ATLANTA - A lot has changed since the last time Georgia Tech's Daniel Drummond played in a football game.
Not only does he have a new position, but Drummond, a Flowery Branch High graduate, also has a new appreciation for playing the game he's had in his life since a young age.
Serving a 10-game suspension in 2010 for a transgression he chooses not to disclose made Drummond realize how lucky he is to be able to play football. Now that he's back in good standing with the Yellow Jackets football program, Drummond has been handed a new challenge from their coaching staff: moving to middle linebacker from running back.
The position change is one Drummond has embraced with open arms during Georgia Tech's spring football, which is currently in progress. Now he's ready to satisfy the other component and run out of the tunnel with his teammates on game day, an aspect he deeply missed out on last season.
Drummond, who was recruited as a B-back, was redshirted in 2009 as a true freshman at Georgia Tech.
"I'm having a blast right now," Drummond said after Wednesday's practice at Bobby Dodd Stadium. "I got through it and really appreciate getting to play now.
"I know how lucky I am to be able to get to play football."
Though Drummond played on the scout team last season during his suspension, there's only so much team bonding that can come from that routine. Now, the past is the past.
Even though he won't be going after touchdowns this season, Drummond believes he can achieve the same rush from chasing down quarterbacks and running backs and tearing through the line of scrimmage.
"I think I'm more suited to play linebacker than running back," said Drummond, who also played linebacker in high school. "I've just got a lot to learn right now since this is only my second week at linebacker."
Johnson says the move was based on getting the best athletes in the best position on the field, not necessarily one of team depth.
Even though Drummond is still a work in progress at linebacker, he's already grabbed the attention of Georgia Tech's coaching staff. Last Saturday, Drummond worked with the first-team defense in the Yellow Jackets first scrimmage of the spring. Georgia Tech's spring T-Day game is April 23 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
While Johnson says that Drummond has made some good plays, he emphasizes that he's still raw.
"We moved Daniel to linebacker because he is a big kid that can run," Johnson said. "It's really his natural spot."
But does he have the mean streak it takes to play at linebacker?
"I think that he does, but then again, he hasn't been there very long," Johnson added.
Izaan Cross, a defensive end, was just as excited as Drummond about the move. These two were teammates in high school at Flowery Branch and eager to make plays on the field once again.
"There was speculation since last year that he'd be moved over to defense," Cross said. "Since the move to linebacker, Daniel's really having to learn on the fly."
Drummond (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) learned from coaches in a meeting a few months back about the switch to the defensive side of the ball. Since last season, he'd been having dialogue with defensive coordinator Al Groh about coming over to the "dark side."
So when he was called in to meet with Johnson in January, the writing was already on the wall about the switch to defense.
"I just had a big smile when I found out I was moving to linebacker," Drummond said.
Now that spring football is in session, Drummond is always looking to learn the intricacies of the position, while constantly asking questions to keep from repeating past mistakes.
He wants to be in the position to earn a starting role in Georgia Tech's 3-4 defense by the time the depth chart is implemented.
Learning to play at linebacker comes with a list of challenges. First, Drummond is learning to read his keys and how to react in every situation. Also, he's acquiring the technique to be able to overpower offensive guards that often weigh in excess of 300 pounds in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
And learning to play linebacker at Georgia Tech, Drummond keeps in mind that the triple-option offense and its bread and butter keep, pitch and dive plays are not what he'll see during the regular season.
"Everything is going well moving to linebacker, but it is a tough transition," Drummond said.