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

Guard Austin Smith likely to play as freshman

Georgia Tech freshman guard Austin Smith is competing for a spot on the second string of the offensive line and has a shot at playing this season. Following the 18th practice of the preseason, coach Paul Johnson said Wednesday that Smith is competing with redshirt freshman Charlie Clark for spots on the depth chart.

“He’s got some punch,” Johnson said of Smith, from Ola High in Henry County. “He needs to learn to play in college. It’s not two steps and watch. But he’s got ability. I think he’ll be fine. We’ve just got to get him some reps, and he’s just got to play some. He’s got ability.”

Smith is one of a handful of freshmen who appear on track to play this season. Others include wide receiver Malachi Carter and linebacker Quez Jackson. Safety/linebacker Charlie Thomas and safety Juanyeh Thomas are also possibilities. Johnson said that Thomas, from Niceville, Fla., is playing at the Stinger position, a hybrid safety/linebacker spot.

Jalen Johnson and Christian Campbell are competing for the starting job there.

“I don’t know how much he’ll play,” Johnson said of Thomas. “It just depends on how deep they get and what they’re doing, I imagine.”

It’s conceivable that one of the freshman A-backs, Tijai Whatley or Dontae Smith, could play, and also one of the freshman cornerbacks, Jaylon King or Zamari Walton.

Tech opens its season Sept. 1 against Alcorn State at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.