Tech de­fen­sive end in­spires team

Saint-Amour is hum­ble de­spite lead­ing Jack­ets in sacks, tack­les for loss.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - SPORTS - By Ken Sugiura ksug­iura@ajc.com

An­ree Saint-Amour has had plenty of op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate him­self. The Ge­or­gia Tech de­fen­sive end has been the Yel­low Jack­ets’ most ef­fec­tive de­fender this sea­son, lead­ing the team with sacks (four), tack­les for loss (10.5) and quar­ter­back hur­ries (eight). But it’s not his way. “He’s just An­ree,” line­backer Brant Mitchell said. “He’s not go­ing to get a big head, and (he has) got

a lot of hu­mil­ity about him­self. That’s what makes him a spe­cial player to me.”

The son of Haitian im­mi­grants, Saint-Amour has been a dif­fer­ence-maker for Tech, a player who has fit snugly into new de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Nate Woody’s ag­gres­sive 3-4 scheme and has pro­vided the ef­fort and abil­ity to make it work.

“He’s an awe­some guy,” line- backer Jalen John­son said. “He’s mak­ing plays. It’s crazy. This is re­ally his break­out year. It’s awe­some. I’m so happy for him. I hope he goes to the top, for sure.”

Saint-Amour, from North Gwin­nett High, has been mak­ing plays on a weekly ba­sis. Against Bowl­ing Green, an in­ter­cep­tion re­turned for a touch­down. Against Louisville, a sack and two forced fum­bles, both of which Tech re­cov­ered and which led to touch­downs.

Against Duke, two sacks and a hurry that cre­ated an in­ter­cep­tion. Against Vir­ginia Tech, two tack­les for loss that snuffed out the Hok­ies’ ef­forts to stay in the game.

Against North Carolina on Satur­day, three hur­ries and nine tack­les (both ca­reer highs) and one of the plays of the sea­son, an in­ter­cep­tion in which he peeled off his pass rush to drop back into cover­age, snag­ging a pass with hands wor­thy of a tight end. It earned him de­fen­sive line­man of the week honors from the ACC.

“I think he’s a fan­tas­tic foot­ball player, I re­ally do,” Vir­ginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “We had a tremen­dous amount of re­spect for him head­ing into the foot­ball game. Prob­a­bly even more re­spect for him after the game. Ac­tive, plays hard. He’s got some ath­leti­cism, strength. Fine, fine foot­ball player.”

Through three sea­sons, Saint-Amour con­trib­uted, but noth­ing like this. As a se­nior, he has been a men­ace de­fend­ing the run, de­flect­ing passes and pres­sur­ing the quar­ter­back.

“It feels great, sat­is­fy­ing,” Saint-Amour said. “It feels great in­di­vid­u­ally, but like I said be­fore, this is a big team thing. We’re try­ing to get to a bowl game. We’re try­ing to stay alive in the con­fer­ence race, and that’s a bet­ter feel­ing. Win­ning a game, at the end of the day, is a bet­ter feel­ing.”

For three sea­sons, Sain­tA­mour played in the 4-3 de­fense of for­mer co­or­di­na­tor Ted Roof, play­ing with ef­fort and pro­duc­ing some re­sults, but per­haps lack­ing the ideal size for the po­si­tion. While ends in 3-4 de­fenses are typ­i­cally big­ger than 4-3 ends (he’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds), Woody’s scheme re­lies on play­ers such as Sain­tA­mour, who can use their quick­ness to slant through gaps and get up­field.

When he was in­tro­duced to the de­fense, “I felt like all of us were just like, ‘Oh, wow, this is go­ing to be a great fit for us,’ ” Saint-Amour said. “We’re not the big­gest guys, but we have a lot of speed, and we’re re­ally ag­gres­sive, so I feel like that fits our de­fen­sive line.”

Saint-Amour cred­its de­fen­sive line coach Jerome Ri­ase for help­ing him un­der­stand the scheme and the line’s role in it, show­ing him what pass­rush moves will work and how to read of­fenses be­fore the snap.

Ri­ase also has a way of tab­u­lat­ing pro­duc­tion with a for­mula that mea­sures play­ers’ im­pact on a game, which has helped mo­ti­vate Saint-Amour and his fel­low line­men. Sain­tA­mour said that his scores have hov­ered around 2.2, which he said Ri­ase equates to pro­duc­tion at an All-ACC level. It’s been mean­ing­ful val­i­da­tion.

“It’s just a big thing for me to just keep on do­ing good,” he said.

It would not be a sur­prise if he re­ceived all-con­fer­ence recog­ni­tion, which would make him the first Tech de­fender to be so hon­ored since Adam Got­sis in 2015 and the first de­fen­sive end since Jeremiah At­taochu in 2013. Saint-Amour said it would mean a lot him to do so, as he could fol­low in the foot­steps of his brother, Man­rey, who was an All-Sun Belt cen­ter for Ge­or­gia South­ern in 2014.

“Oh, man, it’d be great,” Saint-Amour said.

It likely would be wor­thy of cel­e­bra­tion at Em­manuel Haitian Al­liance Church in Litho­nia, which was founded by Saint-Amour’s par­ents (Man­fred and Renise) and where his fa­ther, Man­fred, is pas­tor. And, sim­i­larly, in the Tech locker room.

“He al­ways has that smile on his face,” John­son said. “He’s an awe­some guy.”

HYOSUB SHIN/HSHIN@AJC.COM

Ge­or­gia Tech de­fen­sive end An­ree Saint-Amour (cen­ter), look­ing up in glee after a play Oct. 13, is a men­ace de­fend­ing the run, de­flect­ing passes and pres­sur­ing the quar­ter­back.

HYOSUB SHIN/HSHIN@AJC.COM

Ge­or­gia Tech de­fen­sive end An­ree Saint-Amour “al­ways has that smile on his face,” says a team­mate. Saint-Amour has raised his game as a se­nior.

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