Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof said that he expects a big year from defensive end KeShun Freeman this season.
Photo: Danny Karnik/GTAA
Photo: Danny Karnik/GTAA

Q&A: Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof

Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof met with reporters after Tuesday’s practice to share updates and his perspective on his unit as he goes into his fifth season back with the Yellow Jackets. He also answered a couple of questions about having his son, T.D., on the roster as a freshman linebacker.

Q: How do you compare the talent this year with some other years since you’ve been here?

A: I don’t worry about that. I don’t worry about that right now. I just worry about getting better. It doesn’t matter. That’s a useless comparison. It’s just time to go to work.

Q: It seems like you have more bodies than in the past. I think you have 40 (scholarship players) right now.

A: It appears we have a little bit more depth at this time, yeah.

Q: How are you fitting in guys like Kaleb (Oliver) or Avery (Showell)? Where do they slot in terms of their positions?

A: Kaleb, we’re rolling those guys right now we’re working them in the secondary between nickel and safety. We’ve got a lot of similar guys like that. One of the goals for camp is to, at the end of camp, to figure out, OK, who are the guys that are ready to play? And then, once, we start preparing for an opponent, then insert those people in those positions and get them reps doing that.

Right now, those freshmen, all of them, their heads are spinning right now, by design. But that’s OK. We just want to see them run and hit, and if they make a mistake, accept coaching and be able to correct it, so they don’t make the same mistake again and again and again. Guys that can do that, that can take coaching, that can run and hit, we’ll find roles for them. But you asked about freshmen. The success of this team isn’t going to come down to freshmen.

Q: How are things looking with the linebackers?

A: O.K. I think they came in in good shape and worked hard so far. I know you’re probably going to be shocked to hear me say this, but we’ve got a long way to go.

Q: Who’s working at weakside linebacker right now?

A: We’ve got several guys. We’ve got Vic (Alexander) and Terrell (Lewis) and Jakob Brashear, Chris Dandaneau, T.D. Roof, Jaquan Henderson. So we’ve got some guys there. 

Q: And then when you go to 4-3, who’s the sam linebacker?

A: Terrell Lewis, David Curry and T.D.

Q: How is David Curry?

A: He’s doing good. He’s trying to work his way into the rotation, and he’s in a battle for that right now. We’ve got some guys, between the guys like him and Tre Jackson and Tyler Cooksey, we’ve got to have somebody break out of that pack. Competition has made them all better, but we’ve got to have somebody separate themselves and that’s what the next couple weeks are going to determine.

September 17, 2016 Atlanta - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets linebacker Terrell Lewis (52) reacts after they shut down Vanderbilt Commodores quarterback Kyle Shurmur (14) in the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, September 17, 2016. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets won 38-7 over the Vanderbilt Commodores. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC/Hyosub Shin/AJC

Q: In the spring, you went slower in teaching to make sure guys understood things backwards and forwards. I’m curious if you’ve had the same pace.

A: No, we’ve gone a lot faster. We’ve got enough in to play a game right now, other than some specialty situations, whether it’s short yardage, goal line, or we haven’t done one-minute yet. But we have a lot in. I changed it up a little bit this camp and went to a whole-part-whole method, and I think we’re ahead because of that.

Q: What prompted the change?

A: An older group, and our older guys really pulled the younger guys under their wing this summer and spent a lot of time with them, and as a result of that, we were ready to go. And also, I wanted to see what the younger kids could handle, what could they process?

Q: Jalen Johnson missed the spring. Have you seen him get back up to speed?

A: Not where he needs to be, but I’ve seen him come back. I expect him to be a really good football player for us this year and make a lot of plays. He’s demonstrated that he has that ability, and now he needs to be able to stay healthy and stay on the field and do that. Part of camp is guys earning their roles and then at the end of camp, us basically confirming what they’ve earned during camp.

So that way, moving forward, guys understand what their role is to help our football team win. Guys like him and several guys – special teams are a big part of that, too, because covering kicks, blocking kicks and protecting the punter and covering punts, all those things, those are big jobs, and they all play into the success of the team. So that’s a part of the team as well.

Q: Your son (T.D.) is trying to earn his way as well. What do you think so far of how he’s come along at this level?

A: He’s like all the freshmen. His head’s spinning, but he’s worked hard like the rest of them, and he’s got a long way to go, like the rest of them.

Q: What’s it like right now coaching him?

A: Right now, it’s like every other linebacker. When he does good, I tell him he does good. And when he makes a mistake, we correct him. There really hasn’t been any issues so far, and I don’t anticipate there being (any). He knows he’s accountable for his actions and his performance. And all he wants is what he earns. As a dad and as a coach, that’s what he deserves, whatever he earns. Like I said, he’s got a long way to go, but I’m proud of him just like I’m proud of all of them.

Georgia Tech's KeShun Freeman is interviewed on sports talk radio during the 2017 ACC Football Kickoff media event in Charlotte, N.C., Friday July 14, 2017. (Photo by Sara D. Davis, the ACC.com)
Photo: Sara D. Davis/Sara D. Davis, theACC.com

Q: KeShun (Freeman), what does he have to do technically to become a more effective pass rusher?

A: Stay healthy. He’s got to stay healthy. That’s one of the things that he has to do. I think that there’s some technical stuff that he’s worked on, like all of them. Eating up the free grass and keeping the offensive linemen’s hands off of him or getting ’em off of him. He’s going to make strides, and we’re expecting a big year out of him.

Q: Do you do anything differently with Tennessee being your first opponent?

A: Yes, we do. That’s why we went on this install pace faster. But at the same time, what they can execute and how fast they can execute it and instincts (are important), all those things that what you want to see. Because you think you know kids when you recruit them. You know as much as you can the way the rules are set up.

But the bottom line is, until they show up in your pads on your practice field doing your drills and playing live with you when you’re coaching them, see how they respond when you get on ’em, see how they take criticism, see if they can take coaching, and go on to the next play and not make the same mistake again. Evaluate how physical (they are).

All those things that you have to really know, and then when it gets sticky, when they’ve been out there awhile and they’re tired, are they going to fight? Because you want to coach a bunch of kids that are willing to fight for one another.

So all those things, but through the maturation process, too, some are going to be ready, some aren’t. That doesn’t mean the ones that aren’t won’t be next year or week 10 or whatever. There’s a lot of variables to negotiate and to evaluate.

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