April 3, 2014

Georgia Rampage: Former Yellow Jacket catching on quickly

Jerrard Tarrant had not played organized football in three years.

But after returning to the field for the Georgia Rampage’s season opener last month, he didn’t appear to lose anything from his days playing for the Georgia Tech football team.

The 24-year-old defensive back has been a welcomed addition to Dalton’s professional indoor football team, which is looking for its first win of the season when it hosts the Florida Marine Raiders tonight at 7 at the trade center.

Exiting the preseason and looking to the first X-League game a month ago against the Alabama Outlawz, the Rampage (0-2) signed Tarrant.

“I was just sitting around one day and I had started working out and I thought, ‘I’m feeling good. I can play again,’” Tarrant said. “Some of the people I knew I contacted, and that’s how I contacted the Rampage.”

Tarrant, a Carrollton High School graduate, had a fumble recovery for a touchdown and an interception in the Rampage’s 44-43 loss. They knew they found a free agency steal.

“He just knows where to be at all times,” Rampage coach Mark Bramblett said. “You can’t coach that. It’s just something they know. Not only can he cover good, but he can lower the boom on someone, too, when he needs to make a tackle.”

That probably shouldn’t be surprising considering Tarrant once was an NFL prospect. He left Georgia Tech after his redshirt junior season, in which he had 55 tackles, recovered three fumbles and intercepted three passes as a safety. Tarrant was projected as a mid-round selection by the draft analysts at ESPN, according to a post from 2011 on Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Doug Roberson’s blog. Playing cornerback earlier in his career, Tarrant recovered two fumbles and had two interceptions in 2009, when he also returned two punts for touchdowns.

Tarrant wasn’t drafted, but he signed as a free agent with the New York Giants. He played in all four of the team’s preseason games, making five tackles. He did not make the Giants’ regular-season roster.

Since then, he’s been working to complete his college degree. Now football is back in the mix.

“I could tell in the first game (for the Rampage) that I was losing a step,” Tarrant said, “but in the second game I did pretty well.”

Tarrant had two interceptions and another fumble recovery as the Rampage lost 44-34 on the road to the St. Louis Attack this past Sunday.

“He’s not a blazing fast guy,” Rampage owner Kacee Smith said. “He only runs like a high 4.6 40-yard dash. But he’s just a playmaker.”

For most former college players, the transition to indoor football isn’t simple. The game is quicker and the field is smaller.

“There are a lot of different things going on,” Tarrant said. “That probably has been my biggest adjustment, how fast the game goes.”

To his coaches, the adjustment has appeared easier for Tarrant than most.

“He played safety in college and he was always in space,” Bramblett said. “Our field is compressed and it limits the amount of space he has to cover. ... So you can take a few more chances. The biggest thing for defensive backs coming to the indoor game, the routes are a lot quicker. He’s usually covering the motion guy and they’re usually just running a couple specific routes from the motion.

“We’ve actually changed the way we run some of our defenses to allow him to come up closer to the line of scrimmage to make a stop, whether it be on a quarterback scramble or a running play.”

Tarrant is hopeful for a future in the sport — maybe even another shot at the NFL. The Rampage are just hoping for their first win of the eight-game schedule amid a rash of injuries, including one to Telford Chatman, who was the anticipated starter at quarterback. Demarcus Simmons started against St. Louis and threw five interceptions, including on his first pass.

“We’re looking for a much better showing this week,” Bramblett said. “It’s going to happen for us. Hopefully, this will be the week.”

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