After offseason video study and two sessions of spring practice, Georgia Tech linebacker Brant Mitchell offered his approval for the 3-4 defense being installed by new defensive coordinator Nate Woody.
After playing in a 4-2-5, an alignment in which he was on the field with one other linebacker, the 3-4 puts Mitchell on the field with three other linebackers.
“The more you can get of your own kind, the better,” Mitchell said with a laugh. “I like it. It comes with the defense being more aggressive and a lot faster. I think the guys seem to like it a lot.”
As Woody, previously at Appalachian State, begins his tenure at Tech, Mitchell isn’t alone in finding reason to get excited about the new defensive coordinator and two new position coaches, defensive line coach Jerome Riase and safeties coach Shiel Wood.
“A lot more upbeat, I would say,” defensive lineman Anree Saint-Amour said. “Everybody’s trying to push you to be the best. All coaches do the same thing. But it’s just a different way of getting it out.”
As a senior, Saint-Amour is again learning new terminology, plays and responsibilities. He’s also getting used to playing on a line with only three linemen as opposed to four.
At defensive end end, “I can move a little bit more, more tight up on the (offensive tackle) instead of outside all the time,” he said.
Saint-Amour, whose 2.5 sacks last season were most among returnees, said a big difference for him compared with playing defensive end in former defensive coordinator Ted Roof’s 4-3 is “just speed, getting vertical off the ball, off the snap, instead of staying on the line.”
In the 3-4 that Woody coaches, linemen are tasked with penetrating gaps to create pressure in the backfield, a tactic that helped Appalachian State finish in the top 25 nationally in sacks in two of the past three years. Improving the pass rush is imperative for Tech, whose best finish in the past three seasons for sacks was a tie for 107th.
“It’s different, but we’re learning fast, and we like the new coaches,” Saint-Amour said. “They’re really up-tempo and they’re pushing us the right way.”
Cornerback Lamont Simmons made a similar comparison between Woody and Roof, now a co-defensive coordinator at N.C. State.
“He’s very different, I would say that,” Simmons said of Woody. “Very aggressive. Everything’s different, but I like it a lot.”
Woody and his staff have been moving players to different spots to find best fits. Safeties have been at outside linebacker, a spot often called to blitz off the edge. Linebackers have been shifted along the four spots. Likewise the defensive linemen and the three line positions.
“It’s constantly changing,” Mitchell said. “So one of the things that coaches have told us is they’re going through a process of looking at the personnel and seeing who’s going to fit best at which position. Every day it changes.”
Going into his third year as a starter, Mitchell described the scheme as an “attack-style defense.”
“I feel like we love it as a whole,” Mitchell said. “I think there’s a lot of energy surrounding the defense right now, and it’s positive energy, and I think we can only go up from here.”
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