One of the most intense position battles is taking place at center, where former guard Nick Buchanan is trying to unseat two-year starter T.J. McCoy. The two have been sharing reps with the No. 1 offense.
Switching Buchanan to center was a good move, sophomore defensive tackle T.J. Slaton said.
“It’s a perfect fit for him,” Slaton said. “He’s big, strong. He’s much taller then T.J. I feel T.J. has the more aggressive side, but feel like Nick is smarter with it. He just fits the bill.
“It think it really fits him more, but T.J. is very aggressive and very competitive, so we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Being a true freshman, Kyle Pitts is starting out near the bottom of the depth chart at tight end. But, if you listen to his teammates, he has a chance to climb real fast with his size (6-foot-6, 239 pounds) and ability.
Pitts also has youth on his side. At 17, he’s one of the youngest players on the team.
“Kyle Pitts, actually when he first came in I didn’t know he was only 17,” senior tight end Moral Stephens said. “That shocked me. When he told me that I was like, ‘Whoa.’ I feel like Kyle Pitts, he’s going to be great. As of right now he’s just trying to get better, he’s only a freshman, but I do think he’s going to be pretty good.
“He’s going to be a beast.”
Reese likes his DTs
Junior middle linebacker David Reese is feeling a great sense of comfort when he looks at the guys playing in front of him, and protecting him, defensive tackles T.J. Slaton, Khairi Clark and Elijah Conliffe.
Not only are they big and strong, they also know what they’re doing, Reese said.
“T.J. Slaton, he’s a brickhouse,” Reese said. “All those guys know the plays, know the calls. Some of the times, they’re calling out the calls before I do, before I can say them all. It’s good to know that when your D-line knows what they’re doing it’s going to help the back end also.
“I have confidence in every one of our guys. Our inside guys are going to get a lot of sacks this year because we have so much talent on the edge. As long as they push the pocket, it’s going to be great for them.”
Slaton and Conliffe both saw significant playing time as true freshmen last season, earning the nickname “BamBam Kids.”
Both have gotten in better shape. Both have gotten to know their playbook well, especially Conliffe.
“He’s a big, strong guy,” defensive line coach Sal Sunseri said. “I’m pleased with Elijah. He’s a very, very smart football player. I love the way he studies and he knows it. Smart football players win football games, I’m just telling you that right now.”
Houston makes a move
Redshirt freshman James Houston was recently moved from outside to inside linebacker, the position he played in high school. He had a big hit on running back Adarius Lemons from his new spot in Saturday’s practice.
“It’s been going great, just moved back into the inside ’backer position,” Houston said. “I’ve been playing pretty well there.
“I love inside. I played it in high school, so it’s a little bit more natural for me. I just feel like I fly around the ball quicker and am just kind of faster on the field.”
Houston said he has a lot to learn about his new position and he’s leaning heavily on Reese, the veteran leader of the defense.
“We all get together and study the playbook probably every day,” Houston said. “David Reese knows everything. If you have any question you can go to him any time, he’ll give you an answer.”
Houston has a lofty goal this season.
“I hope to get on the field a lot,” he said. “My goal is to be a freshman All-American. If I have an opportunity to get on the field, I’m definitely going to be making some plays.”