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Opinions Week: Why Coach Johnson Recruits For the System, Not For the Stars

How many Top 40 Classes has Coach Paul Johnson Had Since 2009?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports


As the 100 Days to Kickoff 2015 continues, and opinion week comes to an end, it was only right that we have the new guy finish it off with a bang. For Georgia Tech, the numbers off the field have never been that impressive (Unless we are talking in the classroom) but that clearly doesn't define them on the field. Recently, I have seen it asked several times on here why it seems Georgia Tech can't break through and land a Top-30 or 40 class. Do the Stars matter? Let's dive a little deeper into this. (All information is from 247Sports unless noted otherwise)

2009-2011 Classes

In the 2009 class, Coach Paul Johnson and his staff signed a class of 21, headlined by 4-Star DT J.C.Lanier. Lanier had other offers, and the one most significant he chose GT over was Clemson. The 2009 class was not a cupboard with only one thing in it though, as future impact players such as Jemea Thomas, Stephen Hill (sorry Jets fans), David Sims, Brandon Watts, and Roderick Sweeting. While this was not CPJ's first class, this was the first class where you can really see him getting players that fit the system he is running, as well as seeing the impact in-state recruiting has on the Jackets when they succeed in putting the fence around the state.  In 2010, this trend would continue, and CPJ and staff would show further evidence of the excellent evaluation skills they had. This class was led at the time by 4-Stars DB Ryan Ayers, ATH B.J. Bostic, DT Denzel McCoy, DE Anthony Williams, and DB Louis Young. This class also included DeAndre Smelter, Quayshawn Nealy, Synjyn Days, and best for last Jeremiah Attaochu. Of this group of 5, some of the most impressive offers they passed up include georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame, and Oregon just to name a few. CPJ had begun to create a reputation for himself as being someone who discovers and offers talented student-athletes before other programs have even seen the film. this would hit an all-time high in the 2011 class.

In the 2011 class, with just weeks to go until signing day, CPJ had a very impressive commit that not many people had thought too highly of - OL Tre Jackson. This changed as NSD came creeping up, and Florida State had begun to show interest and wanted to get him down to the campus for a visit. CPJ has a policy once committed to Tech- Don't visit other schools. Sure enough, Jackson went down to FSU the weekend before NSD, and would eventually commit and sign to the Seminoles. What did CPJ do with that scholarship he had regained you may ask? It went to DE Trey Flowers, an impressive kid from Huntsville, AL who's only other offer prior to our offer was South Alabama. Our offer would set off Flowers' recruitment, and he would eventually find himself playing in the SEC for Bobby Petrino. Remember Stephon Tuitt? In his recruitment, the now Pittsburgh Steeler flipped back and forth from Notre Dame and Georgia Tech before ultimately deciding it would be best for him to play at ND. The top recruit in this class was Jabari Hunt-Days, someone who has grown into an exceptional leader for our defense.

2012-2014 Classes

In 2012, Georgia Tech got the biggest flip in recent memory if not ever: QB Justin Thomas. Thomas was committed to Nick Saban and Alabama as an ATH, but had his heart set on playing quarterback in college. In steps CPJ, with the opportunity to come in and compete as a QB. THE REST IS HISTORY. Thomas redshirted as a freshman, and in his RS Freshman year, he would come in sparingly and back up Vad Lee. Thomas blossomed into a star in his first full season as the starter, leaving us waiting for more, and launching a possible Heisman campaign? Along with Thomas in the 2012 class are starters DJ White, Adam Gotsis, Pat Gamble, and Francis Kallon, who didn't start playing football until his Senior year at Central Gwinnett.

The 2013 class was one of the smallest I have ever seen in my 10 years following recruiting, with only 14 players signing onto CPJ and his staff. With such small numbers, CPJ nailed this class which includes Shamire DeVine (Starting RG), Ricky Jeune (Starting WR), Harrison Butker (everyone's favorite), and PJ Davis (Will LB). Of these players, not one of them were rated higher than 3 stars. I would love to analyze how CPJ did in both the 2014 and 2015 classes, it is far too early to see the returns from the classes. What I can tell you is that from the evidence stated above, as well as hours of studying film and learning more about the system run here at Georgia Tech, I am fully confident in the upcoming results of these classes. The early returns have been fairly impressive, with contributions expected from KeShun Freeman, Lawrence Austin, Step Durham, Antonio Simmons, and Terrell Lewis just from the 2014 Class.

So after taking a look back, while we see that GT competes on a national level in recruiting, they specialize on getting under-the-radar kids that CPJ sees as a fit in his high-power offense and his multiple defense. Still, being able to beat Alabama, Florida State, Clemson, and Notre Dame in recruiting battles is something that will never get old. Paul Johnson can recruit, don't look at the stars, look at the film, and how they project here at Tech. While the stars on these recruits from time to time don't tell the whole story, beating the SEC in 2 of the last 3 games of this past season does tell the whole story.

What would it take for Tech fans (and non-Tech fans) to see the talent that CPJ has when it comes to recruiting? How important to you is a Top-40 Class?