Who’ll be “Above the Line” on the edges of the (defensive) line?
Necessary pre-reading: Film Room – Defensive Formations, Roles, and Responsibilities
Suggested chaser: Film Room – Defensive Base Coverages and Blitzes
Before we get into the players that may make appearances at EDGE for the Jackets this fall, it might be prudent to lay out what exactly an EDGE does and what coaches are looking for at the position. To
steal borrow a snippet from Nishant:
The Edge position is somewhat of a hybrid between a 4-3 rush end and a 3-4 outside linebacker. The ideal player here is someone who can fill both roles: serving as a pass-rushing threat who can take on offensive tackles and win while also being able to drop into a short zone to cover a tight end or slot receiver. His job description involves more of the former than the latter, but both skills are necessary.
So there’s the rub: an EDGE should have not only the size and physicality to beat offensive linemen, but also the athleticism and speed to cover receivers. So: who do the Jackets have that meet these requirements?
Already on the Roster
It just so happens that two holdovers from 2018 are front-runners to start at EDGE this fall.
Jaquan Henderson (Jr) rotated in with Nate Woody’s defense in 2018, posting 12 total tackles in 11 games. At 6’1” and 210 pounds, he’s a bit undersized for the position, but what he lacks in size he makes up for with his speed. The defensive coaching staff had Henderson running with the first team defense during the spring game, so they certainly seem high on his potential to excel at EDGE.
Jordan Domineck (RS Fr) saw limited action in 2018, appearing in two games and collecting five total tackles. He’s a bit bulkier than Henderson at 6’3” and 230 pounds, making him a good size for the position, and his great performance in the spring game only served to solidify his fit at EDGE under the Collins regime.
Pending a NCAA waiver, Antonneous Clayton (RS Jr) should be a shoo-in to start at EDGE, given his 6’2” and 255-pound frame. However, with the amount of attrition on the defensive line, it may be best for him to move there until Collins can shore up the position with future recruiting classes.
Belgian wunderkind Sylvain Yondjouen (Fr) picked up football relatively recently, but enrolled early at Tech and put together a stellar spring game performance. At 6’4” and 255 pounds, he’s the right size for an EDGE and has demonstrated the physicality and athleticism necessary to play the position, but he’s still a bit raw. Don’t be surprised if he takes a redshirt in his first season on the Flats to get more practice time in the system under his belt.
Despite this piece’s focus on the “here and now”, it’ll be very interesting to see how this position group develops over the next few years. This should be an area of focus for Collins’ staff: having flexible athletes at EDGE can expand what Tech can do on defense and make life [Hall and Oates] for opposing offensive coordinators.
This year will be its own unique situation: if Clayton gets his waiver and Yondjouen can sharpen his skills during fall practice, opponents may have a lot of trouble with the Jackets’ defense this season.