Venice, Florida's Clay Burton may be Tech's next commitment. He'll play OLB at Tech.....
So we established some baseline assumptions about our recruiting this season in Tuesday's post & covered the offensive side of the ball. Now on to the defense:
- Nose Tackle: no position is more crucial in a 3-4 defense than nose tackle & we need players that can demand a double team and hold the point of attack. Tech has three offers out to potential nose tackles right now & three more targets who we are interested in pending commits and the resolution of some health issues. The three we have offered at this point are Joel Hale (6'4", 290, Center Grove HS, Greenwood, IN), Darian Cooper (6'3", 275, DeMatha, Hyattsville, MD) and Derrick Mitchell (6'5", 285, First Coast HS, Jacksonville, FL). Hale is a former teammate of Tech QB Jordan Luallen & the two remain close. While Luallen is pushing his friend to come to Tech, the Indiana prospect has blown up lately on the recruiting front, garnering offers from the likes of Florida, Ohio State, & Penn State this spring. We have an outside shot at Hale but it would surprise me if he attended Tech. Darian Cooper is a player that's been on Al Groh's radar for a long time & the Jackets are making a heavy push right now. Cooper is an elite level prospect with offers from almost every Big Integer school & several ACC schools like Tech, Clemson, & UVA. Don't expect a decision anytime soon but we're in the hunt. Jacksonville's Mitchell has committed to Florida State but many feel it's a soft verbal & that he will eventually open his recruitment back up. Tech coach's remain in contact with Mitchell for just such an eventuality. Right now the Jacket's are anxiously awaiting progress reports on two in-state players who are recovering from knee surgery. Jonathan Battle (6'1", 280, Sumter HS) of Americus suffered a major knee injury last season & has had some setbacks in his rehab. If/when Battle shows the knee has healed sufficiently this year expect a flood of major offers to roll in. If Battle's knee is healed, we have a good chance to land a stud. Also recovering from a knee injury that cost him his junior season is Wayne County's Tre Jackson. A mammoth 6'6" & 290 pounds, if Jackson shows his knee has healed at camps this summer he'll have a slew of offers to choose from. Tech appears to be in good shape with both Battle & Jackson. The other potential nose tackle of the Jacket's radar is Miami's Ruben Carter (6'1", 270, Jackson HS, Miami, FL). Carter is drawing interest from several programs & attended Tech's junior day this spring. He'll get a look at camp this summer.
#74 Stephon Tuitt is a key target at defensive end for the Jackets in 2011
- Defensive End: with Tech's trasition to the 3-4 this season we'll need bigger & stronger defensive ends & that's what the staff has focused on for 2011. Number one on that list & my highest rated defensive recruit is Monroe Area's Stephon Tuitt (6'5", 260). Tuitt is a tireless rusher with great pursuit skills and a non-stop motor who will be an impact player at Tech. A heavy Tech lean, Georgia & Notre Dame are in hot pursuit but I expect he ends up on the Flats. One of our three key defensive recruits in 2011. Also on the board, albeit it long-shots, are Ray Drew (6'5", 245, Thomas County Central) and Jeoffrey Pagan (6'4", 250) of Asheville, North Carolina. Drew will most likely end up at Georgia while Pagan is a Florida commit. Don't be surprised if Pagan comes back into play as he has a very close relationship with Andy McCollum. Tech is also courting Chattahoochee's Barron Dixon (6'4", 255) and Joe Gore (6'6", 262) of Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina. Dixon, who will play LB this year in high school, projects as a defensive end in college & should get a Tech offer after camp this summer. I expect if will come down to Tech, UNC, & NC State for Gore who has great size for a 3-4 end.
Linebacker A.J. Johnson may be Tech's #1 target for 2011 & sports some dazzling braids even T-Pain would be proud of.....
- Linebacker: Our first commitment this season was East Hall's Chaz Cheeks (6'3", 220), who will move from his high school position of defensive end to LB at Tech. It will be interesting to see which player ends up better, Cheeks or teammate & fellow defensive end Sterling Bailey who committed to UGA. After Cheeks, Tech is after several LB's this year with the transition to the 3-4 & none more than Gainesville's A.J. Johnson (6'3", 226). The one-time Tennessee commit (he decommitted when Kiffykins headed West) is one of the country's most highly sought after recruits with a trunk full of offers from almost every major program in America. It's a three team race right now between Tech, Clemson & Bama and we are very much in the thick of things for Johnson's services. Clay Burton is another stud LB & may be Tech's next commit. Life-long friends with 2010 signee Denzel McCoy, Burton projects as a rush LB on the Flats & a very good one. Signing both Johnson & Burton would be HUGE this year. Three other players with strong Tech interest are Norkethus Otis (6'3", 200, Gastonia NC), Tremayne McNair (6'2", 225, Jacksonville, NC), Cam Lynch (5'11", 220, Brookwood HS). Otis may be tough to lure out of state but we have a great shot with McNair & Lynch, two very good players. Lynch projects mainly as an inside backer in our scheme & reminds me of former UGA player & Brookwood alum Rennie Curran a bit. Finally, keep an eye out for Hillgrove's Jabari Hunt-Days (6'2", 226, brother of incoming QB Synjyn Days) and North Gwinnett's Brandon McGowan (6'3", 210) who both could land offers this summer.
- Safety: with Isaiah Johnson & Fred Holton coming in this Fall I expect we'll only take one safety this year. That player is most likely Brian Randolph (6'0", 180, Kell HS). It's a two-team ace for Randoph between Tech & Tennessee & the Jackets have the lead. If we don't land Randolph we may pass on a safety all together this year unless an elite player like Erique Florence surprises us with a commitment (HIGHLY unlikely).
- Cornerback: there are two main options in play right now, one, Doran Grant (5'10" 171, Akron, OH), who is a longshot & another Dominique Noble (6'2", 192, Mt. Ulla, NC), who lists Tech as his favorite. It would be great to get both but I highly doubt we land Grant. We have a great shot at Noble who possesses ideal size for a corner in our Cover 2.
It's crucial we land a solid defensive class to give us personnel more suited to the 3-4. The three key players for us to sign in this class are Tuitt, A.J. Johnson & Burton. We have a very good shot with all three. If we land those three & fill in with other solid players we'll be in great shape. We'll have more updates throughout the summer, particularly after summer camps. I expect a couple more commitments once camps roll around. As always, we'll do our best to answer questions......