Georgia Tech defensive line expects little change, more results

Georgia Tech defensive lineman Jahaziel Lee (51) is expected back from a season-ending leg injury.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

This is the second in a nine-part series that will preview Georgia Tech’s spring football practice, which begins March 3. Today: Defensive line | Yesterday: Special teams | Tomorrow: Linebackers

DEFENSIVE LINE
Who's gone: DT Brentavious Glanton
Who's back: DE Chico Bennett, DT Djimon Brooks, DT T.K. Chimedza, DE Antonneous Clayton, DE Kelton Dawson, DE Justice Dingle, DT D'Quan Douse, DT Ja'Quon Griffin, DE Jaquan Henderson, DE Luke Johns, DT Jahaziel Lee, DT Mike Lockhart, DT Chris Martin, DE Antwan Owens, DE Curtis Ryans, DE Sylvain Yondjouen
Who's new: DT Akelo Stone
Projected starters: Clayton, Chimedza, Brooks, Domineck

Georgia Tech’s pass rush, which created 1.4 sacks per game (tied for 111th in FBS) and permitted opponents to complete 60.4% of passes (tied for 68th in FBS) could see a significant improvement with no change to the roster.

Simply, the eligibility of defensive end Antonneous Clayton after sitting out the 2019 season as a transfer from Florida could provide a lift to Tech's defense in his lone season with the Yellow Jackets. He is a reason for excitement as Tech begins spring practice March 3.

“I think this year, he’ll perform pretty well,” said former Tech defensive tackle Brentavious Glanton, a senior on last season’s team. “He’ll put up some pretty good numbers and hopefully have a chance to play on Sundays.”

Georgia Tech defensive linemen Antonneous Clayton and Kelton Dawson converse on the sidelines Aug. 2, 2019, at Alexander Rose Bowl Field. 

Glanton, a teammate of Clayton’s for the 2019 season, had plenty of good words regarding Clayton, who had sought an immediate-eligibility waiver to play last season but was turned down. Among other things, Glanton described him as hardworking, a great teammate and a joy to be around.

Also, “he has a lot of power for a guy that size,” Glanton said of Clayton, listed at 6-foot-2 and 265 pounds. “He has long arms and he works his hands really well when he’s pass rushing.”

He similarly impressed former offensive tackle Jared Southers, who jousted against Glanton in practice.

“He’s a strong guy, he plays very hard,” Southers said last November. “He’s gotten way bigger than he was in the preseason. He works his tail off and he’s put on a lot of weight, added a lot of strength. He’s a powerful guy and he gives it his all.

In spring practice, Clayton can take part with the full confidence that he’ll be playing in the fall. It is among the more significant facets of coach Geoff Collins’ second spring at Tech.

Clayton’s motivation level is likely high going into the spring. In a tweet from the end of last season, he thanked seniors on the team for welcoming him and announced his plan for “taking over the ACC next year.”

Clayton, though, is only one piece along the line, a group that was young, inexperienced and often physically controlled last season. It was evident in the struggles that Tech had against the run, finishing 117th in rushing defense (215.3 yards per game) and 101st in yards per carry (4.79 yards per attempt). Only one opponent — South Florida — was kept under 150 rushing yards.

“I think just that room in general has got a chance to perform at a high level,” Glanton said. “Last year, we were pretty young. We got those guys some experience.”

At the tackle spots, three tackles who started a combined 17 games — T.K. Chimedza, Chris Martin and Djimon Brooks — will compete this spring with Jahaziel Lee (expected back from a season-ending leg injury) and Ja’Quon Griffin. Mike Lockhart, who redshirted last season, also will be in the mix.

It’s expected that Lee, who played on both the offensive and defensive lines last year before his injury, will stick with defense in his final season. Lee, who had played offensive line in his first three seasons before taking a redshirt last season, could make an impact, as he can devote himself to continue learning defensive tackle.

Early-enrollee freshman Akelo Stone also will be given a chance to prove his ability at tackle in his first spring.

At end, a group of sophomores will try to continue progress made last season, including Chico Bennett, Justice Dingle, Jordan Domineck, Curtis Ryans and Sylvain Yondjouen. Last season as freshmen, all five showed promise as playmakers at end. Bennett is expected back after surgery ended his season after seven games.

Senior Antwan Owens and junior Kelton Dawson are two more ends who will be counted on to develop under defensive ends coach Marco Coleman.

Glanton said that, while Bennett needs to add weight to his 6-foot-4 frame (he was listed at 228 pounds last season) and develop technically, “I think he could be a name to watch. He’s got the length, the quickness, the speed.”

More help will come in August, as defensive ends Jared Ivey (North Gwinnett High), Emmanuel Johnson (North Charleston, S.C.) and Kyle Kennard (Riverwood High) will be on the roster.

THE SERIES

Monday: Special teams
Today: Defensive line
Wednesday: Linebackers
Thursday: Defensive backs
Friday: Offensive line
Saturday: Tight ends
Sunday: Quarterbacks
Monday: Wide receivers
Tuesday: Running backs

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