Georgia Tech vs. Florida State
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
TV, radio: ABC (WSB-2), 1240-AM
Web site: www.ramblinwreck.com
ATLANTA — This may not seem like a good time for Morgan Burnett to switch positions.
Burnett, a safety, leads Georgia Tech in tackles and leads the nation with six interceptions. So why mess with a good thing and move Burnett to cornerback?
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson may have little choice but to move Burnett as he looks for defensive backs to start on Saturday against Gregg Carr and No. 16 Florida State’s other big receivers.
Johnson’s choices at defensive back are limited.
Starting cornerback Jahi Word-Daniels may miss his second straight game with a hamstring injury. Starting free safety Dominique Reese left last week’s loss to Virginia with a head injury.
“There’s not a lot left, so depth is a problem,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he doesn’t expect Word-Daniels to play this week, possibly increasing the chances Burnett will play at cornerback.
“It just goes with what’s best for the team,” Burnett said. “It’s all a team effort. Everyone works together and we’re trying to reach a common goal to be ACC champions.
“If it’s a need I know I’m capable of playing corner just like we know Rashaad Reid is capable of playing corner and holding his own at corner as well.”
Georgia Tech had two freshmen in the secondary in the 24-17 loss to Virginia — Reid and free safety Cooper Taylor.
Burnett had one interception against Virginia, one week after he intercepted two passes in a win at Clemson.
Burnett already has more interceptions than any Georgia Tech player since 1991, when Willie Clay had nine. He also has more interceptions than the Yellow Jackets’ total of five in 2007.
“He has really done a great job,” Johnson said. “On the interception Saturday, he was actually in man coverage on another player. I don’t think the quarterback saw him and he made the play on the ball. He adjusts to the ball and he has great ball skills. He loves to play the game.”
Burnett also led Georgia Tech with three interceptions as a freshman last season, when he started only one game. He said he has taken advantages of opportunities created by the Yellow Jackets’ pass rush, led by ends Derrick Morgan and Michael Johnson.
“It’s all a team thing,” Burnett said. “When the defensive line gets great pushes, it makes it easier for us defensive backs. When we cover our receivers, it makes it easier on the defensive line to go get the quarterback.”
Johnson said he may assign Burnett on Carr, a big-play threat who had three catches for 100 yards in Florida State’s 30-20 win over Virginia Tech last week.
Carr beat Virginia Tech’s top cornerback, Victor Harris, for a 48-yard pass from Christian Ponder to set up the go-ahead score. He added a 39-yard sideline catch to set up another touchdown.
“I can’t tell you how many times on third and long they drop back and he goes deep and it’s like a moon shot and he gets it,” Johnson said of Carr. “He’s a very talented guy.”
Carr said he’s motivated by matchups against such players as Harris and Burnett.
“You kind of take that as motivation and keep that in your mind throughout the week of practice,” Carr said. “Their best guy is out there and you have to play to the best of your abilities and match his intensity because I know he is going to come out there and play hard.”
Burnett called Carr “a great receiver.”
“Just going out on the same field, knowing he’s a great receiver, can also help me get better as far as my experience,” Burnett said.
Even at full strength, Georgia Tech’s secondary would be tested by Florida State’s big receivers, including the 6-foot-6 Carr and 6-foot-5 Corey Surrency. The Seminoles’ leading receiver is Taiwan Easterling, who has 20 catches for 232 yards and a touchdown.
“This will be our first time as a defense playing against receivers that tall this season, but it all boils down to just going out and just playing football and just doing what we’re coached to do,” said the 6-foot-1, 198-pound Burnett.
Johnson said the Seminoles’ receivers have a knack for big plays.
“They adjust to deep balls very well,” Johnson said. “It’s almost been like a get out of jail free card for them, when they have third and long or whatever they go deep and throw it up and let those guys go get it.”