November 18, 2009

Jean-Mary on the state of the linebackers

For Georgia Tech linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary, the 2009 season has been a bit of a rollercoaster thanks to injuries and defensive changes, but over the last few weeks the linebacker play has improved significantly. Jacketsonline caught up with Jean-Mary to discuss the currently linebacker situation and where Kyle Jackson and Brandon Watts fit into the Jackets future plans.

How are the three starting linebackers coming together as a unit?

"As a whole, the defense is hot and cold. We have played real well at some moments but we are also missing tackles and assignments, which affects the integrity of the defense. I still say that we are a work in progress. Until we can play a complete game, I do not think that we can feel any different. I think that we have a lot to learn from in order to put a complete game together."

Have you seen some improvement in the pass defense?

"There was some improvement. I think that they recognize routes a lot better and understood where they needed to sit on the certain defensive formations that we called. I have seen some improvement there but it is not where we want it to be. On the first drive, we missed a couple of assignments and we could have taken some things away from them. As the game went on we got better and did better against the pass than in the previous weeks."

How confident do you feel playing some of your back-ups at linebacker?

"Those kids bust their butt every week at practice and all they want is the opportunity to show that they can compete and perform at a high level. You want to get them in and see how they perform outside of the practice field and I want to feel that if the situation permits it that I can put them in and hope that they do well. They have stepped up and are performing well in practice and we're just trying to find the right situation to get them in and see how they perform."

How is Kyle Jackson's rehab going?

"We're going to take it slowly because he has a Lisfranc injury and a couple of years ago there were players that weren't coming back from that. He went to our specialist and we are going to take it day by day. We do not want to bring him back too early and make things worse. We are going to make sure that he is 100 percent healthy. The target date would be the spring but we do not know to what capacity he will be health wise. We're not going to risk anything and our main focus is to have him ready for next season."

How has his loss affected the linebacking core?

"It has impacted us. Out of the 13 games last year, he started 11 of them. Obviously that is a major blow because we lost some of the limited experience that we had. It was a rallying cry for us last year with some of the injuries and guys just have to step up and come in and play. It affected us a little bit, but we have always been able to stress that the next guy up has gotta come in and play at a higher level. It affected us, but not to the point where we felt like we were going to lose a lot because we had guys waiting in the wings that could perform.

How is Brandon Watts developing?

He is running with the scout team but from what Coach Johnson and some of the offensive coaches say, he is progressing about how we would think. He has a chance to be a very good player for us. He has put on some weight and he is starting to understand how to play linebacker on the next level. Our expectations are high and everything that we hear right now is positive."

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