Georgia Tech secondary relying on new cornerbacks coach in 2024

Cory Peoples has been around the game, around the state, around the secondary for a long time.

The veteran coach, in his first season with Georgia Tech (his sixth Georgia college he has been with), was added to Tech’s staff this offseason and given the role of defensive backs coach. He and special-teams coordinator/cornerbacks Ricky Brumfield are working in tandem to try to improve a Tech secondary which ranked eighth in the ACC in 2023 in passing yards and which gave up 45 pass plays of 20 yards or more.

“Communication. You gotta talk. If you don’t communicate you’re not gonna be good in the secondary,” Peoples said Tuesday on how to create a strong Tech secondary. “That’s probably the No. 1 thing you have to do in the secondary is be able to communicate, talk, know your adjustments when the picture changes. When you get different movement, motions, you gotta be able to talk and communicate through it. They’ve been doing a great job of it. With a new defense, I think they’ve kind of actually handled it well. The more and more we practice, the more dates we get out there, I think the guys are doing a great job adjusting to it.”

Peoples, at Georgia State from 2020-23, Georgia Southern before that, Albany State in 2017, Clark Atlanta from 2009-12 and Georgia Military College in 2008, has some tools to work with in his current secondary, but depth is a little bit of a concern as Tech’s spring practice winds down.

Safeties LaMiles Brooks and Clayton Powell-Lee anchor the back end, and junior Ahmari Harvey and Tennessee transfer Warren Burrell are expected to be the starters at cornerback. Omar Daniels and Syeed Gibbs (a Rhode Island transfer) have been getting the majority of reps at nickel back.

Tech’s depth chart is a little thin after that when it comes to game experience. Finding out who can play when the lights come on next season and who can work together as a whole is pivotal, Tech coach Brent Key said last week.

“To me, the secondary is very similar to the offensive line,” he added. “They’re all five guys that have to work cohesively and work together because if one of ‘em’s out of position or out of place or misses a call, you’re not gonna have success on that individual play. It’s the cohesiveness that we’re trying to get with those guys. It’s the individual play, No. 1 obviously, but then the cohesiveness within the calls that we’ve gotta get different guys in different spots creating the versatility for more than one group.”

Peoples said he first met Key years ago on the recruiting trail, and the two have had maintained a relationship over the years. Peoples also recruited Brumfield’s son, Tech graduate assistant Kyan Brumfield, when Kyan Brumfield was a college prospect, and he recruited Powell-Lee when Powell-Lee was a standout at Westlake High School.

Credit: Chad Bishop/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia Tech's Clayton Powell-Lee discusses the progress of the Yellow Jackets’ secondary this spring.

A former NFL cornerback in Philadelphia and former South Carolina Gamecock, Peoples said his first two months on the job ahead of spring practice were spent learning defensive coordinator Tyler Santucci’s defense and how to help implement it. The foundation of that implementation is nearly complete, now the Jackets have to work toward perfecting it.

“For it to be a new defense, guys are learning it, they’re coming earlier, they’re staying later and they actually got the commitment to try to get better every day and learn as we install more and more defense. They’re actually handling it pretty well,” People said. “It’s just the mindset of guys wanting to be good.”