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May 12, 2009

The post-Macho era begins for Tech's defensive backfield

By: Jimmy Robertson


Field corners

21 Rashad Carmichael (5-10, 192, r-Jr.)

9 Cris Hill (5-11, 185, r-Soph.)

4 Germond Oatneal (5-11, 182, Soph.)

Boundary corners

22 Stephan Virgil (5-11, 189, Sr.)

15 Eddie Whitley (6-0, 187, Soph.)

37 Jacob Sykes (6-0, 181, r-Soph.)


17 Kam Chancellor (6-4, 226, Sr.)

14 Lorenzo Williams (6-2, 212, Soph.)

12 Ron Cooper (5-10, 187, r-Jr.)

Life without Macho Harris began this spring for Tech’s defensive backfield and assistant coach Torrian Gray, who spent the 15 allotted practices searching for Harris’ replacement. Coming out of spring, Stephan Virgil is the frontrunner to step into Harris’ vacated boundary corner position – even though he practiced little this spring because of class conflicts.

“I rotated all my corners at both positions,” Gray said. “But we know Stephan can be productive. We know he’s a game-changer. I just would have liked to have had him all spring to see if he can physically hold up at that position because you have to be physical. I think he can, but I would have liked to have seen it.”

Gray figures to be able to depend on four corners this upcoming season – Virgil, Rashad Carmichael, Cris Hill and Eddie Whitley. Carmichael, like Virgil, was limited this spring because of some class conflicts, but coming out of spring, he leads the way among the contenders at field corner.

Chris Hill (9) was one of the most improved players on defense this spring.

“He really understands the game,” Gray said. “He’s starting to play the game at a different level now.”

Of course, all this might change once fall practice starts. Both Hill and Whitley improved tremendously over the course of this spring.

“I thought Cris really improved greatly,” Gray said. “He’s still got some things to improve, but he has come a long way from where he was last year. Eddie’s also come a long way, and I’m pleased with him.

“I think all of those guys [at corner] are about the same from an ability standpoint. Virgil’s got a little more experience, but I think, with the others, we have a lot more depth. Now whether we have a Macho or a Brandon [Flowers] type of corner, that remains to be seen.”

Jacob Sykes and walk-on Germond Oatneal round out the cornerbacks.

At safety, Kam Chancellor returns as the starter and took over the leadership role this spring. He looked much more comfortable in his second spring practice at safety.

“He was awesome,” Gray said. “I’m not sure he missed a tackle all spring, and that’s something that he struggled with early last year. He’s a great communicator and a leader. He played on a consistently high level all spring.”

Lorenzo Williams, who played as a true freshman last year, came out of spring practice at No. 2 on the depth chart, with walk-on Ron Cooper at No. 3. Cooper missed last season with a knee injury. He’ll figure in more on special teams.

“Lorenzo did not take the steps that I wanted him to take,” Gray said. “He’s going to have to get better. He’s got a ways to go. He knew where to line up and he plays hard and fast, but he didn’t make all the plays when they came his way.”