The future may be coming this fall to Georgia Tech’s linebacking crew. With highly regarded signees Bruce Jordan-Swilling and Jaquan Henderson on the roster, there may be a challenge for playing time with the returnees. And that, obviously, would bode well for the effectiveness of defensive coordinator Ted Roof’s unit.
Coach Paul Johnson sounded that bell at the ACC Kickoff.
“We’re going to give a couple of those freshmen a go,” Johnson said. “Bruce Swilling’s going to get a chance. We’ll see what he can do in camp. Some of the younger guys have got to come along. Jaquan might be the fastest guy on the team. He can fly.”
Time will tell, but signings like Jordan-Swilling and Henderson at linebacker and Kaleb Oliver and Gentry Bonds in the secondary may prove to be a significant upgrade for the defense down the road. They’ll get their first crack when preseason practice begins Friday.
First team after spring: Brant Mitchell, junior, Victor Alexander, junior.
Notable reserves: Terrell Lewis, senior, David Curry, sophomore.
On the way up: Bruce Jordan-Swilling, freshman, Jaquan Henderson, freshman, T.D. Roof, freshman.
Analysis: Mitchell has started 16 games in two seasons and is the leading returning tackler among linebackers with 71 tackles last season. As he moves into his second season as a full-time starter, coaches will be counting on him to read plays and shed blocks more quickly to make more game-changing plays for the defense.
Alexander has played behind three-year starter P.J. Davis and will get his chance to play alongside Mitchell in the 4-2-5 defense.
“We need Victor to play more consistent, but he’s talented,” Johnson said.
Lewis has shown his ability in moments, notably an eight-tackle game against Duke last season in one of his three career starts. Mostly a special teamer in his first three seasons, Lewis is another competing to get on the field, and perhaps feeling the finality of his Tech career.
Curry got one start last season, against Vanderbilt, and mostly played special teams. Curry, redshirt fresman Jakob Brashear and junior Tre Jackson will be pushed by the freshmen, Henderson, Jordan-Swilling and T.D. Roof, Ted Roof’s son. There could be some shifting in the three-deep depth chart.
Jordan-Swilling would seem the most likely of the three enrolling freshmen to have a shot at not only playing as a freshman but having a role on the defense. Rated a four-star prospect by 247 Sports, Jordan-Swilling turned down Alabama, LSU and USC, among others, to play for the Jackets, hardly the usual for Tech. Henderson was committed first to UCLA and then Tennessee before being wooed to Tech late in the recruiting cycle. They could be a fearsome pairing down the road. T.D. Roof, too, should not be overlooked.
Statistic: Mitchell had 42 tackles in his final five games of the regular season.
Prediction: Mitchell and Alexander will start the season with Lewis playing in 4-3 situations. Jordan-Swilling will work his way at least into the first-unit 4-3 defense by the end of the season.
The series continues Wednesday with a preview of the secondary.
The series so far:
Part 1: Wide receiver
Part 2: Offensive line
Part 3: A-back
Part 4: B-back
Part 5: Quarterback
Part 6: Defensive line
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