Georgia Tech’s Tre Swilling adjusting to new schemes

Georgia Tech defensive back Tre Swilling (3) celebratesat Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 13, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Georgia Tech defensive back Tre Swilling (3) celebratesat Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 13, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM



Tre Swilling’s connection to Georgia Tech started when he was a child. His father, Pat Swilling, played for the Yellow Jackets as a defensive lineman from 1982-85 and was a first-team All-American in 1985 on his way to the College Football Hall of Fame.

Tre Swilling is working to establish himself as a cornerback for the Jackets, after redshirting in 2017 and playing as a redshirt freshman last season. He played in 12 games, starting 11.

He is preparing for the spring game April 26, the chance for him to be back on the field when former players, such as his father, come back.

Spring practice created opportunities for Swilling to shine as a corner and display his abilities as a press cornerback. Tech’s offense has abandoned the option offense used by former coach Paul Johnson, allowing the defense, and particularly the defensive backs, to gain more experience facing an offense that passes more often.

“I think it makes us a ton better because now we get to see the same routes that we’re seeing in the games at practice,” Swilling said. “So when I see somebody lining up like a close tight split or they’re wide, I know maybe a slant is coming or an inside route is coming. Different things like that. To be able to see that and get the repetition for it makes us better.”

He even attends the meetings of the wide receivers to learn their routes and improve his capabilities at cornerback. He tries to use the information he learns against them on the field in practice. He said it builds the competition on offense and defense and helps prepare defensive backs and wide receivers.

Cornerback coach Jeff Popovich said knowledge of the offense and the defense helps players be successful. A large portion of the game is mental, and if a player can succeed in the mental aspect, he also will be able to succeed in the physical aspect.

“Anytime you can try and gain an understanding of how you are going to be attacked and what offenses are trying to do to defenses, an vice versa for a receiver learning how a defense plays, is very valuable,” Popovich said.

The new approach on offense has created a challenge for Swilling on defense. As a press corner, he has to adjust from last season. Previously, he was able to back pedal and see the play unfold in front of him. Now, being a part of the press man-to-man technique he has to dissect the play faster and prevent the receiver from getting into his route.

However, he said this technique makes him and the other cornerbacks better. Now, he can excel at whichever technique is required for the opposing offense.

Swilling looks to continually improve his game from last season and not grow complacent. Tech’s lack of a depth chart right now helps him do that. The Jackets use an “above the line” or “below the line” system instead, where anyone who is above the line gets to play.

“One day I might be at left, one day I might be playing nickel, one day I might be playing right corner,” Swilling said. “So you just don’t know. It keeps you going every single day and you’ve got to attack the day with the same mindset and just wanting to get better.”

Popovich, who is in his first season at Tech, notices the work Swilling has put in through the spring and recognizes him as a leader on and off the field for the defensive backs.

“He’s really gotten in there, watches a ton of film, asks questions,” Popovich said. “He’s always asking when things are going to be pushed to him so he can watch it at home. And so that’s been great, he’s really come around from day one until now, he’s making huge strides. Really excited about his development.”