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Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Jackets' secondary: One of the best-kept secrets in the ACC?

By Heather Dinich
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

With so much attention on what Georgia Tech's defense is trying to replace this spring (100 career starts and 100 tackles-for-loss on the defensive line), the Yellow Jackets' secondary might be one of the best kept secrets in the ACC. It's definitely one of the deepest.

Juniors Morgan Burnett, Mario Butler, Dominique Reese and sophomore Rashaad Reid all return from last year's nine-win season with starting experience, and the group goes even deeper. Junior Correy Earls, a part-time starter at wide receiver last season, moved to the secondary, and redshirt freshman Kamaron Riley will also be in the mix. Cooper Taylor returns along with sophomore defensive back Jerrard Tarrant, who is back after being suspended for the entire 2008 season. If Tarrant can shake the rust off, he will immediately compete for a starting job, most likely at cornerback.

"We missed him last year," safety Burnett said. "That's a big key coming back."

Last year's group was young, and in the first year under defensive coordinator Dave Wommack. The expectations are higher this year. Burnett tied for third nationally in pass interceptions last year with seven in 13 games, a .64 percentage. He also ranked 18th in passes defended with 15 in 13 games.

"We're going to be a whole lot better," Burnett said. "A lot of people tried to use the excuse that we're young. I know we do a lot of film work together. I know we can get a whole lot better. We have the same guys from last year, but this being our second year, a lot of have a second year in coach Wommack's defense, so we feel more comfortable in the defense."

Burnett said the Jackets' embarrassing loss to LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl will provide a little extra motivation this spring.

"I think the next thing is to try to top what we did last year so everyone won't just think that was a lucky year," Burnett said. "After losing to LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl we've got to redeem ourselves. I still think there's a lot of stuff we've got to prove to everybody."