The name of Georgia Tech defensive end Tyler Stargel was an easy one to forget in the spring – he missed spring practice as he recovered from ankle surgery, and was not on the depth chart coming out of the spring.
But, the junior from Orange Beach, Ala., figures be in the mix for playing time at one of the end spots. For one thing, he is healthy. For another, he said he is in the best shape of his life and has made strength gains from last season.
After not having played since the Orange Bowl, “just doing simple things like working my pass rush moves, working my feet on the run game, it’s just taken a minute to get back in the groove, but I’m starting to feel that familiarity,” Stargel said Tuesday.
Last season, Stargel played all 14 games and made enough of an impression to start the first two, at end. He was credited with six tackles, including one in the Orange Bowl. However, his productivity was hampered by an injured ankle that he played on until an aggravation of the injury in the Orange Bowl. Stargel said he initially sprained it multiple times, but an MRI after the bowl game revealed torn ligaments in his left ankle.
“It was manageable throughout the season until I got to the Orange Bowl,” he said. “I made a wrong step and that’s when I really knew something was up.”
“Manageable” is, evidently, a relative term.
“There was days I’d go out there and practice and I really wouldn’t know if I would make it through, but when you’re put in a position like that, you don’t want to sit out, especially during the season,” he said.
After his surgery in February, Stargel rehabilitated and was cleared in June. His limited stability and mobility on his feet did enable Stargel to focus on developing his upper body. He weighs 255 pounds, about six pounds heavier than he was last season.
“What I do feel is a lot stronger than I’ve ever been,” he said. “I know, once we get into the season, it’ll help working against those big tackles.”
For the time being, Stargel is sharing second-team snaps with Antonio Simmons at the rush defensive end spot, where KeShun Freeman is starting.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s a real attacking position. That makes football easy when you just attack and don’t have to think.”
Defensive line coach Mike Pelton said he has put him there in order to help him accumulate practice reps. Stargel could play either end spot. At the other end spot, Rod Rook-Chungong and Patrick Gamble are competing for time. Gamble is likely to play both end and tackle.
He will bring versatility and increased strength and experience to a line that needs to improve from its 2014 performance.
Part of Stargel’s challenge in camp, beyond dealing with the heat and offensive tackles, will be gaining increasing trust in his ankle and honing fundamentals not practiced since December 2014.
“But I’m definitely glad to be back,” he said.
About Stargel (but not really about Stargel)
A Tech offensive tackle he likes going against in practice: "Errin Joe. To me, one of the best pass blockers we have here. He's real aggressive. He's just an older guy that, he's seen it all. He's been here a while, so it takes a lot to get by him."
His camp roommate is freshman B-back Mikell Lands-Davis (coaches often pair freshmen with veterans): "He's cool. He's real quiet."