Georgia Tech defensive back Lance Austin (center) intercepts Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason during the fourth quarter, setting up the game-winning drive for a 28-27 victory for Georgia Tech on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, in Athens. Georgia Tech defenders Lawrence Austin (left) and Brandon Adams celebrate on the play. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Depth-chart analysis: Defensive backs

With Georgia Tech’s spring practice beginning Monday, we’ll take a look at each position group and how the depth stacks up for the Yellow Jackets. Players will be rated as starting, competing or depth.

All five starters from 2016 return, giving the Jackets solidity in the secondary. The intrigue is which young players will emerge to take backup jobs and be ready to start in 2018.

Lawrence Austin: Starting

The nickel back was ACC defensive back of the week against Virginia Tech and will be in a leadership position as a senior.

Lance Austin: Starting

The two-time ACC defensive back of the week led the ACC in passes defensed with 15. It won’t be much of a surprise if more game-changing plays are in store.

Step Durham: Starting

Durham fought injuries last season, but the cornerback had a solid first season as a starter, finishing second on the team in pass breakups with six.

Corey Griffin: Starting

Griffin had one of the best seasons of any player on the team, a strong tackler who excels in run support.

A.J. Gray: Starting

In his first season as a starter, Gray didn’t make as many impact plays as expected, but he is a star on the rise.

Jaytlin Askew: Depth

Askew, a freshman who enrolled early, turned down scholarship offers from Auburn, Clemson and Florida State to play cornerback for the Jackets.

Gentry Bonds: Depth

An early enrollee, the freshman Bonds will get his feet wet in the spring, giving him a big leg up on playing time at backup cornerback next season.

Christian Campbell: Depth

He has the athletic ability, but needs practice time at safety after switching from quarterback last spring. Unfortunately, he’ll miss spring practice after having surgery, Johnson said.

Jarrett Cole: Depth

Cole redshirted last season and would do well to gain from spring practice with a talented group of defensive backs coming in this summer.

Jalen Johnson: Depth

He will miss the spring after having surgery, according to Johnson. The safety has been a contributor on special teams.

Shaun Kagawa: Depth

He has been an impact player on special teams since his freshman season and will try to fight for more time on defense.

Ajani Kerr: Depth

The transfers of cornerbacks of Meiko Dotson and Dorian Walker have given Kerr a chance to get on the field more quickly, and he has the ability to do it.

Lamont Simmons: Depth

After having sat out the previous two seasons (redshirt at USC and transfer), Simmons made a strong impression as a backup last season at cornerback. He’ll push Lance Austin and Step Durham hard.

Incoming freshmen: Tariq Carpenter, Kaleb Oliver, Avery Showell, Tre Swilling, Dameon Williams.

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