Football players to watch

Here are the four offensive and four defensive Tech players to watch this upcoming football season.

QB #13: Tevin Washington, RS Sophomore

Washington has taken over as the main backup to junior quarterback Josh Nesbitt after the injury to sophomore Jaybo Shaw.

Having redshirted last season, Washington has never thrown a pass in a college game and will be looking to capitalize on any on-field opportunities. Although Paul Johnson’s offense differs greatly from his pass-oriented high school experience, Washington is very familiar with running the ball; during high school he rushed for 2,097 yards and 25 touchdowns as a starter.

Look for this young quarterback to leverage his athleticism and provide Tech with an explosive option behind Nesbitt.

AB #18: Anthony Allen, RS Junior

After sitting out last season as a transfer from Louisville, the redshirt junior will provide Tech’s offense with an additional threat at the A-back and B-back positions.

In two seasons at Louisville, Allen played in all 25 games, rushing for a total of 1,102 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also set a school record for rushing yards in a single game with 275 yards against Middle Tennessee State in 2007.

His combination of size and explosiveness, along with his experience at Louisville and in Tech’s scout team offense while redshirting last season, should make him a dangerous player in the Jackets’ offense when he takes the field this season.

AB #3: Marcus Wright, Sophomore

After getting some on-field experience last season returning kicks and lining up at A-back, Wright comes into the 2009 season as a third running threat for the Jackets.

Last season Wright recorded 200 yards on nine kick-return attempts while adding 37 rush yards on four carries. In high school, the 5-foot-8 speedster set a San Antonio city record with 3,374 yards and 45 touchdowns on the ground his senior year, totaling 7,036 career yards and scoring 85 career touchdowns.

With several viable options at A-back Wright is unlikely to start, but with his explosive speed he should have a big impact throughout the season.

C #79: Sean Bedford, RS Junior

Bedford has emerged as a contender for a starting job among the interior offensive linemen.

An aerospace engineering major who originally walked onto the team in 2006, Bedford spent the 2007 season as a scout team defensive lineman before converting to offensive line shortly before last season began. He is in a position battle for the starting center job against incumbent Dan Voss, who started every game last year but missed spring practice with an injury.

Bedford has displayed a strong work ethic throughout practice in the spring and summer, and he stands a strong chance of taking the field on opening day as the starting center.

DE #97: Robert Hall, RS Junior

After three seasons as part of the Tech football program, Hall heads into the 2009 season as the favorite to start at the defensive end position opposite junior Derrick Morgan.

Although his playing time was limited in 2007 due to injury, Hall played in every game last season in a reserve role, posting 13 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss on the year. He became a key part of Tech’s defensive line rotation as the year went on.

Hall faces the tough task of replacing departed pass rusher Michael Johnson, a first-team All-ACC end and the team’s sack leader with nine. Still, his speed and game experience should help him become a force along Tech’s defensive line.

DT #90: T.J. Barnes, RS Freshman

With the departure of several key defensive players this past season, particularly among the front four, the Jackets will look to utilize Barnes at defensive tackle to add needed depth and size to the unit.

At 6-foot-7 and 341 pounds, Barnes is big enough to play nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme, and his combination of size and agility will give the line a strong presence in the middle as a run stopper.

The year he spent as a redshirt allowed him to learn Tech’s defensive system and adapt to the college game. While Barnes will not be a starter to open the year, he should see playing time early and often in the middle of the Jackets’ defensive front.

CB #37: Jerrard Tarrant, RS Sophomore

Currently one of three cornerbacks competing for two starting spots along with junior Mario Butler and sophomore Rashaad Reid, Tarrant returned to the Jackets after being suspended for the 2008 season.

With a strong performance in training camp, he has thrust himself into contention for a key role in the defense despite the lengthy absence. At six feet and 202 pounds, he has good size for the position to go with good speed and athleticism.

Even if Tarrant does not win a starting corner job, he is one of the leading candidates to take over kick and punt return duties for the Jackets this season, both areas in which the team struggled in 2008.

S/LB #22: Cooper Taylor, Sophomore

The Jackets’ switch to a 4-2-5 defensive scheme was partly due to the emergence of Taylor, who is poised to become a leader in the defensive backfield.

The Atlanta native made a name for himself as a freshman last year when he forced a fumble in the end zone to secure Tech’s victory over Florida State. He has emerged as a strong tackler for the Jackets after registering 69 tackles last season, good for second on the team.

This season, Taylor will shift to the “wolf” position, a new hybrid safety-linebacker role created specifically for Taylor to allow the sophomore to utilize his combination of size and athleticism.