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Replacing Derrick Morgan: The Georgia Tech Defensive Line Adjustment

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets must adjust to two different elements this year: The loss of Derrick Morgan and Al Groh's implementation of the 3-4 defense.

Al Groh brings his infamous 3-4 defense to Georgia Tech for the 2010 season. Picture taken by Johnny Crawford/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via <a href="http://blogs.ajc.com/jeff-schultz-blog/files/2010/01/gtechfoot.0123+1.JPG">blogs.ajc.com</a>
Al Groh brings his infamous 3-4 defense to Georgia Tech for the 2010 season. Picture taken by Johnny Crawford/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via blogs.ajc.com

When Derrick Morgan announced he was leaving for the NFL Draft and was then drafted by the Tennessee Titans as the 16th overall pick, it was expected. All Tech fans figured he was leaving and were proud to have seen him play on The Flats. Since that time, reality has set in some and with Al Groh taking over the and revamping the defense, some may wonder what the Yellow Jackets defensive line will look like come Sept. 4.

The worries about the absence of Derrick Morgan, though still around, have been nullified mostly by the curiosities of Al Groh's infamous 3-4 defensive scheming. Fans no longer need to hear about "simplifying the defense" from Dave Wommack. It's the 3-4. Understand it or ride the pine.

The 3-4 Defense is exactly as it sounds: 3 lineman, 4 linebackers as illustrated in the below diagram:

34gaps_medium

via FromTheRumbleSeat.com

The 3-4 relies on a quality nose tackle and two defensive ends. At this point, it continues to be pure speculation as to who the starting three will be. However, we can make a few guesses. The nose tackle starting position currently points toward redshirt sophomore T.J. Barnes as senior Ben Anderson continues to recover from a knee injury. Aligned next to the nose tackle, the defensive ends are expected to be the young Izaan Cross and Jason Peters. Combined, Barnes, Cross, and Peters have a total of only five starts, but they did all play in 10 or more games each last season.

What the Jackets have lost in Morgan's abilities will have to be made up in desire to meet and exceed expectations. Last year, the rest of the line sacked opposing quarterbacks only seven times. The Spring Game was an indication that the defense was still feeling the new defense out. It was a demonstration of a squad continuing to figure out where to be in position rather than how to stop the offense. The 2010 football season will let them figure it out for a little longer as the Jackets start out with matchups against South Carolina State and Kansas. But on Sept. 18, the Yellow Jackets' true test will arrive as the team travels to Chapel Hill to face the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.