Part of the exploration process this spring for Georgia Tech has been the search for starters on the defensive line.
Patrick Gamble, a mainstay at defensive tackle, is the biggest loss. His leadership, dependability and versatility were important last year, and he was always willing to play, even when he wasn’t close to being 100 percent.
Also moving on was Rod Rook-Chungong, a serviceable player at end, and Francis Kallon, the longshot project who could end up signing an NFL contract.
Their departure leaves some holes that need to be patched, and this spring several players have stepped forward and shown their intention to enhance their roles this fall.
The leader of the group is senior KeShun Freeman, a LaGrange product who was a True Freshman All-America in 2014. Freeman (6-foot-2, 250) has played in all 39 games since his arrival and started 37. He is a likely contender for All-ACC honors and is without question the leader of the group.
“I’m excited about the guys we have,” Freeman said. “We’ve been working hard in the offseason. As a whole, we want to make sure each person is fundamentally smart, where everyone does the small things right. That leads to doing the big things right.”
He mentioned things like fundamentals, being in the right set, having hands in the right place and eyes in the right spot.
“Right now we’re just making sure everybody is doing those small things really well,” Freeman said. “And that will lead to the next level.”
At the other end spot, senior Antonio Simmons is expected to move into the starting role. Simmons is undersized at 235 pounds but he is a high-effort player.
“I know I’ve got to step my game up to another level,” he said. “I feel like I can get way better, and I feel like I can produce at a high level.”
The tackles include Kyle Cerge-Henderson, Brentavious Glanton and Brandon Adams.
Cerge-Henderson played all 13 games in 2016 after playing six as a true freshman. He had 14 solo tackles and 12 assists, with one sack and a fumble recovery. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, product should start at one of the open tackle slots.
“I think we can finish a lot better than we did last year,” Cerge-Henderson said.
Adams has shed about 15 pounds — he played at 350 last season — and has the potential to be a stopper on the interior. Adams said his stamina has improved, and the Yellow Jackets may be able to use him for more than just two or three plays at a time. He played nine games last year. Glanton played six games last season and had a sack. The Albany product was redshirted in 2015.
The annual spring game will be played at 7 p.m. on Friday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Admission is free.