Georgia Tech's Roof: DE KeShun Freeman can be even better

ATLANTA (AP) Third-year defensive end KeShun Freeman is taking nothing for granted heading into Georgia Tech's spring scrimmage Saturday.

Yellow Jackets defensive coordinator Ted Roof appreciates Freeman's passion and leadership, but says the rising junior can do much more.

''I think the guys behind him (are pushing for a starting job) and he's certainly pushed himself harder to get better,'' Roof said. ''He's improved with his hands. He's become more physical, more violent and more consistent with his footwork. I'm sure he will (improve). It's very important to him.''

After a strong freshman season, Freeman fell off like the rest of the defense as the Jackets sunk to a 3-9 record, ranking 91st nationally in turnovers and 120th in sacks.

His sacks and tackles for a loss were less than half his production when Georgia Tech went 11-3 in 2014 and won the Orange Bowl.

Improving his first step after the snap is the key to having everything else fall into place.

''If I can get off the ball really fast, that will definitely help me out, so I've been really been working on that,'' Freeman said. ''Get a great stride so I can come off faster. My hand action - a lot of times I get held a lot - but if I can (push) their hands off, that will be better.''

Roof said Freeman and Roderick Rook-Chungong understand that Anree Saint-Amour has been impressive this spring and is trying to make the coaches' decision difficult.

''You don't want the same guy playing every rep all year, and at the same time Anree's not necessarily a backup,'' Roof said. ''He's the guy that's pushing both Rook and KeShun for a starting job. That's a battle in progress, and it's going to make us a lot better.''

Freeman and the ends are an integral part of Roof's vision for an improved pass rush. The 4-3 scheme was hurt badly last year by quarterbacks taking two- and three-step drops to complete quick passes.

Roof hopes to disguise some coverages to dial up some blitzes Saturday and surprise Justin Thomas and the Jackets' other QBs. Unless the line is getting constant pressure, however, it might not make much difference.

''I've said it a million times that you're only going to be as good as your base defense,'' Roof said. ''But we've got to be able to pressure the quarterback and get after it.''

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