Back from surgery, Tech’s Jalen Johnson finds fit at ‘stinger’

Georgia Tech defensive back Jalen Johnson meets with media following practice August 7, 2018. (Ken Sugiura/AJC)
Georgia Tech defensive back Jalen Johnson meets with media following practice August 7, 2018. (Ken Sugiura/AJC)

Georgia Tech defensive back Jalen Johnson missed spring practice because he was recovering from surgery to repair his shoulder labrum. While that meant he lost critical practice time to learn new defensive coordinator Nate Woody’s scheme, Johnson will likely be counted on to be the starter at the “stinger” defensive back position.

“It takes time to get used to it, but I feel good right now,” Johnson said.

The stinger position is something like nickel back when the defensive front is playing with three down linemen and three linebackers.

“I rush the passer a little bit, I drop into coverage,” he said. “It’s not a lot different than nickel, but it’s just a lot more aggressive. The defense as a whole is aggressive. I like it a lot.”

Johnson particularly likes it because he didn’t have many opportunities to rush the passer at nickel as a backup to Lawrence Austin.

“And I feel like I’ve got a little speed to get around big linemen,” he said. “And also my size to get on tight ends and stuff like that. I like it a lot.”

During the spring, Johnson said he tried to learn the defense through watching video and taking notes.

“I took some time to get used to it, not having reps on the field,” Johnson said. “But watching film and being in the meeting room during the spring helped a lot.”

Johnson, a senior, has played in 32 games through his first three seasons, primarily on special teams but subbing some at safety. He is listed at the top of the depth chart with freshman Charlie Thomas, an early enrollee, behind him.

“I know Charlie, he’s got it,” Johnson said. “He’s good; he knows everything.”

The shoulder injury is no longer an issue, Johnson said.

“I’ve been through (labrum surgery) before, so (rehab) wasn’t bad,” he said. “I was just getting better every day. (Trainer Mark Smith) does a good job working with us. It feels good now. I’m ready to go.”

Georgia Tech linebacker Victor Alexander led the Yellow Jackets in tackles in 2017, with 60, and had two sacks. Tech linebacker Brant Mitchell recorded 51 total tackles in 2017, the second most among players returning for 2018. Tech linebacker Bruce Jordan-Swilling recorded 34 tackles as a freshman in 2017. Tech defensive end Anree Saint-Amour ranked second in sacks (2.5) and tackles for loss (5.5) in 2017. Tech defensive lineman Desmond Branch produced 3.5 tackles for loss in 2017, the third most on the

Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Nate Woody was born Dec. 30, 1960 in Burlington, N.C., and graduated from T.L. Hanna High in Anderson, S.C. T.L. Hanna was the setting for the motion picture "Radio" that starred Cuba Gooding Jr. Nate Woody played at Wofford and later was defensive coordinator there (2000-12) and at Appalachian State (2013-17). App State defenses ranked in the top 30 in the FBS in each of Woody's final four seasons as coordinator. Woody played two seasons at defensive back and two at lin