ATLANTA — On Saturday, Julian Burnett was running with Georgia Tech’s second- and third-string units at linebacker. By Monday, he moved significantly further up the depth chart.
During his post-practice media session Tuesday afternoon, Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson said the sophomore was set to get more chances to shine at the position, as a key change in the secondary will thrust him more into view.
Macon native Julian Burnett stands a good chance to play more at inside linebacker now that switches have been made in Georgia Tech's defense. Photo Credit: rivals.com
Previous to Monday, Burnett — a Macon native and former Westside standout — had been mixed into the shuffle at inside linebacker with juniors Steven Sylvester and Kyle Jackson. The trio was playing behind redshirt freshman Brandon Watts and senior Brad Jefferson, who Johnson earlier this preseason named starters on the inside.
As of Monday morning, Sylvester was been moved to outside linebacker to take a spot vacated by junior Albert Rocker, who took Sylvester’s place on the inside.
The musical chair carousel puts Burnett in an advantageous position.
“We moved Steven Sylvester outside, so Julian’s getting a few more turns in there,” Johnson said. “We’ll see how he takes hold in there. Hopefully it’s a permanent thing.”
A true freshman last season, Burnett played in every game but one. The two-time All-Middle Georgia selection had 41 tackles in 2009, including 1.5 sacks.
“Just trying to get the best 11 on the field,” Johnson said of the switches.
Burnett enjoyed a strong showing Saturday in the Yellow Jackets’ lone scrimmage of the preseason.
With the offense driving into goal line territory, Burnett’s defense was playing with its feet in the end zone. Suddenly, as the quarterback attempted a pass across the middle of the short-yardage field, Burnett leapt up and intercepted the pass before taking it more than 30 yards downfield on the return.
Sometime in the next six or seven days, the Yellow Jackets will know who their team captains will be for the season.
Earlier this week, Johnson indicated that he likely would install two permanent captains whose responsibilities, in part, would include conducting coin tosses and caring for the general welfare and leadership of the team.
The Yellow Jackets will also have two other captains each week, who will be chosen on a rotating basis, Johnson said. With 16 scholarship seniors, Georgia Tech has many other players who ought to have the opportunity to lead the team onto the field, he added.
“(It’s) so all the seniors get a chance to do it,” he said.
Last season, the Yellow Jackets only had two scholarship seniors, so duties such as the coin toss, were also shared among some of their standout juniors.
Jackets get transfer
Georgia Tech confirmed Tuesday that it had received a transfer from Rutgers, who would begin playing as soon as NCAA regulations allow.
Rules typically state that players must sit out a year after transferring before becoming eligible to play at the school they transferred to.
Morgan Carter, a linebacker for the Scarlet Knights has already enrolled at Georgia Tech and will come as a walk-on.
According to The Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.), Carter’s departure was announced Aug. 3, and he decided to leave the program largely due to lack of playing time. At Georgia Tech, he will play outside linebacker, Johnson said.
Nesbitt, Tarrant on watch list
Quarterback Joshua Nesbitt and safety Jerrard Tarrant on Tuesday were named to the Paul Hornung Award watch list, recognizing college football's most versatile player.
The Louisville (Ky.) Sports Commission announced the 48-player list, citing a players' ability to play multiple positions and to be a playmaking threat for their teams. Tarrant, who starred in both the secondary and on special teams last year was a definite no-brainer. He returned two punts for touchdowns, and took back an interception for a score during the Orange Bowl last January.
Nesbitt, whose game is predicated mostly on running, became Georgia Tech's first quarterback to pass for 1,000 yards and to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season last year. With a body frame that could play other positions, some argue that Nesbitt's athleticism makes him more than just a quarterback.
After opening last week’s scrimmage to fans and media, the Yellow Jackets will hold a closed intra-squad workout this Saturday inside Bobby Dodd Stadium at 4 p.m.
Typically, the team likes to hold its Saturday workouts in the morning, but will be making a change to accommodate another event early in the day.
Before practice, the Yellow Jackets may be attending funeral services for Fred Uzzi, the late father of offensive guard Omoregie Uzzi, Johnson said.
Fred Uzzi died Aug. 5.