September 18, 2009

Sylvester growing up fast

The trip down to Florida did not go the way the Georgia Tech football team envisioned and for sophomore linebacker Steven Sylvester a killer block by a Hurricane player ended his evening early. Sylvester who has been getting an increasing amount of snaps at weakside linebacker has a mild concussion and he should return to the lineup quickly. As a key member of the defensive rotation, the Jackets cannot afford to have Sylvester on the sideline for long.

As a true freshman, Sylvester was thrown into the fire after several major injuries at linebacker forced the staff to call his number. This season, Sylvester has a great understanding of defensive coordinator Dave Wommack's system and what linebacker coach Brian Jean-Mary expects from him.

"It is lot better now and things have slowed down a lot," he said. "When you don't know what you are doing it is a whole different speed. Once you get the year under your belt and understand what is going on, it is full steam ahead."

Sylvester feels comfortable with the scheme and feels like he is progressing each week and improving as a player. At the middle linebacker position, Julian Burnett is in the same situation this year after jumping over B.J. Machen on the depth chart. Sylvester says you have to focus on specific goals when you are on the field, so the situations do not overwhelm you.

"I am a lot more comfortable. Last year, when AT (Anthony Barnes) and Gladiator (Brad Jefferson) went down, it was kind of like, Sylvester you are the next guy in line and you are in the fire," he said. "I had to learn on the run and you are not going to grasp everything, but you do the best you can with what you know when you are in there."

Burnett and Sylvester are often paired together and Sylvester says Burnett leans on him to remain calm in the fire.

"The younger guys are looking to me now when things get tough and they are in tough situations. They know I know what to do and they know not to panic," he said. "I tell him to go find the person with the ball and hit them."

After seeing how hard the injury bug stung the Jackets last year, Sylvester prepares for each game like a starter that way he is mentally prepared when his number is called.

"Coach B.J. always tells me I have to look at myself as a starter, so if one guy goes down, they know I can go in and there will not be any drop off," Sylvester said. "I just have to be ready to go anytime."

"There are a couple of things I am working on. I have been training my eyes to keep them in the right place," Sylvester said. "I don't want to get caught looking at the smoke and mirrors as coach would say. I am learning my assignments better, so I know exactly what my gap responsibilities and gap integrity I need to keep. I am also working on going to the ball 100-percent of the time."

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