Until the second session of spring practice, the last time that Georgia Tech senior Brad Morgan played defense was his freshman season. Of high school.
But now, Morgan appears to have found a home playing defensive tackle after having played on the offensive line his first three seasons with the Yellow Jackets. He was there in Saturday’s scrimmage, the first of the spring, his first day back after missing the previous four practices with an Achilles tendon injury.
“It’s fun,” Morgan said. “I still have a lot to learn, obviously, but that’s the challenge. And I plan to pursue it pretty well.”
Coach Geoff Collins has been moving pieces around quite frequently in his first spring with the Yellow Jackets. Morgan was one of 10 players that he named after the scrimmage who have switched sides like Morgan or been used on both offense and defense. The others – wide receivers Jalen Camp, Jair Hawkins-Anderson and Austin Nash, linebacker Bruce Jordan-Swilling, offensive lineman Jahaziel Lee, defensive linemen Quon Griffin and Antwan Owens, cornerback Ajani Kerr and safety Kaleb Oliver.
Some moves may be to add depth, such as Morgan’s, or to give a player to earn playing time. Others are to find different ways to get talent on the field. Camp, for instance, is a returning starter at wide receiver. But Collins took a look at him in Tuesday and Thursday’s practices in a defensive passing-down package as an outside linebacker/defensive end coming off the edge.
“It’s pretty cool, and it just kind of shows that you have value for the team that he wants you to play both sides,” Camp said. “So it’s pretty cool. It changes your mindset, being that offensive guy, the swag, the kind of prima donna wide receiver, and now you’re in the trenches with the d-linemen.”
It is part of Collins’ philosophy to extract value from each player, and spring is a particularly useful time to experiment. He calls it position flexibility.
“Just having a lot of guys doing a lot of different things as we manage the roster in different positions to see what guys can do and how they can help us,” Collins said.
Collins said that the team’s terminology system eases the switching. The terms that the offense uses to describe defensive schemes or plays are the same ones that the defense uses, he said, and vice versa.
Camp, who played safety and linebacker in high school but not defensive line, reported that he didn’t get any sacks in the two practices, but had a couple of pressures. Collins said that Camp looked really good in the two practices.
Tech could stand to find some help in creating pressure off the edge. Of returnees, safety Christian Campbell had the most sacks last season, with two. The Jackets tied for 117th last season, with 1.31 sacks per game. Temple tied for 24th (2.77 per game). One of the Owls’ 36 sacks was recorded by starting running back Ryquell Armstead, who played in a third-down package and also on special teams.
As for the scrimmage, Collins said that both the offense and defense ran only a portion of plays and concepts that they had learned thus far.
“We just wanted to see who would play fast, play with effort, compete, and I thought they came out here and did that,” he said.
Collins noted that Lee, who has moved from the offensive line to the defensive line, made back-to-back tackles for loss.
“Really excited about him,” Collins said. “He’s a really good player.”
Other players he mentioned were Owens and linebacker Quez Jackson, although he said he was more concerned with running the scrimmage than looking for standouts.
“I just look at it as an entire program and just the energy, the enthusiasm, the competitiveness and the effort were at a really high standard (Saturday), and that’s the thing that really stands out to me,” he said.
Tech will have two more weeks of spring practice, concluding with the spring game April 26 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
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