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May 8, 2014

Whips linebackers solid this spring, await return of Vandyke

By: Jimmy Robertson

Tech’s coaching staff worked more nickel defense, with five defensive backs, this spring than in previous spring practices, but the coaches have no plans on reducing the role of the whip linebacker position. With solid players returning at this spot, the coaches may actually increase the role this upcoming season.

Coming out of spring practice, Josh Trimble and Derek Di Nardo sat atop the depth chart after good, and more importantly, consistent play this spring.

“Those guys are interchangeable,” whip linebackers coach Cornell Brown said. “They trade out back and forth. They’re tied with what they bring to the table.”

Truthfully, they do resemble each other as players. Di Nardo possesses a little more experience, while Trimble is a little bigger. Trimble started five games last fall and finished with 20 tackles. Di Nardo played in 13 games, mostly on special teams and had nine tackles. Both will figure in heavily on special teams again, as they did a year ago.

Brown thought Trimble’s year of experience in the role enabled him to play much faster this spring and be more productive.

“I thought Josh did really well this spring,” Brown said. “I thought he improved his overall intensity in playing the game. He showed a lot better understanding of the defense, which allowed him to be more productive. He was a factor on the field. You really noticed him. He showed an ability to cover guys better as well. He got off blocks and beat guys and then went on to make plays. So that part was really encouraging.”

As for Di Nardo, Brown liked the way he approached the offseason, starting with his work in the strength and conditioning program. He got stronger and faster, and it showed on the field this spring.

“Derek got stronger with Coach [Mike] Gentry,” Brown said. “He excelled athletically and showed some improvement in his athletic movements. It paid off this spring, as he was able to go out and simply play the game without any worries of trying to do too much. He was able to go out and play and perform.”

The unknown with the position centers around the return of Ronny Vandyke, who missed last season after injuring his shoulder in August. He underwent surgery, and Tech’s sports medicine staff limited him during spring practice. Vandyke participated in some drills, but nothing in the way of contact.

Vandyke should be at full speed when August practices start. He certainly gives Tech a big (6-3, 204) and athletic whip linebacker.

“I saw him making some improvement back to the player he was movement-wise,” Brown said. “I see him gaining more confidence in his body, and that was encouraging. He did a lot of things that showed he was going to be back at full strength and not let that injury affect him.

“I’m really encouraged about where he is right now. I look for him to work hard during the offseason and get himself ready to come back and contribute and be a factor on this defense.”

2014 SPRING DEPTH CHART (as of April 22)

Whip linebackers

32 Josh Trimble (6-0, 222, r-Jr.)

41 Derek Di Nardo (6-0, 207, r-Sr.)

1 Quinton Taylor (6-1, 208, r-So.)

16 B.J. Martin (6-1, 200, So.)