Inside Linebackers Up to Speed

The linebacker position is probably the one defensive position that everyone is watching the closest this spring. Not only will they be moving to the new 3-4 but they'll also be coached by two new members of the staff.

One of the two new coaches is Joe Speed. Speed comes to Georgia Tech after coaching at the Naval Academy for the past eight years. Six of those years were served under Coach Paul Johnson. Coach Speed will be helping defensive coordinator Al Groh and will be responsible for the two inside backers. He's had two weeks to watch the linebackers adjust to the new defense this spring. "They're coming along well."

With the new coaches aboard, it will be a fresh start for some of the players that have not played much at the linebacker position or have been moved from another position. "When you have a change in coaching staff it definitely opens up everything," said Speed. "They have a fresh chance to impress us."

The first thing one notices is how much attention to detail is being paid by Coach Speed and Coach Groh. "We're going to teach the guys the basic fundamentals to try and make it easy for them. Speed feels if they have their eyes in the right place and use their physical abilities then they'll succeed. "Schemes aren't going to win it's the individuals that are going to win," said Speed. "If they can read their keys and execute their basic fundamentals that's what's most important."

Speed had a chance to see some of the guys working out prior to the spring and also watched some film. "There have been some surprises with these guys getting into a new system but it's coming along nicely." Speed has been impressed with Brad Jefferson and feels that Steven Sylvester is coming along. "We've got Brandon Watts who's coming along well and those guys are working hard and doing the right things." B.J. Machen is another name that Coach Speed likes on the inside. For now, it looks like there won't be any movement from inside to outside. "For now they're insiders but who knows with our substitution package if there will be a switch or two."

Brad Jefferson returns as the veteran member of the linebacker group. Jefferson is pleased with the early results. "We're looking good." Jefferson and his fellow linebackers are working on fundamentals and learning how to take on blockers as the first step in learning the new defense.

Jefferson feels that the new defense will be suited for certain players like Rocker, Tongo, and Barnes who got lost in the shuffle last season. "When the new defense came, they got their spots back, said Jefferson. "They got put aside last year but when the new defense came they started making plays out there."

Brad feels good about the new defense that is using two inside linebackers. "It's just a head-on mano y mano." That type of defense seems to suit Jefferson to a tee.

The players have taken well to the new coaches. "They're great coaches and they're doing good things," said Jefferson. "There's no doubt that Coach Groh is the head of the defense." The players have bought into the new defense.The chance for a new start has only helped to intensify the competition as the linebackers have already begun to show improvement after a few weeks of spring practice. Top Stories