As far as transitions go, KeShun Freeman’s was as smooth as glass.
After a phenomenal playing career at Callaway High, Freeman headed to Atlanta to join the Georgia Tech football team for the 2014 season.
It didn’t take Freeman long to show that he was perfectly at home playing big-time college football.
After doing a nice job coming off the bench in the first two games, Freeman was a starter on the defensive line by the third game, and he remained in the lineup for the rest of what turned into a memorable season for the Yellow Jackets.
Georgia Tech ended up winning 11 games in a season that was capped by a victory over Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl.
Freeman had a lot to do with the Yellow Jackets’ success.
Freeman led the team in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (9.5), he was seventh with 54 total tackles, and he had a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a blocked kick.
After the season, Freeman received numerous honors, and he was named to three different freshman All-American teams.
Now, Freeman is getting ready for his encore.
In less than two months, Georgia Tech will open the season with a home game against Alcorn State, and Freeman will be anchoring the defensive line from his end position.
As fulfilling as the 2014 season was from a team and individual standpoint, Freeman said no one is satisfied.
“That’s the one thing coach (Paul) Johnson talks about is all that stuff is really great, but we’re trying to look forward,” Freeman said from the Georgia Tech campus on Monday. “We want to have a better season. We want to build off the things, correct the mistakes we made, any great things we did we want to build off of that and make our team stronger so we can win even more games. There are a lot of great opportunities for Georgia Tech this year.”
Freeman is listed at 236 pounds on the roster, and while he may be a bit smaller than the proto-typical defensive end, that hasn’t been a problem so far.
Freeman’s combination of speed, strength, tenacity, and awareness for where the football is going to be makes him extremely difficult to stop.
Freeman also said the coaches, including defensive coordinator Ted Roof, give him the flexibility to play however he feels comfortable.
“Sometimes I would be a standup defensive end, and sometimes I would get in a four-point stance,” Freeman said. “The coaches, they ask me which one is more comfortable for you in a game, because you’re going to be the one playing. We’re not going to be on the field with you. So you get comfortable doing this scheme, and we’ll build off of it. If I start off the week in a two-point stance and I feel it’s not comfortable, they’ll get me in a three-point stance and we’ll play off of that.”
Freeman also said he’ll “drop into pass coverage sometimes.”
“They’re really flexible, and they really use me in different ways, and I enjoy it,” he said.
Roof, who is heading into his third season as the defensive coordinator, said Freeman could be poised to make a significant jump this fall.
“He’s had a great offseason,” Roof said. “Football’s very important to him. He’s working hard at it and I think we’ll see a big jump. I think he’ll have a better year and he had a great year last year as a true freshman. But I think we’ll see him have a much better year this year.”
Freeman was an early enrollee at Georgia Tech, and he was able to participate in spring practice in 2014, giving him a head start on most of the other freshmen.
Still, as prepared as he may have been, he was still a true freshman a year ago, and there was plenty to learn.
Now, as he prepares for a new season, things have changed for Freeman.
He’s no longer the new guy.
He’s a veteran, and he’s the one passing along his knowledge to the first-year players.
“Last year, I was still new to the team, and adjusting to learning the plays and everything,” Freeman said. “This summer, I’m more of a veteran with some of the older guys since I’ve been there for a year now. It kind of makes it easier teaching the freshmen that are coming in as well.”
Freeman said the defensive players are “really a group of brothers, and we work together, and we build off each other.”
“Last year, we were still getting used to things,” he added. “Now we’ve played with each other, and we’re able to build off of what we did last year.”
It’s been a busy offseason for Freeman.
The strength and conditioning program is a year-round endeavor, and Georgia Tech is obviously a challenging school from an academic standpoint.
Freeman also found time to participate in a service mission trip in May.
Freeman was part of a group of 17 student-athletes from Georgia Tech who went on the mission trip to the Dominican Republic representing the school’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
The group, which included 11 football players, had a busy week that included building houses for impoverished families.
Now, with a new season inching closer, football is starting to dominate the thoughts of Freeman and his teammates.
The Yellow Jackets went 11-3 a year ago and they beat Georgia, and blew out Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl.
All the pieces appear to be in place for the Yellow Jackets to have another special season, but Freeman knows there are no short cuts, and he said everyone will come to preseason practice ready to work.
“This fall camp is going to be one where we really work hard,” Freeman said. “We had the mindset, let’s make Georgia Tech better. Let’s not try to copy anyone else’s game. Let’s just do what we do best, and play Georgia Tech football. We’re going to do a lot of work and just build off of what we ended with last year.”
If everything falls into place, perhaps Georgia Tech will be one of the four teams playing in the four-team playoff.
It doesn’t pay to look ahead, though, and Freeman said no one on the team will be doing that.
“I always say to myself, what would it feel like to play in that playoff, or what would it feel like to win a national title,” Freeman said. “Those are two big dreams. Sometimes I have to remind myself that hey, in order to get there, you have to make sure you win this game, and win the second game, and win the third game. It’s a long way until we get there. We’re going to take it game by game, and try to make ourselves better.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports