ATLANTA — Paul Johnson finds the buzz to be quite, well, humorous.
All the talk that has been generated about Georgia Tech’s supposed new “Wolf” position has been flabbergasting to the head coach.
“All it is, it’s the same defense we played in last year,” Johnson said with a chuckle. “For some reason, they wanted to slide a name to it.”
The “Wolf” position, as it has been coined by defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, is essentially a slot in the backfield dedicated to allowing an extra safety to play an entire game as an extra defensive back.
Some patterns will call on him to rush the quarterback as a quasi-outside linebacker, and others will require him to be deep in the secondary and drop back as a true free safety.
With the extra defensive back on the field most of the time, Georgia Tech coaches believe there will be no drop off in play if they decide to rotate the player out for a third corner in a more traditional nickel package.
“What some people call a ‘Nickel,’ we call a ‘Wolf’ or a ‘Husky,’ ” Wommack said. “I guess that’s the simplest way to put it.”
This fall, sophomore Cooper Taylor — clocked last spring as Georgia Tech’s fastest player with a 4.38 40-yard dash — is slated to start the position after shadowing fellow sophomore Rashaad Reid there last season.
Taylor and his slated backup, Mario Edwards, will join preseason All-ACC and All-America safety Morgan Burnett in the secondary along with the speedy Dominique Reese. The trio, along with Reid and Mario Butler at the true corner positions, will form Georgia Tech’s electric five defensive back set.
“We’re always trying to get the best 11 people on the field. And we felt like we had three safety types — between Dominique (Reese), Morgan (Burnett) and Cooper — that needed to be on the field,” Wommack said.
The names “Wolf” and “Husky” can be traced back more than a decade, to Wommack’s time as a defensive backs coach at Southern Mississippi in the mid-1990s.
There, the words were keys in game planning and play diagramming. So, for explanatory purposes in team meetings, the letters from those words were used to differentiate between similar first-lettered position names.
For example, the letter ‘N’ might be written on a meeting room board to discuss specific defensive patterns for the nose tackle or nose guard positions. Well, ‘N’ could also be used to describe the nickel cornerback’s responsibilities. So at Southern Mississippi, Wommack and his staff used an ‘H’ to avoid any confusion.
“So our line stunts up front with the Nickel and the nose, and when you needed another word — or another letter, if you will — we just came up with Husky,” Wommack said. “Because we’re a little different. We have a rover and a safety, and the letters mean something to what we do.”
“Husky” in turn became “Wolf” at Georgia Tech.
Past the two-deep roster of Taylor and Edwards, Wommack is hoping to see a pair of freshmen step into the role and learn it quickly.
“We feel that some of the young guys coming in might contribute that spot,” Wommack said.