Why a new position delights Georgia Tech’s Victor Alexander

Victor Alexander is a rising senior outside linebacker at Georgia Tech. He turns 22 in July. Alexander led the Yellow Jackets in tackles in 2017, with 60. Alexander had two sacks, one quarterback hurry and two tackles for a loss in 2017. In Georgia Tech's newly installed 3-4 defense, the "jack" outside linebacker rushes the passer, a role seemingly made for Alexander. Alexander, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and 235 pounds, committed to UCLA in 2015 before he changed his mind and signed with Tech out of Jack

Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Nate Woody met with linebacker Victor Alexander shortly after his hire to explain how he wanted him to play in the coach’s 3-4 defense. Alexander said Wednesday that he thought the meeting took place within the first week of Woody’s hire in January.

“We sat down, and he was telling me, ‘OK, I’ve seen your film,’” Alexander said. “‘I’d like you to rush for me. I’d like for you to come off the edge and don’t think about anything else. Just go. Go make plays.’”

Alexander’s reaction was unsurprising.

“I just smiled at him,” Alexander said. “I didn’t say anything. I almost cried. I think I shed a tear.”

Outside linebacker in Woody’s defense is a prime spot, particularly the “jack” position that Alexander has been learning. (He’s also learned the opposite position, “stinger.”) The outside linebacker positions come with a playmaking responsibility in Woody’s scheme. Last season at Appalachian State, Rashaad Townes had seven tackles for loss, four hurries and four forced fumbles. The season before, Kennan Gilchrist recorded 89 total tackles, 11 for loss.

The jack linebacker typically stands up on the line alongside the three down linemen in the 3-4.

“I’m basically like a D-lineman almost, coming off the edge a little bit,” Alexander said. “Standup ’backer. Playing mostly a rush (responsibility). It’s a little different. It’s actually what I like to do.”

It’s a position for an athletic type, someone strong enough to take on offensive linemen and quick and athletic enough to come off the edge and sack the quarterback or take down running backs in the backfield.

“He’s doing OK,” coach Paul Johnson said of Alexander. “It’s a learning thing for him, but he’s athletic and strong, so he ought to be a good fit there.”

Alexander and the other outside linebackers will be called upon to create the tackles for loss and turnovers that were in short supply in recent seasons. Alexander welcomes that responsibility in his new role.

“It actually relaxes me a lot and allows me to be able to play how I did in my high-school days, where I can just go and blow things up and then just make plays,” Alexander said.

“Not necessarily thinking about, OK, if I go in here, who’s waiting out here? Coach Woody broke it down to, if I’ve got you doing this, this is what I want you to do.”

The simpler nature of the defense compared with the scheme coached by former defensive coordinator Ted Roof is an idea that Alexander and other teammates related Wednesday.

Alexander said that, for instance, he was required in Roof’s scheme to keep watch on multiple keys in a relatively wide field of vision.

“Now, it’s more so you have one key,” he said. “You might have two keys and you read off of them. Whatever they do, you’re going to react, so it’s a lot simpler for us.”

Simple, fast and aggressive have been buzzwords to describe Woody’s defense. It may be that Alexander, in an integral position in the Tech defense, will exemplify all three of those elements of the scheme.

“A real attack style of defense,” he said. “My position is just that.”

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