November 12, 2009

Sylvester thriving in starting role

Steven Sylvester was inserted into the starting role against Florida State and he has not looked back, starting in the last five consecutive games. He has accumulated 22 tackles as a starter, including 2 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. For the season, he has 30 total tackles, which ranks seventh on the team. He is third amongst linebackers on the team behind Brad Jefferson and Sedric Griffin, who are currently first, second in total tackles with 67, and 55 accordingly.

Sylvester is only a sophomore and he has become comfortable with his new role by watching the way that Jefferson and Griffin play the game. He said, "After the first game things have started to slow down for me and I'm settling into the starting role. I learn to always be aggressive and to give 100 percent. You look at the games that they have played and you see that they are always the one making the tackle or assisting the tackle somewhere around the ball. I try to fly around the ball, be aggressive, and make plays."

The McDonough, Georgia native has given Tech the solid third linebacker that they have been lacking this season after returning starter Kyle Jackson has been unavailable all year because of injury. The Jackets even experimented with a 4-2-5 defensive set at the beginning of the year but have since scrapped the idea in favor of a more traditional 4-3-4 scheme. Sylvester's improvement throughout the season has been that much more important now that Tech uses three linebackers on the field at a time for the majority of the defensive plays.

Sylvester has used his speed to get to opposing quarterbacks as he leads all linebackers in sacks, but he is still trying to improve parts of his game. He replied, "Speed is one of my strengths, but I would also say reading my keys is a strength. The area that I am looking to improve upon is my footwork. I am trying not to take any false steps and just seeing what I need to see and reacting. Good footwork also helps with being in the correct position in pass coverage."

Tech's linebackers will have their hands full on pass defense as they face one of the most prolific passers in ACC history, Duke's Thaddeus Lewis. He already owns nearly all of the relevant records for a quarterback at Duke and also ranks in the top six all-time for career completions, attempts, passing yards, and passing touchdowns in the ACC. The Blue Devils also boast the second best passing offense in the ACC and the 11th best in the nation at 301.6 yards per game.

According to Sylvester, there is not a specific defensive strategy to contain Lewis. "We just have to go out there and play football," he said. "There isn't much that you can do to game plan against a guy like him. He has been there for a long time, knows the system, and he's really comfortable. We just have to go out there and give it our best and hope that the better man comes out on top."

The Jackets will take on the Blue Devils at noon on Saturday and with a victory can clinch their spot in the ACC Championship game.

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