September 3, 2009

Jean-Mary talks GT linebackers

The Georgia Tech linebackers did not perform on the level linebacker coach Brian Jean-Mary expected in 2008. Heading into the 2009 season, the Jackets are stocked with talented players and are led by a pair of experienced, healthy veterans Sedric Griffin and Brad Jefferson who have a chip on their shoulder. Jacketsonline caught up with Coach Jean-Mary to see where the Jackets' linebackers stand heading into the first game of the season on Saturday.

How are things going with the linebackers?

"We will see on Saturday. I think they have had a pretty good preseason camp. I am anxious to see them play against a different opponent. I think for the most part they have had a good preseason camp. We are hoping we see some carryover from that into the season."

Do you feel more comfortable with the depth you have this year compared to last season when that was really tested with all of the injuries?

"The depth was okay or so we thought last year until we lost two starters in the first half of the first game. That made it a big question mark. Right now we are healthy and we feel like the depth is okay, but you always want more, not to sound greedy. You always want guys who are interchangeable and you would like to be three-deep. If you have to take one guy off the field, you want to feel okay putting the next guy in and not skip a beat. I think it is okay and I think it is better. We have guys who have played and been through the wars in the ACC a little bit, but you hope it will get better where you have four or five guys on an all-conference level."

Did you expect Julian Burnett to play this year before camp began?

"When you sign them you always hope they can come in and help you immediately, but you temper that because you never know how they are going to react once this get in the college setting and play against other college players. We always try to put them all in the same situations and see who rises to the top. He was one of the guys who took it and ran with it. He has been productive in the scrimmages and practices, so know he has put himself squarely in a position to play."

How has Steven Sylvester looked in the other backup role?

"He has been steady and he is a guy who we have expectations for him to play at high level. He is one of the guys I expect to come in a game and not have any drop off in production compared to when the starters are in the game. I want to see him be as productive as a starter."

Where do the other guys fit into the mix like B.J. Machen and Malcolm Munroe?

"They are all getting reps and we will carry six inside linebackers with us when we travel and the hope is they all play. Will they, probably not, but they all have gotten reps and quality reps, so you hope if their number is called, they can come in and help us win."

Will you rotate guys to keep Brad and Sedric fresh during games?

"The plan is to always rotate because you want to have the freshest team in the fourth quarter. We also want to keep them healthy and that is one of the ways you can keep guys healthy, rotating guys. We are not going to take a step backward when you rotate guys. We need to make sure they are playing at a high level so as long as the guys who are not starting are productive and there is no considerable drop off we will rotate."

How are Brad and Sedric doing with developing as linebackers?

"They have improved. I have told them that we have focused on getting fundamentally better. There is always a defense that you can call against certain offenses that puts them in the best situation to make play, but that is not reality. There are things offenses can do to adjust, I think that is what they counted on last year, and it put them in bad situations where if it was not exactly how we practiced or what they saw on film, they did not react the way you would like. This year we have gone to a more base defense and they are doing a lot more of reading the offensive plays and playing to their strengths and to our defense. That has really helped them. I think they are ready to go against whatever they see now because they got fundamentally better and got smarter as football players. They are not just good linebackers at Georgia Tech."

Did they get inspired by the lackluster reports of their play last year?

"Being honest, anyone who can look at themselves in the mirror understands that their play last year was subpar. There is a pretty good tradition that was built here long before I got here as far as linebackers playing at Georgia Tech and I don't think they lived up to their expectations. I tell them all the time, they came here for a reason and some of them had opportunities to go other places, but they came here to play linebacker here because they thought they could do special things here. I think they understood that and through injuries and adverse situations, they did not play the way they wanted to. I think that made them hungrier this year and has made them better players. You can see the difference in them from last year to this year and now you hope to see that on Saturday."

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