Flexibility continues to be a theme at Georgia Tech’s spring football practice. Not only does the new staff want players to be able to play multiple positions, it is also encouraging some players to be available on both offense and defense, something rarely done at the Division I level.
In the team’s first scrimmage last weekend, there were at least 10 players who lined up at an offensive and defensive position. It’s part of the message that coach Geoff Collins has delivered since he was hired in December.
Perhaps the most eager player to change sides is senior Jahaziel Lee, who has been a starter on the offensive line and is campaigning to play on the defensive line. Lee was a defensive lineman at Ponchatula (La.) High School and has lobbied for the chance to jump back over there on a limited, if not full-time, basis.
“I was urging coach to let me go over there,” Lee said. “I’ve been texting him, like, ‘Coach, what can I do to go over there?’”
Lee got his first opportunity of the spring last week to play defensive line and impressed the staff. He played there in the scrimmage, too. Lee (6-foot-2, 287 pounds) has played 31 games and made 18 starts on the offensive line since arriving at Georgia Tech; he’s started at tackle and was willing to learn to play center, where he started to open the 2018 season.
Now he’s pushing for a move to defense and is already applauding his own efforts. “I had a hell of a day,” Lee said after his first chance to play defense in practice last week. “Coach liked what he saw.”
Defensive line coach Larry Knight grinned at the assessment. He likes the enthusiasm, but isn’t ready to sign off on the switch. Not just yet.
“I think he’s doing a good job,” Knight said. “He’s only done it a couple of days, but he takes coaching very well. He has a natural takeoff, he’s a good kid, he listens. I’m happy with what I’m seeing out of him.”
The Yellow Jackets need all the help they can get on the defensive line. The position was already thin with the graduation of Anree Saint-Amour, Kyle Cerge-Henderson and Desmond Branch, then suffered a huge blow with the death of tackle Brandon Adams. It has caused the staff to look outside the box.
“It’s a developmental program,” outside linebackers coach Marco Coleman said. “If one guy goes down, it’s going to be a process because every guy has to continue to work to develop into the type of player we need. How much can you handle? That’s kind of a way for us to find out what type of young men we have, what they can handle as we go into the season.”
Defensive linemen Antwan Owens and Ja’Quan Griffin spent some time on the offensive side during scrimmage. Others who played both sides at the scrimmage were wide receiver Jalen Camp, cornerback Tre Swilling, receiver Jair Hawkins-Anderson, running back Austin Nash, offensive lineman Brad Morgan, cornerback Ajani Kerr and safety Kaleb Oliver.
Things were kept simple at the scrimmage. Collins said the defense called just six plays and the offense executed “three run and five passing concepts” out of different formations. The team ran 120 plays and ended with a placekicking competition.
The Yellow Jackets practice again on Thursday and will hold their second scrimmage on Saturday. The spring game will be April 26.