With National Signing Day (NSD) about a month away, I wanted to update everyone on Tech's recruiting situation in Football for the 2013 class. We're currently sitting tight at 15 commits, including the same recruits I discussed about a month ago right after the ACCCG. With the majority of the class signed, much of the energy in recruiting is probably dedicated in maintaining the relationship with our current commits...but also making in-roads into the 2014 recruiting class (i.e., assistant coaches hitting the pavement). I'm going to discuss the remaining possible spots in this year's class and predict what we might see. Keep in mind, I'm going to be making a few LARGE assumptions here...
First off, I anticipate the press conference naming our new Defensive Coordinator Charles Kelly to occur soon. I think he's earned it in the time he's had to run the defense. This will also minimize any scheme-related turnover that might have otherwise occurred. What will be interesting is the position coach hire that will backfill his old role as Secondary coach. With Chan Gailey's firing as Buffalo Bills HC, our old friend (and former Tech Recruiting Coordinator) Giff Smith is available. If you remember, he was instrumental in landing the infamous 2007 recruiting class. The problem is he is a DL coach, which will likely shift our defensive coaching staff around (Joe Speed would have to move to Secondary coach, I believe, to make this happen). Giff might also want to be a DC somewhere. Whoever it ends up being, this hire might have implications in the recruiting process...so stay tuned.
Second, with Jeremiah Attaochu's unfortunate arm injury (still fuming about the missed call on the clip that led to it) in the Bowl game, and Jemea Thomas declaring his intention to stay for his Senior year...there likely won't be any early departures to the NFL as there was a year ago. This is still a fairly young team, but will have 19 scholarship Seniors and 19 scholarship Juniors next year.
Third, while the attrition puzzle is never fully disclosed to the Public, we learned over the Bowl practice period that WR Jeff Greene was not going to return to the team. As I mentioned a month ago, Tech generally averages about 2-3 players per year in attrition...and the attrition is usually for good reasons (graduating early). I think this trend will continue and leave a few more spots open (see below).
Lastly, the vast majority of Tech's commits are firmly rooted in their decisions, as many have taken their OVs in the open period in December (Kevin Robbins, Darius Commissiong, Tolando Cleveland, John Marvin). As always, however, these are kids...and kids aren't 100% committed to anything (especially when they have options). The commits we'll have to probably sweat it out the most with are QB Damon Mitchell and RB Travis Custis. Riding his incredibly stellar play, Custis took his Lovejoy HS team all the way to the Georgia HS 6A State Final game against Norcross HS (this was a very Tech-oriented affair, I'll explain this sometime soon). As a result, Custis saw his Scout ranking go to 4-star and rumors of Alabama visiting the young RB filled the blogosphere. I believe Custis is safe, as the only other school recruiting him hard (Wisconsin) had a coaching change. Mitchell, on the other hand, will be interesting. Anyone who has seen his film (as both option QB and Safety) can attest, he is truly an electrifying athlete whose ranking doesn't do him justice, and other schools have taken notice. The most serious contender looks likely to be Rutgers, and he has scheduled an OV there the week before NSD. Now, CPJ and staff will remind him that if he's looking Tech will also be looking. His OV for Tech is scheduled the weekend of Jan 11. Should be interesting to see if Tech recruits another QB during January as a backup plan.
I am going to estimate that Tech will have about 3 scholarship spots remaining (mostly from players forgoing their last year of eligibility). I think we will most definitely try taking another D-Lineman, as we are very young and thin at NT...plus Kelly's schemes used both 3-man and 4-man fronts. Greene's departure will most likely require devoting a spot to the WR position. Lastly, I think we will look for that "best athlete available" that we can bring in a see where they develop. I think we'll get one DL, one WR, and the final commit will probably be one of the rest. Keep in mind my assumption above, and that I'm not an insider, just piecing together the news and visitor information for each of these prospects.
1. James "Jay" Ellison (Harris County HS, Hamilton, GA). He looks like the best bet, having a really good relationship with Tech during camps, and with his recruiter Charles Kelly (who scouts the Columbus area very well). He is extremely quick at 6'1" 280, and will likely be projected at the NT spot depending on his physical development. His offer sheet is excellent, including Auburn, Michigan, Michigan State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Our competition is Auburn for this 3-star prospect.
2. Kingsley Opara (Mandarin HS, Jacksonville, FL). Currently committed to Maryland, the 6'4" 280 Opara grew cold feet when Maryland jumped to the B1G. I think he is playing the waiting game, although he probably won't get the call because it hinges on Ellison. Plus, he has also set up an OV with NC State in a few weeks.
1. Ricky Jeune (St. Joseph Regional HS, Montvale, NJ). An IE-tinged showdown between us and Purdue, he is big (6'3" 205) and fast, definitely in the CPJ mold of big, physical receivers. Once the Greene departure happened, Jeune's OV was quickly set up for the weekend of Jan 11. If you recall, Tech already has 2 WR commits. While Antonio Messick and JuMichael Ramos are more raw, unproven athletes...Jeune is a more polished prospect who has a high 3-star rating from ESPN.
1. Cornelius Elder (The Ensworth School, Nashville, TN). A speedster at 5'10" 170, "Corn" Elder would be a homerun threat at the A-Back position, and could make an immediate impact in the return game. He has been rumored to be basing his decision on whether he can play basketball at his school of choice, which explains the schools he is most serious about (Tech, Ohio State, UCLA...but also Ole Miss). He is a 4-star RB prospect in football, where most think his future is. However, he is also a 3-star PG prospect in basketball, ranked 35th in the nation by Rivals. Ohio State is considered to be the front-runner for Elder, although Tech could score a huge coup by signing him. Perhaps CBG is giving an assist here, as we will likely need some PG depth in 2013 with Corey Heyward's re-injury. The only 2-sport athlete I can remember in CPJ's tenure was Roddy Jones, who gave some outfield and pinch-hitting depth to CDH's beesball team.
2. Stacey Thomas (Gulliver Prepatory School, Miami, FL). More of a LB prospect at 6'2" 235 (though could develop into a DE), Thomas's recruiting took off in the summer and then cooled down because of a knee injury during his Senior season. Since the summer his top 3 have been Tech, Florida, and Florida State...with Duke as a dark horse. I haven't seen any visits scheduled for him, but ESPN has him ranked in their ESPN250 and is a 4-star prospect.
So how do you think Tech will approach recruiting this last month before NSD? Are there any prospects missing from my list?