GREENSBORO, N.C. – Georgia Tech defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu has increased his sack total each season he’s been with the Yellow Jackets. He went from three during his freshman season to six the next and finished third in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season with 10 sacks.
Attaochu wants more in 2013. A lot more.
The Georgia Tech defense, under new defensive coordinator Ted Roof, is moving from a 3-4 defensive scheme to a 4-3. Along with that schematic difference will be a new position for Attaochu, who will transition from outside linebacker to defensive end.
“I see it as a blessing in disguise,” said Attaochu. “I learned a lot being a 3-4 outside linebacker because I had to learn about coverage, rushing the passer, a bunch of different things. Defensive end is helping me because I have to learn to play with more leverage, power and use my hands more. And those are three things that I could have definitely gotten better at last year.”
Attaochu said the move has made him versatile. He can play in a 3-4 scheme at outside linebacker or in a 4-3 at outside linebacker or defensive end. The move to end, however, is allowing him to focus on just two aspects of the game: rushing the passer and playing the run. That narrowed focus should result in more efficient play, and better numbers in 2013.
The move to defensive end suits Attaochu’s game better, according to the rising senior. He can attack more, be explosive and use his speed to “chase things down and just be crazy out there.” But Attaochu’s position change hasn’t come without a few growing pains.
When the coaching staff approached Attaochu about the move to defensive end, he felt that with his three years of experience the move wouldn’t be that difficult. He said he didn’t feel like he was starting over, at least not for that long.
“I definitely, for a couple of days, had that 'wow, I feel like a freshman again' feeling coming into spring practice,” said Attaochu. “I had a coach yell at me for the first time since my freshman year for not doing something right. I felt awkward, but I was open and willing to accept that because next year I'm going to be a freshman again.”
Attaochu was also willing to work on some different techniques to improve his ability to maneuver at the line. Three areas Attaochu improved in the offseason involved how he uses his hands to free himself at the line of scrimmage, leverage and explosiveness. The biggest gains he’s seen involved his explosive first step.
Attaochu spent a lot of time in the weight room this summer and said he’s gained seven pounds of muscle and will likely play at 240 pounds this season, five pounds heavier than he played last season. The extra weight was necessary, according to Attaochu, no matter what position he was going to play, because he felt he wasn’t explosive enough.
“I knew I needed more explosiveness,” said Attaochu. “When I watch a guy like Von Miller burst off the ball, that's really what I aspire to be like. I've put in extra time to do that and to work on my starting strength and my legs.”
Miller, out of Texas A&M, is entering his third NFL season with the Denver Broncos. He started his rookie campaign with 11.5 sacks and improved last season to 18.5. And that’s just the kind of improvement Attaochu is looking for this season with the Jackets.