In his position group, Georgia Tech safeties coach Nathan Burton has a returning starter in Tariq Carpenter, a potential star in Juanyeh Thomas and, in Kaleb Oliver, another player who has the look of a playmaker. Burton figures to have the group intact for the next two seasons, part of probably the strongest position group on defense.
“They play well, they’re a smart group and they’re getting better,” Burton said of his position group following Tuesday’s spring-practice workut. “And the best thing about them is they want to do well, they want success and they also want to see their teammates succeed.”
The group also includes Christian Campbell, Avery Showell, Gentry Bonds and Jarett Cole.
“We’ve got some elite depth, and we’re going to continue to build that,” Burton said.
Burton has players rotating between free safety, strong safety and the nickel. Carpenter (strong) and Thomas (free) could well be the safety tandem with Oliver at the nickel. Thomas is a player who, while a sophomore, has taken a leadership role with the group and on the defense.
“Naturally, he has a lot of juice, a lot of energy,” Burton said. “He has a great attitude, and I think that goes a long way. People look for him. He’s like our little energy plug.”
Carpenter started all 13 games last season at strong safety as a sophomore. As a freshman, Thomas backed up Malik Rivera at free safety and was a playmaker on special teams. Oliver, a redshirt freshman, was backup to Carpenter. Campbell, after playing backup safety as a sophomore, moved to linebacker in the 3-4 last season and is now back at safety. At the end of Tuesday’s practice, Campbell and Thomas were at the safety spots with the “A” defense, with Oliver at the nickel.
“I just feel more comfortable,” Thomas said. “You’re always going to be nervous in your first year. Now, I’m getting into the role, now I’m getting more comfortable with the defense.”
They’ve begun well with Burton, who played safety at Tech 2001-04.
“I honestly feel like he’s a college student just like me,” Campbell said. “He literally was in the same position I am in – went to Georgia Tech, he played safety, so he knows what’s going on. He can understand what it’s like. He jokes with us. It’s awesome.”