to Groh’s office to square away a problem he was having with his assignment in defending the run.

“He makes time for all the players, not just me,” Nealy said. “That’s what’s really great. You’ve just got to be willing to go up there and take the coaching.”

After a withering practice, he was coming back for more.

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Thanks for reading.

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

100 comments Add your comment

StPeteWreck

August 24th, 2012
5:35 pm

StPeteWreck

August 24th, 2012
5:38 pm

TechSucks

August 24th, 2012
5:59 pm

and only hahahaha

1 4 GT

August 24th, 2012
6:02 pm

This sounds encouraging. This young man building a good working relationship with his coaches & showing he wants to learn & excel & help the team win. Wonderful attitude!! If this is happening on several different fronts, it bodes well for the Jackets this season. GOOOOO JACKETS THWVT 9/3 COOK THE TURKEY

CT_Jacket

August 24th, 2012
6:27 pm

Really looking forward to seeing how the defense shapes up this year. That will be the difference between a 7-8 win season and a 9-10 win season.

Island Jacket

August 24th, 2012
6:56 pm

I really like what he’s doing. We really need this defense to take a leap forward this season. With a good defense. I don’t think no one can stop us.

GO JACKETS
THWG

yeller bug

August 24th, 2012
7:58 pm

I think CPJ stated earlier this month that he really liked the attitude and chemistry of this team. If the players are “buying” into the system, then that bodes well for this season. It’s a shame that Burnette will not be out there—he was a human missile.

It should be a good game on 9/3!

Ken Sugiura

August 24th, 2012
8:00 pm

well done, StPete Wreck.

chas_jacket

August 24th, 2012
8:44 pm

Gotta like the character of the team. Guess weenie is having a hard time coming up with a disparaging comment on Q Nealy – gotta be a tweener or something?

Ken – do think Julian Burnett will travel with them to Blacksburg? He can surely be a huge factor in motivating the D this year.

George Stein

August 24th, 2012
8:51 pm

This was a good interview, Ken.

Hopefully, the line can keep a lineman or two off the ‘backers this year.

1 4 GT

August 24th, 2012
8:57 pm

Ken, I think I can safely say we would all love to see an interview from Adam Gotsis before game night. Think you might do that for us?

1 4 GT

August 24th, 2012
8:57 pm

And Francis Kallon too, RS or not.

1 4 GT

August 24th, 2012
8:58 pm

THANKS KEN!!!

Not Disappointed!

August 24th, 2012
9:31 pm

Lets Go Jackets!

BLT

August 24th, 2012
9:32 pm

Nice write up Ken. Please keep them coming!

Go Jackets! THWVT!

BLT

August 24th, 2012
9:35 pm

Ken, I get the impression Kallon will RS and Gotsis may not. Can you please provide any information? Also, how is Gamble doing? Will he RS?

Go Jackets!

BLT

August 24th, 2012
9:37 pm

5:59 pm

Is that you Okie?

BLT

August 24th, 2012
9:38 pm

If so, then much better Okie! Good job boy!

Ken Sugiura

August 24th, 2012
9:55 pm

BLT – Your impression is the same as mine. Injuries can always change plans, though. With Gotsis, it may be a situation where he’ll travel and be on the depth chart, but they’ll see if they can go without playing him. just a guess, though.
I was wondering if Burnett will go, also. I don’t have an answer.
Unfortunately, you (and I) will have to wait till Gotsis and Kallon play before I can talk to them. Johnson’s policy is that freshmen can’t talk to media until after they’ve played or are into their redshirt freshman year.

BLT

August 24th, 2012
10:04 pm

Thanks Ken, enjoy the weekend and the little ones!

1 4 GT

August 24th, 2012
10:06 pm

Thanks for the info Ken, dang it. I guess I can understand the reasoning behind the rule. Just would like to know his thoughts on his brief time here & such.

BLT

August 24th, 2012
10:16 pm

Hey Ken, the thought of Julian going is tremendous! I hope he can. I never even considered it. That would be awesome! Such a morale boost!

Let’s do this Jackets!

BLT

August 24th, 2012
10:20 pm

14 GT, Gotsis probably thinks we are all crazy. Which I guess is true. Aussies get crazy about Rugby. Adam, put some of that Rugby to good use here in the states! LOL

1 4 GT

August 24th, 2012
10:25 pm

BLT….I’m with you on your last 2 posts.

Buzz 2011

August 24th, 2012
10:58 pm

Go Jackets.. Take the ACC title..

BLT

August 24th, 2012
10:59 pm

Heck 1 4 GT, I don’t even know if he even played “Rugby” in Australia. They call “Football” rugby there; and “Football” here “Gridiron” over there. I do know that they play both physical. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

From what I’ve seen of Kallon he’s the same way. Kind of wish he was not going to be RS. We also have Gamble. He’s a badazz. Plus our STARTERS and we have depth. I know wrexie. Save it for the the dog blog.

BigTimeTECHFan

August 24th, 2012
11:03 pm

Neally played well last year, can’t wait to see Hund-Days.play, nice kid, nice family

Paul in NH

August 24th, 2012
11:23 pm

BLT
“Football” and “Rugby” are even more confusing in Australia than you mentioned.
There are 2 types of football (not including American football) and 2 types of rugby.
Association Football – what Americans and Aussies call soccer.
Australian Rules Football – aka “footy” – kind of like a cross between rugby and soccer but played on a huge field
Rugby Union – a 15 a side game with no stoppages, involving scrums, lineouts etc. When someone carrying the ball is tackled play continues as players pile in trying to get the ball.
Rugby League – a 13 a side game similar to Union. The biggest difference is that when a player is tackled the play stops and he plays the ball back.
Rugby League is popular around Sydney, NSW. Aussie Rules is popular in Melbourne, Victoria. Union is #3. Since Gotsis is from the Melbourne area I’d expect he has played footy

GT Rich

August 24th, 2012
11:38 pm

I went to a rugby match in Oz and the local guy who hosted me was a fan of the home team — Canterbury Bulldogs (I was a rude guest and pulled for the other guys).

Aussie’s are tough. Hopefully someone’s told Gotsis about blows to the head, contact after the whistle and what the US drinking age is. No need for him to end up on the GTpolice blotter…

1 4 GT

August 25th, 2012
12:26 am

Good points GT Rich!! LOL

1 4 GT

August 25th, 2012
12:35 am

I don’t really expect it, but I can wish & hope. Wouldn’t it be great to lead the nation in offense and scoring & have a defense in the top 10 and just crush our opposition. And sit back and watch “Carnack” try to put his spin on how crummy they played and rather than beat everyone by 20-30 points, it should have been by 40-60 and how they were under coached & under utilized. He would put some kind of negative spin on it. If the guys have a really good year, you just know he will spin it all negative.

BW

August 25th, 2012
1:01 am

I liked Nealy last year as a back up. Hope he can step it up as a starter this year. The defense will hinge, as always, on the line play. Attaochou is probably the best player on the D, but I really like the secondary as a unit. It’s surprising to me that Young may not be a starter because he seems like a possible NFL candidate to me. That may say more about the depth of the secondary than Young, but I hope Young is fighting to be a full time player, because GT could use him. I think the LBs will be fine as a unit, but the loss of Burnett is really tough. Hopefully the rest of the guys step up. The line is the big question mark. Cross is a fine player, but his size is so in between. He is almost big enough to be a DT, but not quite, but he doesn’t seem to have the speed of a typical DE. He actually fits quite well as a DE in the 3-4, IMO. The problem is that there isn’t a similar type of player at the other end position. I think Groh would do well to blitz more and try to bring speed(a la Tenuta), but it sounds like he wants to bring size, which GT does not have. At DT, Barnes has potential. He has made some pretty athletic tackles in the past, shedding blockers and grabbing the RB. The question is if he can really play 35-40 snaps per game like he’s expected to. And at a high level. I worry about Barnes and also the other end position opposite Cross. Dieke, Cummings, and whoever I’m forgetting about have yet to do much. This is why I think Groh needs to blitz more, especially on that side to get the opposing OLs overthinking who to block and missing a blitzer who is speed rushing the QB. This is where zone blitzing is useful, but Cross won’t be very useful in that scheme because his strength is bull rushing, not being versatile like Dieke/Cummings/etc are. It’s almost like the 3-4 either needs 3 big guys holding the LOS or bull rushing on passing downs or you need the big DT and two versatile ends to allow zone blitzing/rush coverage on every play. Cross complicates things for GT because he’s a bigger guy, but there is no counterpart on the opposite side to match his size. Yet Cross is probably one of the top 2, 3 or 4 defenders by NFL potential for GT and it’s nice to have guys with that potential on the field.

FORMATION 4 SUCCESS

August 25th, 2012
3:53 am

8/24/12 STEP 4: Expect to Win. Study to be prepared for anything. Know your plays like the back of your hand and know your opponents like the front. You can’t give 50% preparation to something that requires 100% effort. Understand the game, don’t just play at the game. Example: Its 3 down and 4 and your opponent is either on his 30 or your 30. What play are they going to run. Are you prepared?

lkmantsk

August 25th, 2012
5:57 am

Where is Rueben Houston??????

GTfan2012

August 25th, 2012
6:59 am

Where is Caleb King??????? What about Washout Ealy?????

ToeMeetsLeather

August 25th, 2012
7:18 am

2012, I think they are all lining up in the Pistol Formation at Alabama State with the center piece of the Dream Team.

Jacket Man

August 25th, 2012
7:21 am

Francis Kallon shouldn’t be expected to play this season so don’t get your hopes up. Give him a year under the college coaching ang training staffs, and with the next year of organized football under his belt, he’d be poised to be a monster when he finally stepped on the field. Gotsis very well could see action this season, and if he does, I suspect he’ll surprise people and be hard to keep off the field. He’s strong, smart, and plays at great pad level which is what the Jackets need on the Defensive LoS.

ToeMeetsLeather

August 25th, 2012
7:28 am

I think we are still a year away on defense with all of the young LBs, but we should see some improvement over the second half of last season’s performance. Groh finally has the right athletes in place in most spots, he had very little to work with when he took over in 2010. “Sneezy”, Watts, Nealy, and Hunt-Days will probably determine the win total with their play this year. No pressure there guys.

Wal-Mart Retards

August 25th, 2012
7:40 am

@TML – you’re right there will be an improvement on D this year even with the loss of mighty mouse Burnett. While I still pick us to win in Blacksburg, it will probably take a few games to see the full extent of the D’s improvement.

ToeMeetsLeather

August 25th, 2012
7:57 am

Yea Wal-Mart, I think if we equalize the ST’s play with VT and take care of the ball, we can definitely win the opening game. If we are careless with the ball and place the defense in tough field position spots, all bets are off.

GTfan2012

August 25th, 2012
8:05 am

Attouchu, Hunt-Days, Nealy, and Watts make a formidable LB group. They may be a little young, but I can’t wait to see what they can do.

Jorge O'leary

August 25th, 2012
8:42 am

A couple more stops by the d = more touches by the O line, Johnson’s best according to him. Go Jackets!!

GT Rich

August 25th, 2012
8:55 am

Kallon isn’t big/strong enough to be a “bull” rusher and doesn’t have enough football experience/technique to compensate — speed alone isn’t enough at the D1 level — I expect a redshirt for him. I heard that Gamble is “country” strong, same thing said about Shaq Mason last year who played as a true freshman. Gotsis may fall into that category which is why he might burn the redshirt too. From all the bits and pieces of information, seems that Gotsis and Gamble are candidates to play on the D-line this year. I bet it comes down to injuries to the old guys. In general, I am mostly worried that Groh’s defense is too complicated for young guys to learn. If it takes everybody three years to learn, then perhaps Groh’s is not the right scheme for a college team… Grantham only took a 1-1/2 seasons before UGA’s D stepped up its play.

Jon Koncak

August 25th, 2012
9:02 am

Tough to shower praise or even leak it when your defense has gotten rocked against every decent team over the past couple of years.

Tokyo jacket

August 25th, 2012
9:10 am

Play with heart, play with speed, play to win!

Tokyo jacket

August 25th, 2012
9:10 am

@JK, except for Clemson.

chas_jacket

August 25th, 2012
9:26 am

Think Gamble will not redshirt primarily because we are weak at NT and NT has to be the easiest of the Defensive positions to learn. Thought Gotsis would redshirt just to give him a year to acclimate to GT and the US but may play as he is evidently well conditioned and a strong 6 4 300 lb’r – plus aussie tough. Think Kallon gets left out primarily becasue they don’t want to burn all three d line redshirts – plus he did only play 1 year of HS football.

The early comment I made about Julian Burnett – I am assuming he will be on the sideline rooting his teamates on as I believe he is still a scholarship player and he would be a huge motivational force for the D – especially linebackers. I can’t see any of our D giving less than 110% with Julian cheering from the sidelines.

gt45

August 25th, 2012
9:44 am

There is not a team on our schedule that we can’t handle. The toughest will be Georgia, and who knows what kind of head games they’ll have going, then. If we can get by VT, look for a run that may go all the way to the last game of the regular season!

crackbaby

August 25th, 2012
9:48 am

Love the Q-man!

Really really HATE to hear CAG’s “build a wall” approach. That’s the Marion Campbell bend but don’t break philosophy that gets shredded by good teams.

Defense should be DISRUPTIVE. Beat the man in front of you and make a play. Who the F- is doing the tackling if the LBs are “building a wall”? I just don’t get it.

Someone who knows football should explain this to me (someone whose handle doesn’t begin with a “w”) :)

Carolina Panthers Sideline Comforter Twin

August 25th, 2012
11:02 am

Wow! Great post. It’s good to know that there is someone appreciating how really good you are. It’s giving that you’re so proud of. Thank’s a lot for sharing.

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