Lawrence Austin is developing into a top-of-the-line defensive back.
The role for the junior from Lamar County has grown from that of a contributor to one as a mainstay on a very young secondary. He took another big step last week against Virginia Tech and was rewarded by being named the ACC’s Defensive Back of the Week.
Austin, who starts at nickel back, was involved with three of Georgia Tech’s four takeaways in a 30-20 win over the No. 18 Hokies. He intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble — one that was forced by his twin brother Lance.
“We needed our defense to step up and play big and they did,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “We got some turnovers, and then we got off the field.”
Austin became the program’s first player with two interceptions in one game since Jemea Thomas accomplished that in 2011 against Clemson.
“It was great,” Johnson said. “It played right into the deal because it limited possessions. When you can get them off the field, create some turnovers.”
Also earning conference honors was left guard Parker Braun, who was the program’s first freshman to be named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week. Braun was a large part of the offensive line that helped the Yellow Jackets rush for 309 yards and allow only one sack against the aggressive Virginia Tech defense.
Braun, the younger brother of former Yellow Jackets player Trey Braun, has played in nine games and started five times. He had a season-high 10 knock-down blocks against the Hokies.
Braun was one of three freshmen who has started on the offensive line, joining Jahaziel Lee (left tackle) and Kenny Cooper (center).
“Since I’ve been coaching football, I don’t know if I ever started three true freshmen on the offensive line, especially on the road,” Johnson said. “Someone forgot to tell them they were freshmen. They just went out there and played.”
Thomas to return: Johnson said quarterback Justin Thomas will be back in the starting lineup Saturday against Virginia. Johnson said Thomas wanted to play against Virginia Tech, but the coach didn’t feel he was physically able to perform.
“He was going to try, but I watched him in warmups and I wasn’t going to do that to the kid,” Johnson said. “He wanted to play, and he would have played, but he wasn’t capable. Matthew (Jordan) took all the reps this week in practice and it wouldn’t have been right for him to to play, either.”
Johnson said center Freddie Burden and A-back/kick returner J.J. Green will return this week for the final game of the season at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Burden missed last week’s game and Green has missed the past two games.
Kickoff time for UGA: The season finale against Georgia in Athens will start at noon. The game will be shown on the SEC Network. The men’s basketball game that night against Tulane at McCamish Pavilion will start at 7:30 p.m.
Bowl tickets: Georgia Tech doesn’t know the destination, but it is eligible to go to a bowl game, so the athletics department is accepting requests for tickets. A non-refundable $10 fee will guarantee tickets to the bowl game and will not be applied to the cost of the tickets. Information is available at TogetherWeSwarm.com.