New in ’16: Xavier Gantt adds ‘explosive’ playmaking to A-back mix

020216 ATLANTA: Buford high school running back Xavier Gantt (right) and wide receiver Alan Bussoletti, both headed to Georgia Tech, share a laugh during national signing day at the College Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday, Feb, 3, 2016, in Atlanta.    Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

On national signing day, Georgia Tech A-back Xavier Gantt (right) shared the stage and a laugh at the College Football Hall of Fame with wide receiver Alan Bussoletti, who is walking on the Tech roster from Buford. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

The most memorable part of Xavier Gantt’s recruitment was shared by tens of thousands of Georgia Tech fans. Gantt attended last year’s game against Florida State and understandably got caught up in the emotion of Lance Austin’s return of a blocked field goal for the game-winning touchdown.

Austin joined the Tech student body in flooding the field.

“I was one of the first people down there,” he said.

The second player in as many years from powerhouse Buford High to pick Tech, Gantt has the opportunity to have a more central role in creating memories for Tech fans. An A-back, Gantt comes to Tech as one of the most highly-recruited players in the class. Michigan, Michigan State and Stanford were among schools whom Gantt turned down.

“Football, it’s a great school,” he said. “Education, it’s even better.”

Gantt runs with speed, vision and balance. He has run the 100-meter dash as fast as 10.9 seconds.

“He’s an explosive playmaker that can create big plays,” said defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who recruited Gantt.

From Buford, Gantt joins David Curry, a linebacker who redshirted last season. T.D. Curry, another linebacker and Roof’s son, has already committed for the 2017 class.

Gantt played tailback at Buford and, like most players playing A-back, will have to make the adjustment to the demands of the position, particularly blocking. But his ability to make plays in space portends well. And he’s eager for the challenge to become the all-around player that the position requires.

Gantt said he wants to work on his ball skills and to make his cuts tighter.

“Things like that, just trying to become a total back – running, blocking, catching – just being a total running back,” he said.

A-backs have not played often as first-year freshmen. Two did it in 2008, coach Paul Johnson’s first year, and two more have done it in the following seven seasons – Orwin Smith in 2009 and B.J. Bostic in 2010. Nate Cottrell appeared on track to play last year in his first season campus before his preseason knee injury.

Tech returns Clinton Lynch, Qua Searcy, Isiah Willis and Lynn Griffin return, and J.J. Green, Omahri Jarrett and Cottrell will join the mix, as well as walk-on Austin McClellan.

It’s a lot of players, although Lynch and Willis are the only two with significant experience. He’s O.K. with not playing this season.

“I’ll still get five years to get my education,” he said. “It’s a win-win for me.”

Series to date:

DT Brandon Adams brings size, playmaking ability

LB Jakob Brashear says he won’t be outworked

WR Jalen Camp wants ‘to make a statement’

OL Kenny Cooper bringing attitude, athleticism to Tech line

WR Stephen Dolphus brings the tools, drive to Tech


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