June 6, 2009

Jackets rebuilding defensive line

The biggest question mark facing the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets heading into the 2009 season is the defensive line. The Yellow Jackets return most of their offensive and defensive starters except on the defensive line where seniors Michael Johnson, Darryl Richard, and Vance Walker. Several new faces are ready to rotate and step up to replace the departed starters.

"We lost a lot of talented players on the defensive line," head coach Paul Johnson said. "We are going to be kind of by committee there. We ended the spring with Derrick Morgan as the lone returning starter. He may have been the best player last year there, but was overshadowed by Johnson. He needs to be the anchor at defensive end."

Morgan was second on the team with seven sacks last season two sacks behind Johnson.

To replace Richard and Walker at defensive tackle the Yellow Jackets moved Jason Peters from defensive end and Ben Anderson who was a reserve during the 2008 season at defensive tackle. Robert Hall will likely replace Johnson at the open defensive end position.

"Jason Peters moved inside. He and Ben Anderson ended the spring as the starting tackles," Johnson said. "At the other end is a young man Robert Hall who played some last year and was in for a few plays every game. He probably got 15 to 20 snaps a game. He and Anthony Egbuniwe ended the spring on top. A very young freshman Emmanuel Dieke, who I call too tall because I cannot pronounce his name, had a good spring practice. We have some other freshmen coming in on the defense line as well."

Another player who will figure into the mix at defensive tackle is T.J. Barnes.

Inside we have two guys we are really excited about. T.J. Barnes who redshirted is six-foot-seven and weighs 345 pounds. He was 360 when we started and he has a goal to get down to 330 pounds in the fall in time for camp. T.J. is a funny guy. We weigh him in two or three times a week and he got down to 340 and he was all excited."

Five freshmen defensive linemen will attempt to get into the mix as well including defensive ends, Euclid Cummings, Chris Crenshaw, and Izaan Cross. In the middle the Yellow Jackets top signee for 2009, J.C. Lanier should be an immediate contributor.

"J.C. Lanier is a young man who will be coming in at a svelte 320 pounds," Johnson said. "As we get further into the season we are hoping we will have some good guys to anchor down the defensive line. We will have them for a long time and we do not want to rush them into anything, but we have got some guys who are ready to play."

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