Joe Speed on the Middle Linebackers

Coach Joe Speed made the move from Navy to Georgia Tech this past spring. Since his arrival at Tech, Coach Speed has been busy helping the inside linebackers as they learn the new 3-4 defense being installed by Coach Al Groh. It's been a learning process not only for the players but also for Coach Speed.

For those of us who wait for the team to arrive at Calloway Plaza following practice, the first sign that the team is on the way from Rose Bowl Field is Coach Speed sprinting down the road towards the plaza. This is a daily occurrence and one that Coach Speed says is all about time management.

Coach Speed has noticed similarities in the regimen of the players at Tech that are similar to those he saw at the Naval Academy. "Coming to an institution like Georgia Tech you see a lot of similarities," said Coach Speed. "This is an academic school and the players are very respectful and they're not just here to play football." Coach Speed is looking forward to getting to know the players more. "The more I learn about them the more I'm impressed with their backgrounds and what they stand for."

One of the things that Coach Speed and Coach Groh are looking for are players that are coachable. "We have players that are highly recruited and we're looking for them to swallow their ego and be willing to listen and move forward." One thing that Coach Speed has noticed is that the guys that are willing to listen are the guys that make the most progress. "I'm in the same boat as the players, learning and listening to Coach Groh's schemes and trying to get better every day."

There is not one thing that stands out for Coach Speed in learning from Coach Groh. "Every day is a clinic and this man has been coaching on the college level or the professional level for forty three years and he has a wealth of knowledge to pass on and my ears are wide open."

The Georgia Tech fan base is also trying to learn the defense and Coach Speed did some teaching of his own to try and help the fans better understand the middle linebacker position. His teaching was simple and to the point. "Our inside linebackers are called the "Mike" and the "Jack" and their main function is to go downhill to the football."

His group of players is a mixture of veterans and young guys. "We have a group of guys who have come a long way since the spring and have learned what it takes to do a good job." Brad Jefferson is one of those players. "One of the tools that he brings is his knowledge and he's picking the defense up pretty fast," said Coach Speed. "We're pleased with his off-season workouts, his dedication to the team, and we think he'll be a positive influence for the team."

One of the players that are trying to take advantage of those clinics and teachings is redshirt freshman linebacker Brandon Watts. Watts watched his teammates play as a freshman and is looking to do his part this season. "I just want to go out and work hard every day and hopefully I can get on the field and show what I can do." Brandon Watts is a real good player who has a nose for the ball and is learning the defense, makes strides every day, and he can flat out play," said Coach Speed.

Watts is now learning the second defense in his two years at Georgia Tech but he's taking it all in stride. "It's a process and we just try to go out there every day and learn from our mistakes."

There was one thing that Brandon learned from his first year at Tech and he's passing that on to the freshman that have just arrived at Tech. "Just stay in the playbook every chance they get and it will pay off for them." Watts and his teammates are responding in a positive manner to the coach's ability to teach. "We have meetings every day, we work on different formations for different defenses, and we just go out and try to execute and then correct our mistakes at night."

When Watts needs help or assistance, he only has to look to his side on the field to get that help from Brad Jefferson. "He helps me line up sometimes and he helps me with a lot of stuff."

Watts agrees with the coaches that competition makes the players better. He was recently tabbed a starter at inside linebacker, but is experiencing that competition every day. "We work hard every drill." Steven Sylvester, Julian Burnett, and Kyle Jackson continue to push Brandon and make the inside linebacker corp a talented and deep position for the Jackets in 2010. Top Stories