Many people claim that Paul Johnson cannot recruit Division I talent, but the fact of the matter is that many players on the roster will get a legitimate shot at playing in the NFL. While I typically wouldn’t give such a one-sided assessment of our players, this article is for a bold prediction, so I’m being bold, I’m watching the Next Generation intro sequence, and I’m using a lot of bold font too.
Offense: Transitioning from the flexbone to an NFL offense takes quite some time (see Jon Dwyer, who is really playing well for the Steelers this preseason). While many players that Coach Johnson recruits are not elite pro-style players who can make it at the next level, they significantly contribute to the offense during their years at Tech.
AB Orwin Smith: His playmaking ability really shines, and he’ll get a shot as a third down, change-of-pace back. Also, he can contribute of special teams as a kick return specialist. Round: 5+
G Omoregie Uzzi: Probably the best player on offense, we’ve known for a while that Uzzi will get his shot at the NFL. His size and agility will really be an asset to any NFL team looking to bolster its interior up front. Round: 2-3
T Morgan Bailey: This newcomer to the starting lineup seemingly came from nowhere. Unfortunately, injuries have kept him sidelined for much of his young career. This year, however, he’s surged up the depth chart to take over the starting spot over more experienced players. Round: 5+
Honorable Mention: C Jay Finch, G Will Jackson
Defense: The defense, on the other hand, will produce a significant number of NFL players. As much as this unit was a liability last season, I feel that the primary fault lay with the defensive line and inexperience. The secondary and linebacker corps are littered with NFL talent, and the new and improved defensive line has players that really fit what the NFL does.
CB Rod Sweeting: He has shown consistency in the secondary, and his size and skill will get him noticed by the NFL. Round: 5+
CB Louis Young: His skills probably fit what the NFL is looking for (size, speed, ability), but he needs to show consistency during his remaining two seasons on the flats. Round: 4+
DB Jemea Thomas: We all love Jemea Thomas’ height and physicality. However, his height will force him down draft boards. Look for him to make a team based on his special teams ability, which is through the roof. Round: 7+
S Isaiah Johnson: While many around here complain about his tackling ability, he’s been solid since he showed up on campus, starting as a true freshman. He’ll continue to develop his coverage ability to avoid being one dimensional. Round: 3-5
DE Izaan Cross: He has been a consistent contributor along the defensive line. He probably won’t get much interest as a 4-3 DE at the next level, but possibly as a 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT. He’s not that explosive off the snap, but he’s big and strong, which will at least get him a shot. Round: 5+
DT T.J. Barnes: His size alone will get him a shot. If he plays consistently like he did against Clemson, he’ll be an intriguing prospect to move high in the draft. Round: 3-5
LB Jabari Hunt-Days: This newcomer will surprise many, and based on the few things I’ve seen from his high school tape (and what I’ve heard from the coaches/players), he’ll be a fixture at linebacker for years to come. Round: 3-5
LB Jeremiah Attaochu: The GT defense goes as Attaochu goes. He’s a playmaker, and he’s the prototypical size for an OLB in the NFL. He’s athletic, strong, and smart enough for a 3-4 team to take him early in an attempt to bolster its pass rush. Round: 2-3
LB Brandon Watts: His speed and athleticism may force a move to safety at the next level, but he’s a playmaker, plays well in space, and can rush the passer too. He’ll definitely get a look as a special teamer. Round: 5+
LB Quayshawn Nealy: The third linebacker that will have a shot at the NFL simply because of his athleticism. Nealy is strong enough to shed blockers and may have a good shot at making a team as a reserve linebacker and not just an athlete. Round: 5+
Honorable Mention: Emmanuel Dieke
That makes 13 total players on this team (which supposedly cannot recruit top talent) that will boldly go where many Tech players have gone before: the NFL.