Before the 2020 season, Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker was counting on defensive tackle T.K. Chimedza to be a dependable interior presence after he started nine games in 2019 as a redshirt freshman. Thacker also hoped for defensive end Sylvain Yondjouen to make progress after showing promise in 11 games as a freshman in 2019.
However, the Yellow Jackets lost Chimedza before the 2020 season began with an Achilles injury and were able to benefit from only three games from Yondjouen before he, too, suffered a season-ending injury. Almost 12 months later, Thacker has both players back on the practice field after Yondjouen missed spring practice and Chimedza was limited.
“That’s two guys I’m so happy to have,” Thacker said Tuesday after the team’s fourth practice of the preseason.
Thacker said that Chimedza “is as good as anybody we have in there” at holding the point against offensive linemen, enabling linebackers to run free and make plays.
“So it gives us that dominant presence inside to be able to build a wall,” Thacker said.
Thacker said that the team is managing Chimedza’s practice time as he regains his strength, but said that he was “really, really pleased with T.K. He also brings an edge and a level of maturity to the (meeting) room.”
Recruited from Belgium by coach Geoff Collins, Yondjouen started two of Tech’s first three games of 2020. Starting his career with a much more basic understanding of the game than his teammates, Yondjouen was expected to make significant progress in his second season. At the time of his injury, Thacker said that Yondjouen’s knowledge of the game was growing, and that he expected him to continue progressing through the season. He already had accumulated 2½ tackles for loss in the Jackets’ first three games.
“(The game) slowed down for him, and then he could just use what his skill set is,” Thacker said. “His skill set is he’s just insanely powerful. He’s got a great body type.”
With his return, Thacker said, “I think he’s picked up where he’s left off.”