Georgia Tech freshman B-back Jerry Howard impressed coach Paul Johnson in preseason practice.
Photo: Danny Karnik//GT Athletics
Photo: Danny Karnik//GT Athletics

3 Georgia Tech freshmen to watch in 2017

 In a promising freshman class, these three players most likely will be among those playing this season for Georgia Tech.

Pressley Harvin, punter

From Alcolu, S.C., Harvin may have as big an impact on Tech this season as any member of his class. If he’s as good as advertised, Harvin could be a special-teams weapon for the Yellow Jackets, a player who could pin down opponents and flip fields with his booming kicks.

Harvin made a name for himself in recruiting circles by winning a national, invitation-only competition held by Kohl’s Kicking Camps after his freshman and sophomore years, becoming the first non-senior to win the event. A Kohl’s evaluation said that Harvin was “one of the most impressive punting prospects that we have seen in years.

What Harvin could bring Tech is a specialist who can consistently force fair catches and land balls inside the 20-yard line. The Jackets don’t punt much, but with Harvin in place, he could turn those kicks into opportunities to gain advantage.

Freshman punter forges to Georgia Tech

Jaquan Henderson, linebacker

With eight returning starters each on offense and defense, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for freshmen to win starting jobs. And with experienced linebackers ahead of him, Henderson, from Covington and Newton High, likely won’t nudge returnees such as Victor Alexander and Terrell Lewis out of the way.

But, it’s easy to see him being an impact player on special teams. Coach Paul Johnson said in July that Henderson, who withdrew a commitment from Tennessee to sign with the Jackets, might be the fastest player on the team. And, having been a big-hitting playmaker at Newton, Henderson could be a playmaker on the kickoff and punt units, tearing down the field to bring down returners. He is one of a number of freshmen who could play a role on special teams, along with Kaleb Oliver, Bruce Jordan-Swilling, Tre Swilling, Gentry Bonds and Avery Showell.

Georgia Tech signee Jaquan Henderson has an unusual career goal

Jerry Howard, B-back

Johnson’s comments to media members about players sometimes need parsing, but he didn’t leave much doubt with Howard, calling him a “load” and “tailor-made for what we do” after Tech’s first scrimmage of the preseason. It was clear that Johnson has plans for Howard, from Rock Hill, S.C., to play this season.

With the dismissal of star B-back Dedrick Mills, Tech’s likely reliance on Howard grew considerably. It’s not inconceivable that Howard, like Mills a year ago, could be the starter in the season opener. As the first two weeks of the preseason ended, it appeared it would be either him or KirVonte Benson. Howard will have to quickly learn the intricacies of the position beyond toting the football, particularly the pass blocking. It won’t be easy, but for better or worse, freshmen have led Tech in rushing the past two years.

Tech signee Jerry Howard overcoming tragedy  

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