September 2, 2009

Gilbert's ready to rock on the line

The Georgia Tech offensive line struggled last season learning a new offense while having very little depth. Junior starting right guard Joseph Gilbert started 12 of the Jackets' 13 games last season at right guard and he has been counting the days until kickoff against Jacksonville State.

"I cannot wait and we have been waiting for this for a solid month. Through camp and these two weeks of hitting that is all I can think about, getting to game week," Gilbert said.

The Jackets had an extra week of camp because of the way the football schedule fell on the August calendar and Gilbert said the extra week made it tougher on the players.

"The days got monotonous last week. When you come out everyday and bang your head against the wall and try to get better, there are days when you don't want to do it, but we pushed through and it feels good to be here," Gilbert said.

Looking back at the 2008 season, Gilbert said the team looked lost and confused at times, but this year they will be playing reacting and playing football rather than trying to remember what to do on a given play.

"Last year we just got the program installed and a lot of us did not come from any type of triple option background," he said. "Now that we have a year in the system, there is less thinking about what we need to do and it is more reaction and execution."

The 292-pound Gilbert, left guard Cord Howard and left tackle Austin Barrick were three of the starters at the end of the season and those three should start on Saturday. Gilbert has made a quick transition from being a green offensive lineman to one of the elder statesmen of the team in 2009.

"It is nice and you know you have a lot of responsibilities as a starter," Gilbert said. "Last year I felt like I was a young bull, but this year we have freshmen who came in and they look up to you, so it makes you want to push through and not take so many water breaks or bend over. You are the one they look to."

During the offseason, Gilbert changed his workouts to better prepare for the specific requirements of a Paul Johnson offensive lineman.

"It is mainly about footwork for me," Gilbert said. "I have to get my feet faster. That is what I worked on during the offseason and now I feel like that has improved. The main thing with this offense is coming off the ball low and hard. We got machines we are not using anymore, but the drive-blocking machines that you hit and then they come to a wedge and you have to push the weight above an incline. I worked a lot with those machines over the summer and that has really helped me."

Injuries and a lack of experience hampered the 2008 offensive line caused a lot of their struggles, but Gilbert sees the offensive line as one of the biggest strengths on the 2009 squad including the backup guards.

"We got a ton of competition. Last year we were pretty thin due to injuries and stuff like that, but this year we have two legitimate offensive lines," Gilbert said. "Either line, the ones or the twos could end up starting. On my line the ones, I have Cord starting across from me and behind us, we have Omoregie Uzzi and Zach Krish. Uzzi has been looking like a man lately. He has been beasting people up. Krish has great technique and he is looking real fast."

Having some quality depth behind the starters is something Gilbert says will allow the starters to play better because they will not be concerned about injuries.

"Depth takes a lot of pressure off of you. Last year if one man went down we were scrambling trying to find someone who could go in," Gilbert said. "We know that we might be rolling a little this year. Those long games after a couple of drives you get a little winded. It is nice to know that we have the option to send somebody in."

The Jackets offense can grind down an offensive lineman and Gilbert says the depth will make a difference in long drives.

"The 12 and 15 play drives wear you out quick," he said. "With the defense we got, we run a long drive and then we get the ball back after a three and out or maybe just one first down. It is such a quick turnover. You have to be in good condition for it and it is nice to have someone to come in if you get too tired."

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