A look back at the 2010 recruiting class reveals Paul Johnson's highest-ranked to date, with five 4-star prospects and five more 5.7-rated "high 3-star" players. The class only included 18 players, but was still the #43 class nationally -- better than that of TCU, Louisville, and Arkansas to name a few, and fourth-best nationally among classes with less than 20 players signed. Of the 18 signees, 14 were from Georgia, with Jeremiah Attaochu (DC), Deon Hill (AL), Quayshawn Nealy (FL), and Louis Young (MD) coming from elsewhere.
Four of these players signed a year later and never took a redshirt season. LB Tremayne McNair was a 5.7-rated "high 3-star" player, OL Shaquille Mason was a 5.6-rated "middle 3-star" player, and RB Zach Laskey and DE Kyle Travis were both 5.4-rated "high 2-star" prospects.
On the Field
If we look at the 2011-2014 seasons, this group was pretty impressive overall. In 2011, they went 8-4 in the regular season, including 6 straight wins to start the season. The weekend before Halloween, they hosted undefeated #5 Clemson in the Homecoming game, and beat them handily, 31-17, on national TV. They went to El Paso for the Sun Bowl, and very nearly knocked off a very physical and talented Utah team before barely falling in Overtime.
The 2012 season was a rollercoaster to say the least. They started the season in brand new uniforms in Blacksburg, and pulled a last-minute comeback before falling narrowly in overtime. They were 2-4 by the midway point in the season, the point that Al Groh was fired as Defensive Coordinator and replaced by Charles Kelly. The team finished out the regular season 4-2, including a huge 68-50 shootout win over UNC. They finished third in the Coastal Division but went to the ACC Championship Game after Miami and North Carolina were declared ineligible for the postseason. It was there that they held Florida State scoreless in the second half and nearly completed a comeback before falling just short at the end. They finished with a win in a return trip to the Sun Bowl, where they won over the local fans and made an example of Lane Kiffin's USC Trojans in a 21-7 win -- Georgia Tech's first bowl win in over 8 years.
The 2013 season saw a new Quarterback (Vad Lee) and a new Defensive Coordinator (Ted Roof), and again saw mixed results. The season saw three straight wins followed by three straight losses, which were followed by three more wins. The team faltered down the stretch, especially to their in-state rivals with a heartbreaking loss in double overtime after a 20-point lead. They went to the Music City Bowl where they struggled against a very talented Ole Miss team that had a "good" Dr. Bo Wallace show up. The offseason saw a lot of turnover within the team, including Lee's transfer and an extensive list of dismissals and transfers. That said, it just set up this group to display its outstanding resilience.
Indeed, an offseason full of turmoil and tough questions presented a "put up or shut up" challenge, and this team delivered better than most any other group has on the Flats in recent history. They started off with 5 straight wins, including breaking losing streaks to Virginia Tech and Miami. They finished the season with four straight games against ranked opponents, winning three of them and breaking losing streaks to Clemson and georgia in the process. They pushed the undefeated reigning national champions #4 Florida State to the limit in the ACC Championship Game, barely falling against the Seminoles' clear strongest performance of the season. They slapped a major exclamation mark on the end of the year with a trip to Miami, where they smashed #7 Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl on national television on New Year's Eve. They finished ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 1990 and won 11 games for just the fifth time in school history.
In four years, this group went 33-21 with two bowl wins -- the first senior class with multiple bowl wins since the senior class of 2006. They delivered the second win over georgia in the Paul Johnson era and won the school's first Orange Bowl since the 1952 National Championship season. They went 21-9 in conference games, and provided strong showings in both of their ACC Championship Game appearances. This group performed as strong as any group of players has over 4-years in school history.
Off the Field
This is a group who's responsible for just as much success off the field as they are on it. Combined, they currently account for 12 bachelor's degrees, 1 master's degree, and are on track to add 4 more bachelor's degrees by the end of summer. Not a single one of them missed a game in their career due to being academically ineligible. They also made a big deal out of performing community service whenever possible -- around Atlanta (especially during the offseason) and whenever they went on Bowl trips. Possibly the biggest thing for this group was how much they liked being around each other and supported each other. They could always be seen smiling and cutting up, giving each other a hard time and laughing together. That chemistry tells me that they had an impact on each other's performances on the field, and each other's lives off it.
This group was a shining example of what we look for in a group of men who represent Georgia Tech. They were outstanding on the field as well as off of it, and made alumni and fans everywhere proud.
Thank you, seniors, for your hard work and dedication to excellence on the field, as well as your outstanding displays of character and academic achievement off of it! Congratulations on a wonderful four years, and good luck with the next stage of your lives!