Interview with LB Coach BJ

Coach Brian Jean-Mary has the luxury of having his starting linebackers back healthy for the start of the 2009 season. Coach BJ talks about the journey that Sed Griffin has taken since he arrived at Georgia Tech, the importance of having healthy linebackers, and the new addition to the linebacker corp.

Are you satisfied with the progress the linebackers have made in preseason camp?

"I actually am. They've been more into what we're doing. They've had double duty going against the option and then coming back and going against conventional offense. I think they've bought in to what we've done by becoming better linebackers. We're not going to worry about scheming for the team we're playing. Sometimes that puts you in bad situations and sometimes that puts you into situations to be successful. They've never complained. Sometimes we've put them in situations where it's been a little difficult but they've been able to overcome it. I think they've become better linebackers because of it."

Has the depth at linebacker gotten to where you want it to be?

"It's getting there. We feel like we have six guys that if you had to put in a game they'd be able to play in the game. Will they all be able to play at the same level? Probably not. We feel like we have some guys no matter the situation that if we put them in they'd give us a chance to win."

Would you consider Julian Burnett to be one of the sleepers of the class?

"Yeah, but he wasn't to us. He's got a legendary reputation down there in Macon because of some of his exploits on the field. We knew what type of player he was. He comes from a very good program. He comes from a very highly thought of coach in Robert Davis. He had a glowing recommendation for him and that means a lot to us. If you watch him on film and talk to a lot of other coaches in the area, his was the name that kept popping up from opponents that he played against. You can watch films and you can watch highlight tapes and sometimes you don't get the true essence of the player until you see them in person. I never heard a bad word about him. When I watched him in person, it was almost a no-brainer in trying to get him up here."

Has he separated himself from B.J. Machen or are they still pretty close?

"They're still pretty close. He's probably had more productive scrimmages and has kinda made a few more plays. B.J. has his role on the team too and I expect him to play some."

How important is it to the defense to have Sed Griffin and Brad Jefferson healthy to start the year?

"It's very important. I always go back to the old saying "you can't win the race if your horse is not at the gate." You want to make sure you have a healthy group going into the season and you'd like to keep them healthy during the season. I think the most important thing is to have them feeling good about themselves and feeling good about the defense going into the season. Right now, knock on wood, we're at that point. We weren't last year and I think that makes a world of difference."

Sed has come a long way since he got here at Tech, hasn't he?

"Yeah, it's funny with Sed. I recruited him. He's from a very good program in South Carolina that is a smaller program but another one that is very well thought of in that state (Fairfield Central). He played for a good high school coach that is a friend of mine named Reggie Kennedy. He came in here as more of an athlete. He was a late bloomer so he was later in the recruiting process. He was always very fast and very physical but had problems playing within the framework of the defense. He had the horrific injury in the bowl game which really slowed him down. When Coach Johnson came here he had to buy into a new system and a new way of doing things. He's bought in. He's one of those guys that were at a crossroads. He was either going to leave the team or become a very good player. He's chosen to be a very good player and we're better off because of it."

The fan base likes to talk about A.T. Barnes. How does he fit into the scheme of things now that he's back from his injury?

"He's catching up. Injuries are a part of it. He had a little bit of a reoccurrence from his fracture from last season. He had to just rest it a which, which put him behind a little bit. He's going to catch up. He's got a lot of want to. He's going to have to be a part of our defense if we're going to be successful. He's being patient and we want to make sure he's being healthy. He does have a part in what we're trying to do on defense. He's got some ability. He's just got to put it all together. He hasn't been able to do that because of injuries and other things. If he can get back to where he was we're hoping to get him on the field. He's got some playmaking ability."

Can you talk a little about Steven Sylvester and is it safe to say he could be starting for some teams in the ACC?

"That's a fair assessment. Steven's another linebacker with a lot of ability. He kinda got thrown into the fire last season when he was kinda on the bubble for a redshirt. That was not because of ability but because of depth at the position. He was able to get his feet wet and play sparingly. I think that has helped him. The thing we want Steven to do is take the role of a starter mentality because he's going to play a lot for us. We want him to almost think of himself as the third starting inside linebacker because we're going to need him to be a playmaker. Like you said, he's got a lot of ability and could play for a lot of teams in this conference. He's going to be a good player. We just want him to be a good player this year. There's no reason that just because you're backing up a good player that you can't take the role as a starter yourself and be a playmaker and push the guy in front of you. Who knows what could happen? I expect him to play that way and to play as a starter and at an all-conference level."


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