1. With acknowledgement that a valuation of a signing class on signing day is worth about as much as the Chinese coin that my colleague Jeff Schultz received as change out of one of the Georgia Tech parking lot stations, I think this class may turn out O.K. I can say that Tech coaches feel pretty good about this class.
Tech has not won signing day contests lately, as it did today for Norcross High running back Myles Autry, who selected Tech over Florida State. It also typically doesn’t land players like Kenderius Whitehead, the signee from Georgia Military College. (Tech coaches and officials went out of their way to make clear that Whitehead is not a “JUCO guy.” He came from a junior college, but used it as something of a way station after deciding to leave N.C. State after his freshman year. Paul Johnson made the point that, had Whitehead wanted to come directly to Tech from N.C. State, he would have had to sit out for two years because of ACC rules governing that intra-conference transfers.) And Tech also is often stemming the tide of defections in the run-up to signing day (last year, it was Tolando Cleveland, Brendan Douglas Damon Mitchell and Jumichael Ramos), but that wasn’t the case this year.
As is often said, you want to finish well, and it would appear Tech finished well. One other measure of evaluation – last year, Tech had two out of Rivals’ top 80 players in the state, guard Shamire Devine and running back Travis Custis. This year, it has seven of the top 75.
2. A-backs coach Lamar Owens brought in cornerback Step Durham from Jacksonville, Fla., linebacker Antonio Simmons from Jacksonville, offensive lineman Michael Preddy from Charleston, S.C., and linebacker Terrell Lewis from Ocoee, Fla. Preddy and offensive lineman Jake Whitley (recruited by offensive line coach Mike Sewak) were the first South Carolina signees since 2009 (David Sims and Lance Richardson). Owens spoke of wanting to open up a pipeline from the state.
Defensive line coach Mike Pelton brought in three signees from Alabama, quarterback Matthew Jordan, safety Jalen Johnson and defensive end Tyler Merriweather. He leveraged old connections (he grew up in the state, played at Auburn and coached at Auburn and Troy) on each. Interestingly, Merriweather played at Demopolis Academy for coach Tom Causey, who was also Michael Johnson’s high school coach.
3. Linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Andy McCollum shared an insight from Lamar County High coach Franklin Stephens about wide receiver Qua Searcy (albeit one that Stephens shared with my colleague Michael Carvell last summer). Stephens previously coached at Tucker, and, according to McCollum, Stephens said that Searcy would have been a five-star athlete had he been playing at Tucker (where he would have received more recruiting attention).
Said McCollum of Searcy, “There’s nothing this kid can’t do. Can play slot, can play corner, safety, cornerback.”
4. The last player in was Clinton Lynch, a wide receiver from Norcross High. Johnson said he’ll be an A-back. Besides being a teammate of Autry’s, he was coached by former Tech safety Jeremy Muyres.
Ted Roof, who recruited Lynch (and also coached Muyres), seemed to think that Lynch stayed under the radar for the opposite reason as Searcy. Lynch played on a loaded team and as a result didn’t the attention he might have otherwise gained elsewhere. But, said Roof, Norcross coach Keith Maloof and Muyres “went on and on and raved about this guy.” Lynch backed off his commitment from Georgia State and switched to Tech Tuesday.
Roof, who played high school ball at Central Gwinnett High and now lives in Buford, had a hand with Lynch, Autry and North Gwinnett High running back Christopher Leggett.
“We’ve got to do a great job of keeping our local guys local,” he said.
Tech has had decent luck with late additions. Linebacker Paul Davis took a last-minute offer from Tech last year. Several years ago, Julian Burnett also accepted a late offer.
5. Some position notes: Johnson said Autry will start out at A-back. Broderick Snoddy will also have time at A-back in the spring. (Tech has five senior A-backs and needs to prepare for the future.) Trey Klock projects as an offensive tackle, though he played tight end mostly in high school. Johnson said that they might use him as a tackle eligible, like when the stacks its offensive tackles next to each other.
“Maybe we give him an 80 number and he’s like a tight end that fits into our stuff, but he’s really a tackle,” Johnson said.
Leggett could be either an A-back or a B-back, depending on fit and need. Tech took three defensive ends – KeShun Freeman, Tyler Merriweather and Whitehead, and Simmons could be one as well – not only because of the graduations of ends Jeremiah Attaochu and Emmanuel Dieke, but also because players such as Francis Kallon and Justin Akins came to Tech as ends but have grown into tackles.
Terrell Lewis looks like a strongside linebacker. Safety Jamal Golden, who was interviewed by Brandon Gaudin in the ESPN3 online broadcast, said he is aiming to be ready for spring practice after he required season-ending shoulder surgery last year. The Austin twins will start out at cornerback.
6. An interesting answer from Johnson about if staff changes are possible: “I don’t know. Not that I’m sure of. You’re always evaluating and looking at things, but I don’t have anything set in my mind that I know we’re going to do.”