Hindsight always being 20/20, it would be easy for any of us to make decisions for our lives if we knew what the outcome would be in advance. But many of our decisions aren’t highly publicized as top recruits who flip their commitments… especially as late as on signing day.
It is simply is not fair to judge whether the decision was good or bad based on outside perceptions. We don’t know the kids’ situations, the circumstances, family issues or promises made to have a player change his mind…
But we’re going to do it anyway because it’s fun.
In a ‘Where are they now?’ type discussion, we’ll focus on the 2013 class because Georgia Tech had more activity and scrutiny than probably any other school in the country.
Nigel Bowden – 2013 Signing Class: Flipped from Vanderbilt to Georgia Tech, back to Vanderbilt.
A redshirt freshman in 2014, Bowden led Vanderbilt with 78 tackles and averaged 7.1 per game. A starter at inside linebacker, Bowden signed with James Franklin’s final recruiting class before he took the job at Penn State. The freshman took the reins for Derrick Mason’s first year and produced on some very high expectations coming out of high school. For the Yellow Jackets, Bowden probably proved that he can compete at a high collegiate level no matter which school he attended. It’s tough to tell if his departure affected the scholarship offer to P.J. Davis. I think any Tech fan would have preferred a both-and, instead of an either-or. Though Bowden battled some injuries late in the 2014 season, the Macon, GA native has proved to be strong, fast and instinctive. Now he will have to prove he can be a leader and help other members of the defense to get Vanderbilt competitive again.
Tolando Cleveland – 2013 Signing Class: Flipped from Georgia Tech to Miss. State
No matter what Tolando Cleveland does, he can’t seem to shake being mentioned with Georgia Tech. After de-committing from the Yellow Jackets, Cleveland played immediately as a true freshman and had to face the Jackets in 2014 his sophomore year. Cleveland primarily played on special teams in 2013 and got some action at the nickel back this past year. Entering his junior year, Cleveland will compete for more playing this fall. Mississippi State returns both starters in junior Cedric Jiles and senior Taveze Calhoun along with 6'3" junior Kivon Coman, who was in the regular season rotation in 2014. It’s hard to say whether Cleveland would have a better chance to play on the Flats. The Yellow Jackets secondary are proving to be one of the deepest position groups on the team. Cleveland clearly has talent, but will need significantly more time to make a judgment on his overall ability.
Brendan Douglas – 2013 Signing Class: Flipped from Georgia Tech to Georgia
I think even though Brendan Douglas was not necessarily the hat-switching, five-star recruit, many Jacket fans felt a tug at their heart by his decision to sign with UGA. The uneasiness of fans was because Douglas’ decision seemed like a sandbox making a choice to call the beach his permanent home. Already with standouts Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall on the roster, UGA had a good chance of landing future standouts Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Through it all, Douglas has proven to be a durable option for Georgia. He could fall anywhere from second to fourth on the depth chart in 2015 depending on the health of Michel and Marshall. In his time with the Bulldogs, Douglas has rushed for 575 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons. I think it’s safe to say Douglas would have projected well to compete for the starting job the past two years at Georgia Tech. Nonetheless, even though his chances to start as a Jacket would be more significant, I don’t know if he is a better running back than now injured C.J. Leggett or incoming freshman Marcus Marshall and Mikell Lands-Davis.
Damon Mitchell – 2013 Signing Class: Flipped from Georgia Tech to Arkansas
In the final week of recruiting, Mitchell was thought to be firmly committed to the Yellow Jackets before taking a surprise visit to Arkansas. The 6'2" 205 lbs. QB said he changed his mind after the new Razorback coaching staff assured him they wanted him as a quarterback in their pro-style offensive system. Mitchell redshirted in 2013. In 2014, he was asked to move to receiver where he recorded six catches for 58 yards. For the Jackets, Coach Paul Johnson and the Tech staff do a great job of finding athletes that can help in many ways and Mitchell was no different. Whether it would’ve been providing some much needed depth behind Justin Thomas, B-back, receiver or safety, I think it’s safe to say an athlete the caliber of Damon Mitchell would have found his way on the field for the Jackets. When he starts getting major minutes, we’ll see just how valuable he can be to a program.
JuMichael Ramos – 2013 Signing Class: Flipped from Georgia Tech to N.C. State
A Lovejoy, GA native, Ramos de-committed on signing day in 2013. The 6'3" 200 lbs. receiver was exactly what Georgia Tech has been known for at that position. But since signing with the Wolfpack, Ramos has been seldom used in N.C. State’s spread attack. As a freshman, Ramos caught 24 passes and three touchdowns. He earned the team’s Most Valuable Freshman Award. Last season, the rising junior did not play as much as a reserve. He did appear in 10 of the school’s 13 games. Ramos is slated as a starter going into the 2015 season. With his size and speed, Ramos could have provided some much-needed depth at the receiver position at Tech. Though not very explosive, the big receiver will have one more year with senior QB Jacoby Brissett to build a rapport and become a standout player on the outside.
There is no telling how things would have been different for the players or Tech if this group stuck with their original commitments. Clearly, these players could have helped the program, but sometimes we need to ask, ‘At what cost?’ If Bowden stays, would P.J. Davis been a real option? Did Ramos’ decision affect Messick and Jeune… and how good will any of them be? Would the 2014 year been as great with Douglas at B-Back, because we also discovered Synjyn Days?
The only lesson that could be learned is there was/is a reason we make a decision over a period of time. When promises come, we tend to doubt ourselves and start second-guessing what is reality. I think more than anything, Tech’s coaches are getting a great reputation of being truthful and honest about what a kid can expect when they sign with the Yellow Jackets, which is clearly not the case around college football. Occasionally, those car-salesmen promises seem a little too good to pass on … but there was a reason you chose the school in the first place.