(To preface this, I will say that once you get into our recruits, this is very lengthy and should probably be read with a couple intermissions thrown in. Final word count: 1,651.)
It's been quite the season for Tech football, with many ups and downs. Bowl season is upon us now at long last, which can only mean one thing: recruiting season starts very, very soon. So what's the state of our recruiting situation right now?
When talking about recruiting, we first must consider our needs. What holes need to be filled from folks graduating, going to the NFL, or transferring? Well we don't really know of anyone transferring just yet, but we do know some playmakers who are graduating, and one who is making the leap to Sundays.
BB Preston Lyons (RS Sr)
AB Roddy Jones (RS Sr) - starter
AB Embry Peeples (Sr)
WR Tyler Melton (Sr) - starter
WR Stephen Hill (Jr) - starter (NFL)
DE Jason Peters (RS Sr) - starter
NT Logan Walls (RS Sr) - starter
OLB Steven Sylvester (Sr) - starter
SS Rashaad Reid (Sr) - starter
CB Mike Peterson (RS Sr)
The good news is that of 22 starters, we return 15 next year. That also includes our entire offensive line, our QB, our BB, one AB (Orwin Smith has said he's coming back), 3 of 4 linebackers, and 3 of 4 starters in the secondary (Rod Sweeting has committed to returning as well). The outlook going into next year should be great. As of now, the only other that we could be losing is 2nd Team All-American Guard Omoregie Uzzi, who has graduated and submitted his name for draft evaluation along with Stephen Hill, but is expected to return for an MBA at Tech to play in his 5th-year Senior season.
So where are our needs? In my less-than-expert opinion, I would suggest that we really need some solid defensive front 7 talent at this point. Our biggest problem as a team, that I can see, is the lack of a good pass rush. We have pretty awful 3rd Down statistics and pass defense statistics in general (including overall defense and sacks), and I'd like to think that a significant improvement in that area would make a huge difference for the team as a whole. As always, we can use more ABs, WRs, and O-Linemen as well.
So who do we got so far?
Remember that thing I said about needing help with the front 7? Well, I guess someone heard me. We currently have 14 guys verbally committed to play for us next year. Up to 6 of them are projected to be a part of the front 7 on defense. Here they are, along with the rest of their class:
QBs Dennis Andrews (3 star) and Justin Thomas (4 star) - These guys have already had stories written about them in the past month or so, but there's a lot of reason to be excited about the future of the position in our program between those two and Vad.
WR Michael Summers (Statesboro, GA, 6'1", 190, 3 star) - Athlete who projects for us as a WR. Runs a 40 yard dash in under 4.5 seconds, and from his tape looks like a good runner who isn't easy to bring down. Being less than 6'4" he'll bring a somewhat different element to our receiving corps than the likes of Stephen Hill and Demariyus Thomas. Interested to see how we use him in our system.
OL Will Adams (Tyrone, GA, 6'5", 280, 3 star) and OL Chase Roberts (Norcross, GA, 6'3", 285, 3*) - Good looking offensive linemen who have the size our program has been looking for. Both are homegrown, from the state of Georgia. Adams has a frame that projects as a tackle and Roberts seems to project as an interior lineman.
DT Pat Gamble (Carrollton, GA, 6'5", 275, 3 star) - Big guy that, given the opportunity to put on another 30-40 pounds as a redshirt freshman, can really create some problems for opposing O-Linemen by wreaking havoc.
DE Junior Gnonkonde (Lakeland, GA, 6'5", 225, 3 star), DE Francis Kallon (Lawrenceville, GA, 6'5", 260, 4 star), Roderick Chungong (Olney, MD, 6'3", 250, 3 star) - We've signed these three D-Ends who look like they can really bring a lot to us up front. Gnonkonde could possibly end up as a linebacker due to his smaller size, but has still been growing throughout the season and will most likely stick with end. If you haven't heard Kallon's story, just Google his name for a story that is rather unique and very encouraging for us. I look forward to what this bunch can bring us.
LB Tyler Stargel (Gulf Shores, AL, 6'3", 250, 3 star) - Stargel is our lone defined linebacker (more on that in a second), but has a build of a middle linebacker. I can see him putting on a few pounds and being useful as a DE, but if he stays on defense he'd likely stay a middle linebacker.
DB Anthony Autry (Norcross, GA, 6'2", 180, 3-star), DB Antonio Crawford (Tampa, FL, 5'11", 180, 3 star), DB DJ White (McDonough, GA, 5'10", 180, 3 star) - With this group, there is a LOT to be excited about. DJ White was committed to USF, then flipped to Tech, and is a fantastic athlete who has great hands in the secondary. He may end up a safety due to playmaking ability and a weakness in jamming. Crawford is a 3-way starter for a Florida state championship program, with 64 tackles, 5 picks and 1 TD at DB, 62 carries for 600 yards and 5 TD/11 receptions for 139 yards and a TD at RB, and 2 kickoffs returned for touchdowns as a return man. Certainly a guy who can bring an awful lot to our team, and sounds very Brandon Boykin-esque. Autry committed as soon as he got his offer in early December, and also played both ways at Norcross High School, as a WR and DB. He should play DB for us, but could end up a WR with Stephen Hill's departure. Look for big things from the secondary guys in this class given a couple years.
ATH Marcus Allen (Hilliard, FL, 6'2", 210, 3 star) - Allen is the one guy so far that could end up at a couple of positions. Some people think that he projects best as a linebacker, others suggest he projects well as a B-Back. He drew interest and scholarship offers from a large number of BCS programs, so we're blessed to have him and will hopefully find a niche that suits him (and us) nicely.
Here we have 14 commitments who look like guys who will make us a better program in their respective areas. However, we're not quite done. We're expected to sign another 3-4 prospects by National Signing Day (Feb 1), so here are a few guys we're working on:
DT Dalvin Tomlinson (McDonough, GA, 6'2", 270, 4 star) - This guy is the hoss we've been looking for at DT. He's a 4-star prospect who was part of the AJC Super 11. He made visits to us, Alabama, and Florida (solid company to be in), and rated ours an ‘8 or 9', not being a 10 only because he got there Saturday instead of Friday night (hey, when you're a 2-time state champion heavyweight wrestler with a 3.9 GPA, you occasionally have other life callings to tend to). Word on the street is that it's down to us and Alabama, and that we're the front runner due to being closer to home (his mother died last year) with better academics and a chance to play sooner. He's been very secretive with his recruiting so there's no way to tell what he'll do on the 1st of February, but I can't help but think this kid would be terrifying at DT compared to Logan Walls, and I'm praying to God we get him signed.
DE Ryan Watson (Olney, MD, 6'3", 270, 4 star) - He went to high school with Chungong and has been committed to Purdue for a little over a week now, but sources are saying that he's been a little freaked out that the coaches who recruited him to Pitt and Purdue have all been fired or have otherwise departed in the last couple weeks. He has a visit with us next weekend (been scheduled a while and he's honoring that), so we have a reasonable chance at him. Won't get my hopes up, but in the case that we get him on top of Kallon and possibly Tomlinson, wow, this really could be a devastating D-Line class for opponents.
Word is that we may be looking to grab an offensive skill-position player, and current candidates are at WR: Josh Abrams (Mt. De Sales HS, Macon, GA), Charlie Miller (Vero Beach, FL), Kenneth Towns (Westover HS, Albany, GA), and Malachi Jones (Central Gwinnett HS, Lawrenceville, GA -- with Kallon). Each have discussed an official visit so far, but nothing has been scheduled to date.
The last position we're pursuing is a special-teams player, and while people have been expecting a kicker, it currently looks that it will end up being a punter instead. We're evaluating a number of guys, each of whom look better than Ryan Frain (who remains committed to Illinois).
(Credit for a lot of the recent updates goes to Kelly Quinlan of JacketsOnline.com, on the Rivals website.)
It's going to be an exciting finish to the recruiting season for the Jackets. Again, we're looking to get 17-18 commitments, and already have 14. Our coaches have done a lot in the past week (since the bowl game) to visit our commitments to avoid other teams poaching them at all costs. Lots of reason for optimism though, hopefully that materializes.
One last note: Nate and I are looking to attend National Signing Day at the Tech football facilities, so get pumped for some LIVE UPDATES as these young men send in their Letters of Intent!