Jeremiah Attaochu is making the switch from linebacker to defensive end for Georgia Tech this spring. He goes into the season with 19 sacks, tied for eighth on the school career list. I had a chance to catch up with him recently to ask how the transition is going and his expectations for the upcoming season.
How has the move to defensive end treated you so far?
JA: I think it's a better fit for me in the long run, playing this position. I've had success at my past position at OLB in the 3-4 scheme, so the end position is a natural transition if there was one. I'm just learning from the new coaches, learning a bunch of new techniques and things to help me better my game. I'm taking it as a positive. Things have been moving pretty well. If you're a football player, you're a football player. I feel things have gone smoothly this spring.
You did play a little end in the second half of last season. Did you have a comfort level going into the spring?
JA: I did. It was natural. I played defensive end in high school, and I was being recruited to play defensive end. Outside linebacker in the 3-4 is kind of like a similar position. You're doing similar assignments so I was pretty comfortable with it. We worked packages last year where I was a defensive end schematically. My title wasn't defensive end. Either way, it is a pretty smooth transition. I'm going to be doing a lot more rushing now. Last year I was 50-50 drop, 50-50 rush and I was pretty successful just doing that. Hopefully I'll be more successful when I get to rush more.
So how much would you say you played end last year?
JA: I would say 30 percent of the time, especially toward the latter part of the season.
When you started doing it in games, you mentioned it's a natural transition. Did it feel comfortable right away?
JA: Of course, getting in a three-point stance almost every down except for third down is something you have to get adjusted to. But right now, two weeks into spring practice, I feel natural doing it now. It's something I had to break myself into. Right now, I'm just learning and trying to absorb everything I can with the new coaches.
What is the biggest thing you have learned with these new coaches?
JA: Using my hands and leverage. I'm playing with better leverage than I did and using my hands with pass rush. Last year, I got 10 sacks rushing the passer, and it was basically with a lot of speed, a lot of film study. Now, I can add things to my game and use different methods of rushing the passer, not just one.
So you were relying on your athleticism last year?
JA: Athleticism, coaching, film study, a lot of that. There were other parts of my game the coaches have looked at to see where I can get better at. Using my hands more is one. I had a lot of opportunities to make more plays than I did last year, so basically honing in on that and trying to coach me at the end spot. They want to help me make more plays to help the team.
With the switch, have you had to put on any weight?
JA: Not really. I've always been in the 240, 245 range, so they say that's a fine weight. My power's fine. I want to be able to play at 245 and not play at 240, which is what I played at last year.
In terms of the scrimmage you just had, how do you feel the defense did in simulating game-day situations with all the changes that have been made.
JA: The defensive line is a position we feel we can get a lot of improvement there, especially the fact we were leading all ACC games in the fourth quarter and in the fourth quarter, the defensive line has to close the game out for you by putting pressure on the quarterback when teams are trying to come back. I think the defensive line performed really well. From my point of view, we're taking some steps from last year to be a stronger part of the defensive unit.
Did you anticipate this position change?
JA: I anticipated that. I know defense, I know defensive coaches, they want to put players in the best position. I had no problem making the switch. I feel comfortable playing linebacker, defensive end, any position in the front seven, I felt comfortable doing that. I wasn't too worried but I knew the coaches were going to give me the opportunity to rush the passer because I've done well with it the last couple years, and I've gotten significantly better every year doing it.
Regardless of who came in, I knew they were going to give me the opportunity to do that. I was fine with whatever happened. I took everything in stride and it's working out really well. I'm learning a lot of new things, which is good going into your senior year. You want to still be able to be learning. You don’t want to be cruising because you’re not going to get any better. Right now, I feel like a freshman, and I'm just learning more and more every day. I feel like that's a positive.