Georgia Tech junior defender Chris Crenshaw has bounced around the Jackets' defense from defensive end to outside linebacker and back. A day before fall practice kicked off, Crenshaw found out he will have a new role specifically tailored to his talents.
In the transition to Al Groh's 3-4 defense Crenshaw, a prototypical weakside defensive end found himself without a true position. After experimenting at outside linebacker in 2010, he moved back to defensive end where he was caught in a logjam of veteran players. Crenshaw has always been able to rush the passer so Coach Groh opted to put him in a new role at SAM linebacker that will showcase his ability to chase the quarterback.
"It is kind of the same as defensive end and I played both in the nickel package last year so it really isn't that big of an adjustment to go back to defensive end," Crenshaw said. "They moved me so I can rush the passer and I am really looking forward to working on the edge. I have a way to go on the depth chart, but it is a challenge I am ready for."
Brandon Watts is currently the starter and Chaz Cheeks is also ahead of Crenshaw at the SAM spot, but the veteran defender knows he can compete with those players for playing time.
"It is a good competition and I know that I am mainly going to be used on the sub packages because that is when they can use me for my pass rushing," he said. "They want me to bring a little bit of size there. I found out Thursday that I was moving. I didn't really have a chance to look forward to it because of the timing, but it was a good surprise."
Crenshaw was caught at defensive end behind Izaan Cross, Emmanuel Dieke, Euclid Cummings and Anthony Williams who were all ahead of him on the depth chart and the Jackets also have redshirt freshman Jimmie Kitchen and three freshmen defensive ends, Francis Kallon, Pat Gamble and Roderick Chungong. Moving to outside linebacker will get Crenshaw out of a crowded situation and give him a chance to compete for significant playing time this fall.
"It is easier to get on the field at linebacker now and after the little bit of playing time I got last year I am really anxious to get more playing time. Last year the Maryland game was my biggest game and I want to build on that."
The one area Crenshaw will really have to focus on going forward his pass coverage. That is the biggest challenge in Groh's defense for defensive ends making the move to outside linebacker.
"I got to work on my pass coverage. It is not just straight pass rush at the SAM linebacker spot, so I have to work on my pass coverage skills and be ready to wheel and I need to work on knowing where to be, that's it."