Georgia Tech roommates battling for nickel back job

As Lawrence Austin and Lynn Griffin continue competing for Georgia Tech’s nickel back position, both players say all competition is friendly because they have a connection off the field — they’re roommates.

Austin, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound sophomore, said the encouragement he and his roommate offer each other deters any discord.

“Every time I go out, he goes in,” Austin said. “We say ‘You did good’ on every [play]. We’re really good. No bad blood.”

Defensive backs coach Joe Speed said as the Yellow Jackets move into the last week of preparations before their September 3 opener against Alcorn State, coaches are still watching to see which player “edges out.”

Speed said both Austin and Griffin receive equal first-team reps and ultimately, the deciding factor will be “who gets the most plays right.”

Head coach Paul Johnson said as they draw closer to the first game, the coaches will meet to evaluate each players’ performance throughout camp and choose the starter.

“It’s going to be really close,” Johnson said. “They’ll both play, I’m sure, but only one will end up being the starter.”

Speed said both players are being evaluated on several criteria.

“They’ve got to make sure that they take care of their run responsibilities, as well as be able to handle their wide receivers, whether there’s (zone) coverage and whether there’s man-to-man,” Speed said. “Both of them are being evaluated every practice with who gets it right, who gets it wrong, who’s verbal, who gets the right checks, who makes the plays on the deep ball, who communicates well.”

Griffin, the 6-foot, 197-pound redshirt junior who recorded five tackles and 12 game in 2014, said he feels more confident in knowing the game.

“Everything’s slowed down,” Griffin said. “[I have] a different mindset as far as training and being more physical.”

Austin said he also sees growth in his mental performance gained from a busy freshman season. With 14 appearances and one start against N.C. State, Austin recorded 19 tackles, one interception, one pass break-up and one forced fumble.

Even after a starter is chosen for the opener, Griffin said he sees a possibility of the competition at nickel back extending through the season.

“I feel like we have some of the same skill set,” Griffin said. “We both play hard and I guess it all comes down to who plays the hardest and who strays the most.”

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