October 8, 2009

Cornerback depth being tested

Heading into the showdown at Florida State on Saturday the Georgia Tech defense has several areas of concern facing an experienced quarterback. The Jackets are currently ranked 77th in the nation in pass defense and they are still shorthanded in the secondary. Cornerbacks coach Charles Kelly has been trying to build some depth after losing one of his best players Rashaad Reid to a position change midseason to safety.

Currently the Jackets are working with a rotation of starters Mario Butler and Jerrard Tarrant and backups Michael Peterson and true freshman Roderick Sweeting with Martin Frierson seeing a little time at the nickel position when the Jackets go to a 3-3-5 look.

"We are working Mario Butler who has been pretty consistent. Jerrard has had some mistakes for a first year player, but he has made some good plays and had some bad plays too," Kelly said. "I thought Michael Peterson did some nice things while he was in there the other night. Rod Sweeting for a true freshman has done some things. Martin Frierson has worked at the nickel spot some this week."

Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack said earlier in the week that they need more guys to play in the secondary and Coach Kelly says both Sweeting and Peterson should see increased reps as they gain some trust from the staff. The Jackets plan to use them in situations to test the inexperienced corners.

"We played a few more guys last week. When they get out there and do something like Roderick, getting some snaps against North Carolina that were quality. He did better. Michael got some the other night and did better," Kelly said. "You kind of get a little more confidence with the more time they get."

Kelly says moving Rashaad Reid to free safety following injuries to Dominique Reese and Cooper Taylor has made things more difficult in terms of finding corner depth, but they were in the same boat last year due to injuries.

"That is part of it and Rashaad played as a true freshman last year," Kelly said. "Now other guys are getting their opportunities and they have to learn on the run and get moving quickly."

The top two corners, Butler and Tarrant are close to doing exactly what Kelly wants and he sees all of the things the staff looks for from starters there, they just have to hone aspects of their game.

"I think Mario does a really good job with his eyes and he is usually where he is supposed to be. He has taken advantage of a couple of opportunities to pick balls," Kelly said. "Jerrard is not quite as good with his eyes yet and the speed of the game. He has the big play ability like you have seen on special teams."

The two main backups Peterson and Sweeting have different areas of concern. Peterson understands the defense, but does not have the physical tools of a Sweeting. Sweeting is a gifted athlete, but he struggles with making the right decisions when he is on the island.

"Mike is a very smart player who understands what we are doing and Roderick has a lot of ability and speed. You can see that speed on the field, but he just has to get better with his eyes too. That is the thing about being out there, it happens so quickly. You are looking at the wrong thing and you get beat."

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