August 13, 2009

Machen ready to knock heads

One of the biggest struggles for the 2008 Georgia Tech football team was putting together a healthy and effective group of linebackers on the field. With both starting linebackers healthy heading into the new season, several younger players are vying for key backup roles. One of the players who has performed well in fall camp is redshirt freshman B.J. Machen.

Machen assumed the role of number two middle linebacker after Kyle Jackson went down with a lisfranc injury and he has not looked back since.

"It is definitely going very well and I am making some improvements from last fall to the spring and even now," he said. I have stepped up a lot and made it on to the two-deep. I am getting a lot of reps and I am really excited to play this season and help the team out."

Backing up starter Brad Jefferson is an important job particularly because of the expanded responsibilities the middle linebacker has in defensive coordinator Dave Wommack's system. Machen has been working hard so when he gets the call to come into the game there is no drop off and change in what the Jackets can do.

"Middle linebacker is a huge leadership role because I have to know all the calls," Machen said. "I have to know what the guys behind me and in front of me are doing. You have to know everything and lead everybody. It is definitely a big step up. I have been playing linebacker all my life, so I am used to it. I am ready for the challenge and I am really excited to see how we do this season."

Each of the linebackers are trained by linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary to understand each position on the defense and that knowledge allows them to help each other on the field and during film sessions. Machen says every one of the linebackers is responsible for knowing every linebacker position and call.

"Brad helps out a little bit, but coach puts it on everyone to know the whole defense," Machen said. "We have to take responsibility and we all help each other out in the meeting room. The older guys help the younger guys and the young guys help the old guys sometimes. We all correct each other and try to get it done out here on the field."

Knowing that he will contribute this year on the field has really inspired Machen to perform at a higher level during camp and that has helped him push through the physical and mental fatigue of fall camp.

"I am really excited to play and I cannot wait to get out there," he said. "Knowing that I will play helps me prepare better because I take extra steps like extra time in the film room studying my plays because I know I will be out there on Saturdays tearing it up with the team. You have to be really prepared and I am very excited."

Machen feels like the second unit of linebackers with Steven Sylvester at the weakside linebacker and he in the middle is a very cohesive pairing because the two are inside each other's heads.

"Steven and I play really well together. We were good friends as we were getting recruited and we came in together," Machen said. "We have been together for a year now, so it is exciting. The secondary works well as does the front line. We all kind of mesh and we have that chemistry that we may not have had in the past. I think that will help us out a lot during the season."

Machen says even when the coaches sub out the starters or mix and match the linebackers do not miss a beat.

"The linebackers are real tight with their units," Machen said. "If they mix up me and Sedric Griffin or Brad and Steven, we can go in there and get it down. We all work very well together and we are with each other all the time. We are friends and we hang out and get it done."

Machen has a couple of goals that he thinks will improve his play drastically as the season unfolds.

"I need to work on getting my steps down, my footwork, and getting into the right place at the right time, so I can make those big plays and the hits I want to make," he said. "I weigh 232 pounds right now and I want to play at 230, so I think I am at a good weight right now."

Overall, Machen says he is a solid all-around linebacker and the team is just as solid at every position on the field.

"My ability to defend the run and knowing my plays are my strengths," Machen said. "I also think I have great leadership skills and great toughness. I think those are my main strengths and strengths of our team overall. I love to hit and knock heads."

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