Philip Wheeler #44 LB
Height: 6-2 Weight: 245 Age: 30
Born: 12/12/1984 Columbus , GA
College: Georgia Tech
Experience: 8th season
High School: Shaw HS [Columbus, GA]
Selected By: Indianapolis Colts
Pick (Overall): 30 (93)
Considered by scouting experts to be one of the nation's best blitzing linebackers, Philip Wheeler is extremely difficult to knock off his feet.
He was originally recruited as a defensive end, moving to outside linebacker with the Yellow Jackets before shifting inside as a junior.
Despite his erratic play as a senior, he received glowing praise from former head coach Chan Gailey. "Philip has really come a long way since having his hand on the ground (as a defensive end) as a high school senior," said coach Chan Gailey. "You didn't know if he could play 'up' or not. But he has developed into a great linebacker. He had his hand on the ground every snap in high school as a defensive end. You could see his talent, but you didn't know if he could develop into the player he has developed into today."
Wheeler was expected to be a new breed of leader for Georgia Tech's defense under acclaimed defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta. His predecessors, players such as KaMichael Hall and James Butler, tended to be vocal and cerebral, almost extensions of Tenuta on the field. Wheeler neither coaches nor preaches. And on a veteran defense with seven other returning starters, he needed to make plays to lead.
Wheeler has been what safety Jamal Lewis calls a "freakish athlete" since his first day on campus. But he was undisciplined, a pass rusher easily fooled by play fakes and misdirection. He missed more assignments than he nailed. But by his senior season, Wheeler had the linebacker gig nailed.
At Shaw High School, Wheeler was a first-team All-State Class AAAA pick by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and honorable mention All-Region selection by Prep Star. He made 106 tackles with 34 stops for losses and five forced fumbles as a senior defensive end. The team captain and four-year letterman helped his team to state title as a sophomore.
In 2003, Wheeler enrolled at Georgia Tech as a 215-pound rush end, seeing action mostly on special teams. He appeared in 12 games, coming up with six tackles (four solo) and a quarterback pressure. Moved to outside linebacker in 2004 spring camp, the youngster spent the season on the scout team, adjusting to playing outside linebacker.
He returned to the gridiron in 2005, starting 11 of 12 games at weak-side linebacker. Wheeler finished sixth on the team with 64 tackles (36 solo). He had four sacks and 11 1/2 stops for losses, as he caused and recovered a fumble. He broke up four passes and intercepted four others.
As a junior, Wheeler shifted to middle linebacker, bulking up to 225 pounds for the 2006 season. He earned second-team All-American honors from Rivals.com and was a second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference choice by the league's coaches. He ranked second on the squad with 89 tackles (52 solo), as he paced Tech with nine sacks and 14 1/2 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He added two pressures with a pair of fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. He also knocked down five passes.
Even with an uneven 2007 campaign, Wheeler garnered All-ACC second-team honors. Now bulked up to 238 pounds, he led the team with 89 tackles (46 solo), including six sacks, nine stops for losses and a pressure. He caused a fumble, recovered two others and deflected five passes.
In 51 games at Georgia Tech, Wheeler started 38 contests. He registered 248 tackles (138 solo), with 19 sacks for minus-137 yards, 35 stops for losses totaling 172 yards and four quarterback pressures. He caused three fumbles and recovered five others, returning two for a total of eight yards. He deflected 14 passes and intercepted four others for 18 yards in returns.