Surprises give Georgia Tech a boost in preseason

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerAugust 22, 2013 

DANNY KARNIK

ATLANTA -- Every set of preseason practices has its share of surprises, players who seem to emerge from the shadows and make it known that they expect to play a role in the upcoming season.

Georgia Tech has had several players step forward during the preparations for the season opener.

One of those who has emerged is sophomore Demond Smith, who is battling with Chris Milton for a chance to start at strong safety.

"He's had a good camp," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "He played a lot last year, played in the ACC championship game, played in the bowl game. He's been nursing a bad hamstring, and once he gets that fixed, he'll play a lot of football."

A year ago Smith, who played quarterback at Monroe Area in high school, played in all 14 games as a backup at safety and on special teams. He had 12 tackles, 11 of them solo.

Lynn Griffin continues to make his presence felt in the preseason. The redshirt freshman safety from Jacksonville, Fla., has become known as a hard-hitter and is penciled in as the backup to Jemea Thomas at one of the cornerback spots. Griffin was impressive a year ago, and the coaching staff considered playing him as a true freshman but opted to retain his eligibility with a redshirt.

DeAndre Smelter (6-foot-3, 220) looked great in the first scrimmage and has moved up to No. 2 on the depth chart behind Darren Waller at one of the wide receiver spots.

Micheal Summers (6-1, 190) has moved up to No. 1 at the other wide receiver spot ahead of Corey Dennis.

Notes: Senior safety Isaiah Johnson will not be ready for the opener against Elon, Paul Johnson said. Isaiah Johnson has been slow to recover from ACL surgery following a knee injury suffered prior to the Sun Bowl. He is back on the field in a gold jersey but is not being rushed.

"We're leaving it up to him," Paul Johnson said. "It's up to what he can do physically. I'm not in his body, so I don't know what he can do."

Paul Johnson said the coaches are giving the senior some flexibility in letting the staff keep up with his progress.

"Isaiah has given a lot to this program, and he's been a good player for a long time," defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. "He's done a great job -- even though he hasn't gotten a lot of physical reps -- of training his eyes and training his feet. He's approached it like a veteran and I have a lot of respect for him, as do all our players."

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