Georgia Tech is nearing the end of its first spring practice with coach Geoff Collins, with the spring game set for April 26 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. As Collins and his staff continue to teach new schemes, learn the roster and continue the process of finding the right positions for different players, here are five notes from the week’s media availability.
1. Tech cornerbacks coach Jeff Popovich must like this much about his position group — his best player is one of the team’s hardest workers. Returning starter Tre Swilling appears to be helping set the pace for the Yellow Jackets, as his effort and play during spring practice have been recognized multiple times by coaches.
“I think Tre, he’s been one of those guys that really, both on and off the field, as a leader, he’s been awesome with those guys,” Popovich said.
Beyond his play during spring practice, Swilling has been studying a heavy dose of practice video and is constantly asking Popovich when new videos will be made available for him to review, the coach said. Coaches crave situations when the top players also are the hardest workers because of the standard it sets for teammates.
“From Day 1 until now, he’s making huge strides,” Popovich said. “I’m really excited about his development.”
2. Cornerback Jaytlin Askew is recovering from shoulder surgery that he underwent after the end of the 2018 season. Askew said he suffered a rotator-cuff injury in the second game of the season (at South Florida). Askew played with the injury and even started five games.
As a result of the surgery, the rising junior has been sidelined during spring practice, and his involvement has largely been limited to meetings and watching from the sidelines. He is still working out and said he has added 15 pounds of muscle since last season. Popovich said he has tried to keep Askew engaged in meetings by quizzing him as he does the rest of the cornerbacks.
“He does a great job,” Popovich said.
Askew said he expects to be cleared to return at the end of April.
“I’m going to make up for it this year,” he said.
3. Wide receiver Jair Hawkins-Anderson’s turn at cornerback was borne out of impressive recall and digging by graduate assistant Tyson Wachenheim.
As coaches discussed which players could play at a different position on the other side of the ball — a recurring theme this spring — Wachenheim offered that Hawkins-Anderson had a single rep at cornerback in a one-on-one drill last season and then was able to locate the practice video.
“He looked pretty good, so we were like, hey, let’s try it,” Popovich said.
On Tuesday, in a two-minute drill, Hawkins-Anderson distinguished himself with an interception to end one series, then lined up at wide receiver for the next possession.
“You’ve got to kind of help him out every snap in terms of calls and stuff because he’s still playing all the offensive stuff, so it’s a lot on his plate, but he’s doing a great job,” Popovich said.
4. Walk-on tight end Joseph Macrina’s nickname is Chewy, and the story of its nomenclature, shared by tight-ends coach Chris Wiesehan, is first-rate.
When Macrina was in fourth grade, he had a close friend who cut a dashing figure. The friend was dubbed Han Solo and Macrina, whose figure was less dashing, became Chewy.
The nickname evidently was not traumatic, as Macrina carried it with him not only to high school at Northview High but later to Tech, and it’s also on his Twitter page.
“Chewy’s done a great job, and he’s going to be a guy who can catch the ball in the flat,” Wiesehan said. “He knows all the insertions in the run, he’s a physical guy, he’s ascending on special-teams depth chart.”
Macrina previously was a linebacker and then a B-back before volunteering to move to tight end, a position that didn’t exist in former coach Paul Johnson’s offense.
“It’s really cool because there’s no foundation, and the fact that we can come in here and help build a foundation for the future of the program, because it’s going to be a big part of the years to come – I’m just so happy that me, Tyler (Davis) and Tyler (Cooksey) and (Josh) Tukes and Nathan (Tyler) will be able to start that,” he said.
5. Tech’s specialists are a little more involved in practice than they used to be. At the start of practice, the defense has a walk-through period in which players line up on the field and go through different calls. To help, specialists such as kicker Wesley Wells and punter Pressley Harvin line up as offensive players to give the defense a look at what they will be seeing.
“It just gives us a chance to be around the guys a lot more and be more involved with it,” Harvin said.