ATLANTA -- For the past two springs, the Georgia Tech defense has been under the microscope, considered the aspect of the team that was holding things back.
That’s not the case this year. The Yellow Jackets are no longer considered to be defensively challenged. And that’s the way it should be, according to defensive coordinator Ted Roof.
“In the third year in the system, we have guys who know it and know the details of it,” Roof said. “The older players, you can see them help the younger players when they come off the sideline, telling them what they did wrong. That’s the kind of culture you want to continue to develop.”
Things began to turn toward the positive midway through the 2014 season. It happened the week after a poor defensive effort against North Carolina. The defense became known as a turnover machine, found a way to slow Georgia’s running attack just enough in the final regular-season game, came up one stop short in the ACC title game against Florida State and administered a whipping to Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl.
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During the first scrimmage Saturday, the defense looked solid. Roof stuck with the base defense and tried to give playing time to others and begin to develop depth. The defense came away with a pair of turnovers, but Roof said there should have been more.
“Overall, we’ve just got to continue to build our depth,” Roof said.
The defense has most of its pieces back. Jabari Hunt-Days, moving from outside linebacker to defensive end, is expected to be eligible for the fall after sitting out last season. He has the potential to be a game changer because of his size, strength and ability to disrupt.
Incumbent Justin Thomas is off-limit to tacklers during the spring. He’s wearing a gold jersey, and head coach Paul Johnson has instituted a no-touching policy.
Not so for backups Tim Byerly and Matthew Jordan. They’ll be fair game as the team prepares for the April 17 spring game at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Byerly, a fifth-year senior, played six games last year and rushed 45 times for 204 yards and seven touchdowns, mostly on goal-line situations. Jordan, a redshirt freshman, is going through his second spring practice after enrolling early a year ago. Jordan scored on a 1-yard run in the first scrimmage.
Brady Swilling, a third-year sophomore from Chatsworth, has been moved from quarterback to B-back. Swilling (6-foot-2, 213 pounds) can make the same successful transition as Synjyn Days, who began his career at Georgia Tech as a quarterback.
EX-GEORGIA TECH PLAYER DIES
Riccardo Ingram, a two-sport athlete at Georgia Tech, died of brain cancer on Tuesday night. He was 48.
Ingram was All-ACC as a defensive back in 1986, when he led the team in tackles. He was the ACC’s baseball player of the year in 1987 after hitting .426 with 17 homers and 99 RBI. He was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in 1995.
Ingram played briefly in the major leagues with Detroit and Minnesota.
“Very sad to hear,” said Roof, a teammate of Ingram’s. “He was a tremendous athlete, teammate and person. He’ll be missed.”