Georgia Tech’s Tobias Oliver taking to cornerback

Georgia Tech cornerback Tobias Oliver in a summer workout.

Credit: Georgia Tech football/Santino Stancato

Combined ShapeCaption
Georgia Tech cornerback Tobias Oliver in a summer workout.

Credit: Georgia Tech football/Santino Stancato

Credit: Georgia Tech football/Santino Stancato

The difference between playing on offense and defense, as Tobias Oliver explained it, sounds a little bit like the difference between throwing a party and attending one. It’s a dichotomy that the junior from Warner Robins has gleaned in the past several months in his transition from first playing quarterback and then wide receiver in the past two seasons before switching to cornerback in spring practice.

“Offensively, it’s much more schematic than defense,” Oliver said. “Like, defense, you can still do all the rah-rah and still make plays. Offense, you’ve got to be a lot more focused, you’ve got to read a lot more keys.”

Oliver added that there are still keys to read and techniques to play on defense, “but you’re just playing football at the end of the day,” he said. Not every defensive player, particularly those who are playing defense for the first time in several years, can play as freely as Oliver evidently has. It bodes well for defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker’s unit.

If one of the more athletic, hardworking and determined players on the roster can make a smooth transition and contribute, the progress that’s expected out of the defense this year could be even more pronounced.

“I love T.O.,” safeties coach Nate Burton said. “He’s got a great desire to learn, to be better. He wants to get better every day, studying film, asking questions. He uses every resource here imaginable to become the best version of himself, the best corner that he can be for us here at Georgia Tech.”

After he switched to wide receiver from quarterback after the fourth game of last season, Oliver handled himself at his new position. He caught 11 passes for 106 yards, including at least one catch in seven consecutive games. He had a four-catch game against Virginia and caught his lone touchdown of the season against N.C. State.

Oliver said that he liked the position and had a natural feel for it. However, he didn’t feel like he was impacting the game as he had at quarterback and told the coaches as much.

“And they’re like, your move pattern was great, we think you’d be a great corner, and at corner, you’re affecting the game every play,” Oliver said. “They throw it to you, you can get an interception or a pass breakup. They don’t throw it to you, then that’s obviously still a good thing. It’s not a completion.”

Oliver made an impression quickly in the spring, coming up with interceptions and pass breakups in 11-on-11 drills. Having knowledge of both the quarterback and wide receiver positions, he said, “I know a lot of the things that the offense is trying to do based off of alignment and based off of down and distance or whatever. So I think that really helps me on the defensive side.”

Wide receivers coach Kerry Dixon, Oliver’s former position coach, has seen that there’s more to his successful adjustment than having a sense of what his opponents in practice are doing.

“The one thing I love about Tobias is he’s a great competitor,” Dixon said. “He’s constantly trying to improve his technique.”

Dixon said that he sees Oliver working on his footwork and techniques daily after practice and frequently meeting with cornerbacks coach Jeff Popovich to learn more about the position.

“He’s done a phenomenal job, but it just goes to show that when you dedicate yourself to something and dedicate yourself to getting better, you’ll start to see the results,” Dixon said.

Sharing the position with two-year starter Tre Swilling, 2019 starter Zamari Walton and a host of promising backups, Oliver will be challenged to make his mark on the field. He could be an option to return kicks, where he showed playmaking potential. But if his transition to wide receiver was any indication, it won’t be a surprise if he becomes the impact player that he has sought to be.

Said Oliver, “It’s starting to click more and more every day.”

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