From a statistical standpoint, Georgia Tech finished the season 5th in the ACC in total defense but they were 9th in scoring defense. They are also ranked 54th in the country in total defense and an equally poor 77th in scoring defense. Special teams didn't help matters for the defense and the resulting field position contributed to the poor scoring defense ranking.
This offseason will an important one for the defense and there are three major developments to follow in the off-season. First will be the defensive coordinator hire. Following this is what defensive schemes are used by the new coordinator (3-4 vs 4-3 vs multiple vs something else). Finally, how the players adapt to the new coordinator and scheme in the spring should be telling as to how things go for the 2013 campaign.
From a personnel standpoint, the good news is that this group returns 18 of the top 22 from the depth chart. While they were a poor unit in 2013, they should be significantly deeper and more experienced in 2013 and if they adapt to the new schemes and coordinator, that should pay dividends. Defensive end Izaan Cross, cornerback Rod Sweeting, and nose tackle T.J. Barnes will be the only starters lost on defense due to graduation. Malcom Munroe is the only other contributor that won't be back in 2013. Jeremiah Attaochu, Emmanuel Dieke, and Louis Young have all asked for NFL evaluations. But, none of them are expected to leave early for the NFL at this point.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE/NOSE TACKLE – T.J. Barnes will be the only loss.
There are no players coming off redshirt years. Shawn Green returns with a full year of experience under his belt. There is also the possibility that someone like Adam Gotsis could be moved inside depending on whether Tech stays in the 3-4 or moves to a 4-3. It will also be interesting if a move to a 4-3 happens whether or not it will result in another other defensive ends moving inside.
DEFENSIVE END – Izaan Cross is the lone loss.
This may be the one defensive position that will show the most improvement in 2013. As you will see, depth is not an issue at this position at this point. Euclid Cummings and Emmanuel Dieke both return with starting experience. Anthony Williams started to get more reps as the season wore on as was the case with the aforementioned Gotsis. Meanwhile, among the freshmen, Roderick Chungong, Francis Kallon, and Patrick Gamble all are coming off redshirt years. Gamble is a player that the coaches are very excited about after watching him in practice all year. He has the size and strength to contribute immediately. Kallon has the physical tools to become a good player but he is still learning the game. Getting reps will be important for him to improve. Chungong is the one recruit that is flying under the radar. He has gotten bigger and stronger since enrolling and he'll be one to watch in the spring.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS – Malcolm Munroe is the only loss within the depth chart.
Brandon Watts and Jeremiah Attaochu are the returning starters. Attaochu finished 4th in the ACC in sacks and Georgia Tech will need a big year from him. Chris Crenshaw is the lone returning backup with any significant experience. Tyler Marcordes, Tremayne McNair, and Nick Menocal are the other backups that they'll be looking at to get more playing time. All three have gained football experience playing on special teams.
MIDDLE LINEBACKER – There are no losses.
This is the one position that will return the most experienced depth. Quayshawn Nealy, Jabari Hunt-Days, and Daniel Drummond all return with starting experience. Anthony Harrell returns as the most experienced of the backups. Kyle Travis gained most of his experience on special teams. Beau Hankins and Tyler Stargel are coming off redshirt years in which they have received praise from the coaching staff. With the depth at middle linebacker, it would not be a surprise if one or both players see some time at outside linebacker.
SECONDARY – Rod Sweeting is the lone loss.
The Jackets return starters in Louis Young, Jemea Thomas, and Isaiah Johnson. It should be noted that there are several defensive backs that have played multiple positions which could lead to some shuffling in the secondary. One of those players is Jamal Golden. He started the year at safety and then was moved back to corner. He got reps at the end of the season in the sub packages and headed in to 2013, he will compete strongly for a starting job. Next, Jemea Thomas was moved from corner to safety at the time Golden made his move. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him back at corner. Chris Milton is the third player that has played both defensive back positions. Like Golden he got reps at the end of the season in the sub packages. Demond Smith and Domonique Noble got most of their reps on special teams in 2012. Getting that kind of experience proved to be valuable for Milton and led to his getting reps with the defense later in the season. Fred Holton is another player that returns. However, Holton has spent the last 2 seasons out due to injury and while he is expected to return, it is expected that it may take some time for him to return to form. Freshman D.J.White is another defensive back that the coaches like. He will also compete for a starting job next season after getting some reps at the end of the season. Finally, Lynn Griffin is coming off his redshirt year and could compete for playing time at safety. The coach have spoken highly of Griffin. When looking at the overall group, this secondary unit will have experienced starters as well as depth and it will be interesting to see how the pieces are put together by the coaches.