Come on down & run some option, boys.....
With expansion talk stalled for the moment & the new TV deal having been announced, it really is the doldrums of no football. The good news is we're more than half way through our march through the barren desert of the off-season. The bad news is we still have to traverse June & July, the most desolate of football wastelands. So today & tomorrow we thought we'd give an update on how we're doing on the recruiting trail & who we expect to see at summer camps & eventually in White & Gold. Before we get to specifics some general recruiting notes:
- We seem to have changed our recruiting strategy with the transition from Giff Smith to coach McCollum. Where under Gailey we generally targeted specific players (who we often knew we could get) and held scholarships for them until they were ready to make a decision, this year we've made a change & offered a far greater number of players, particularly elite guys, for the slots we have open. In essence, it's first come, first serve with scholarships now; we have a certain number of players we want at each position & when that number is filled we won't have any more space at that position. Better get on board or be left behind. Of course there are exceptions, particularly for elite prospects, but we have a definite plan in place that we're going to stick to. I've felt in the past we offered too many mid-level guys too early in the recruiting process, which essentially filled our class too early with non-elite prospects, i.e. kids we KNEW would accept an offer. We've held back on offering those types of players this year in lieu of focusing on higher level talent. As summer turns to fall & we get a better idea of where we stand with this class we will have a chance to get our fair share of those guys.
- It seems we've broadened our geographic base as you might expect with the additions to our staff. Coach McCollum is recruiting North Carolina heavily as he is very familiar with that area having just left N.C. State. Coach Groh is focusing on his traditional areas of success in the Washington D.C. area & up into New Jersey. And we seem to be refocused on Florida, especially the Tampa area which has always been good to us. That's not to say that we're not continuing to focus on Georgia; we have & will always make our home state the focus of our recruiting efforts.
- THE SKY IS NOT FALLING. THE APOCALYPSE IS NOT NIGH. I get so tired of reading Tech message boards bemoaning the state of our recruiting. "Georgia has eight commits we only have five". "We never get blue chip kids from Georgia". "We keep missing on all the best players in state". First off: bullshit. Secondly, stop reading Chip Towers & the AJC, he doesn't know jack shit & is a Dawg "homer". Georgia always recruits well, grow up & deal with it. We are just fine right now. We have five solid commits & lead for several other elite prospects. With CPJ's "no visit" policy for kids who have committed, it will naturally take kids longer to decide. As a point of reference,we had three commits in 2007 at this time, and those guys won an ACC title last year & five of them are now on NFL rosters.
- As to class size, I expect we'll take any where from 20-23 players this year. On offense I expect 2 QB's, 1 B-back, 2 A-backs, 5 offensive linemen, & 2 WR's. On defense my guess is 1 or 2 nose tackles, depending on who we land, 2 DE's, 4 LB's, 2 DB's. Obviously those numbers will fluctuate depending on who we land & when we get them.
So there's some broad ideas, now on to specifics. Today we focus on the offensive side of the ball:
- Quarterback: I expect we'll take two but we could take three guys if our top three all choose Tech. We currently have Airyn Willis (6'2", 175, High Point, N.C.) committed. Willis is a dynamic athlete who has played both RB & WR in high school. This year will be his first under center which gives him a pretty steep learning curve. Willis is clearly a special athlete and while the staff will give him a shot at QB I expect he'll end up at WR for the Jackets. The top two players on the Tech board are Nick Marshall (6'2", 185, Wilcox County, GA) and Vad Lee (6'2", 193, Durham Hillside, NC). Both players are fantastic athletes who could flourish in our spread option system. Marshall maybe the best athlete in Georgia this year as he stars in both football & basketball for Wilcox County. A prototype spread QB with good legs & a rifle arm, the biggest question on Marshall is what sport he wants to play in college or will he play both? His three leaders, UGA, Tech & FSU, have all said he will be able to play both sports which may hinder is eventual development, we'll have to wait & see. Rumor has it that Marshall prefers hoops to the gridiron & if so my guess is he picks UGA. If he decides to play both it's between Tech & FSU and will be a bitter battle to the end. A couple things working in our favor: 1) Marshall knows that if he chooses UGA in football he has to compete with uber-recruit Christian LeMay & he may end up at WR, & 2) FSU has signed QB Cody Trickett, son of offensive line coach Rick Trickett. Nepotism is a added battle we're not sure Marshall wants to fight. Lee is very similar to Marshall with better wheels & a lesser arm. Lee has been very vocal about his desire to play QB in college & it looks to be a two team race between Tech & UNC for his services. T.J. Yates & Bryn Renner, two mobile, spread offense QB's are already in the fold at UNC (bent over laughing.....). I Think Lee would be a much better fit at QB at Tech if that's indeed the position he wants to play. It may, however, be tough to lure him away from home. Landing either Marshall or Lee would be great for us as both possess the necessary tools to run our offense. My preference is Lee but there's not too much difference. One other name to keep an eye on is Timmy Byerly (6'1", 190, Chatahoochee H.S.) who may emerge over the summer.
- B-Back: at the top of the Tech staff's wish list for 2011 sits Tampa Plant's James Wilder (6'2", 220), son of the former Buccaneer great of the same name. Wilder is a top-10 national prospect with a college ready frame who has five early favorites: Alabama, Florida, FSU, UGA, & Tech. What's interesting is that Wilder contacted the Tech staff personally to express his interest in Tech. It would be a huge coup for Tech to land a player of this stature & while the race appears wide open we have a better shot than some might think for one simple reason: Wilder wants to play RB & be the featured back at whatever school he attends (thus strike Florida who is recruiting him as a LB). With the graduation of Anthony Allen after this season the B-back spot is wide open & we can offer him a feature role in a dynamic run-based offense. While other schools may claim they can do so, none regularly get their feature back 200 touches per year as we do our B-back. Don't count Tech out. If we don't land Wilder we may not take a B-back but I hope we offer Blythewood, SC RB Brandon Wilds (6'1", 220). Wilds has good size & would be an excellent fit in this offense. Wilds badly wants a Tech offer & would likely commit if we do offer, thus the staff is holding off for the time being.
- A-Back: we're likely to take two this class & already have one commit in Mt. Zion's Quartterrio Morgan (5'10", 180). Morgan has flown a bit under the radar & been overshadowed by the likes of Isaiah Crowell & Quan Bray but he may be the second or third best back in the state this year. A shifty runner with great acceleration, Morgan will be very solid at Tech. Our other top targets at A-back are Malcolm Crockett (5'11", 180, Friendship Collegiate, Washington, DC) and Charlton County's Chris Milton (6'0", 175). Crockett is a cousin of incoming freshman CB Louis Young while Milton is a cousin of UGA's Bailey clan (Champ, Boss, etc....). Both player have the speed & quickness to excel at A-back. While there are other players being recruited, those are our top three right now.
- Wide Receiver: this is a bit of a guessing game right now. We've offered elite guys like Kasen Williams & JaJuan Story but the chances of landing those guys are very, very slim. Hakeem Flowers is also a long shot. Expect names like Zach Walker (6'1", 185, Johnson County, GA) & Ruben Gonzalez (6'3", 190, Robinson, Tampa, FL) to emerge along with some dark-horse candidates from our camps this summer.
- Offensive Line: we've got two very good commitments thus far in Trey Braun (6'5", 275, Leon H.S. Tallahassee, FL) & Bryan Chamberlain (6'4", 280, Monroe H.S., Albany). Braun is a player whose film hadn't been widely circulated when he committed to us but word is out now that he is a very good prospect. Chamberlain has the frame to add 20-30 pounds & could play anywhere along the line. With the graduation of All-ACC center Sean Bedford in 2011 we'll need a strong replacement & the staff is focused on that position. The top two candidates are Mack Crowder (6'4", 270, Bristol, TN) and Ryan Norton (6'4", 275, Mauldin, SC). Both players have expressed interest in Tech & it should be a battle between Tech & VPISU for Crowder while Tech & Clemson battle it out for Norton. My gut says we have a better shot at Crowder. Also on the board right now are Quincy McKinney (6'4", 295, Carver, Columbus, GA), Kaleb Johnson (6'5", 280, Ed White HS, Jacksonville, FL) & Kyle Harris (6'3", 265, Pepperell HS, GA). We'll have several good offensive line targets who we have yet to offer at our camps this summer & I expect we will end up offering a few of those players.
Contrary to what some may say on certain Tech message boards, recruiting is off to a decent start this year. It's a long way to signing day & lots can happen between now & next February. There's a few names to keep a watchful eye on & many more will emerge as the summer continues. Tomorrow the defense......