The 1-8 Special
Welcome back to another round of the Upper North Perspective. I am back from a full week on vacation with my #HotWife where I got some much needed relaxation before the season starts. The season is just barely over two weeks away at this point, and I, for one, cannot wait for it to begin.
Today, I look at a subject that needs little to no introduction for Georgia Tech fans. It is a subject that I have seen brought up in various places a little bit more over the past couple of weeks, so it made me start to think about where Tech truly is going into 2016 with the talent structure in place. This subject is the infamous 1-8 talent discussion.
I will dive in to evaluate what I consider to be GT’s 1-8 players on the 2016 team, and look to see who could be considered a 1-8 player overall in a year like 2009.
What Do I Mean by 1-8?
The 1-8 discussion resulted from an interview a few years back where CPJ was forced to defend and evaluate the talent level of the Georgia Tech roster and how it was trending. In this interview, Coach Johnson cited that the roster overall had more depth and talent than it did when he got here, but the top end talent was not at that same level. In other words, player 9 to player 85 was more talented overall than it was in 2008 and 2009, but the one through eight were better in those years. And honestly, I think most will agree with that statement.
What I am most interested in seeing is whether or not any of the top end talent on the 2016 team could fit in on the famed 2009 squad that was simply loaded.
Who are the 1-8 on this team?
Let’s first examine who the 1-8 guys are on the 2016 squad. We actually have a pretty good group of guys top to bottom on the team this year, and there are a lot of good players to choose from. Is that a problem in this scenario though? Are there only a lot of good players and not enough great players to choose? I think the answer here is yes and no. The real problem on this team is that our top end talent seems to be on the verge of breaking out or are younger guys just starting their careers. This is great for the future of Tech, but it made it difficult to choose a clear cut eight guys for this scenario.
It’s pretty clear who is at the top of the list, and that is the star at QB, Justin Thomas. This guy is a flat out athlete that I believe would find a way to showcase his skills on any team that he is on. He would be a fit at multiple positions, but for GT, that position is QB. He is a dynamic playmaker and the clear cut number one guy on the roster.
After JT5, the picture gets a bit murky. As I said before, Tech has a lot of guys that have flashed potential or are on the verge of a breakout year. For this reason, I have a slight suspicion the comments on this column will vary in the choices of number 2-8.
My list goes as follows from here on: Shamire Devine, Will Bryan, KeShun Freeman, AJ Gray, Ricky Jeune, Brant Mitchell, and Dedrick Mills. Who just missed the cut for me? Marcus Marshall, Freddie Burden, Pat Gamble, and PJ Davis all barely missed the cut-off. There are also a ton of other guys who have the potential to jump on this list with some time in the program. Just to a name a few, Jalen Camp, Lucas Johnson, Parker Braun, the Austin twins, Step Durham, Brandon Adams, and all of the young defensive linemen show potential to me at this point to be those guys that are 1-8 during their time on the Flats.
KeShun Freeman is an obvious fit for this list for the 2016 team. He is our best pass rusher and a leader on the defensive line. Ricky Jeune had a solid sophomore year, and I expect the jump he makes this year will put him on the 1-8 level for this team. I do not think we are talking Bey-Bey level, but I do expect a reasonable rise in his play this season. AJ Gray, Brant Mitchell, and Dedrick Mills are all young guys with an extremely high talent level. They have each been able to showcase this talent level in a small sample size, but I have seen the tools from each that make me believe we have special talents on our hands.
I do realize I left off Freddie Burden, the established senior leader, and put both Shamire Devine and Will Bryan on this list. I will have more to share on that very soon.
How Many of These Guys are True 1-8 Guys?
Now that we have defined who I believe to be the 1-8 guys in this group for this team, which of these guys fit the 1-8 standard that Paul put out a few years ago? Which of these guys would be able to be a 1-8 guy on the 2009 team?
The 1-8 guys on the 2009 team were comprised of Jonathan Dwyer, Josh Nesbitt, Demaryius Thomas, Derrick Morgan, Morgan Burnett, Roddy Jones, Anthony Allen, and, in my opinion, Sean Bedford. You even had guys like Jemea Thomas, the real RG3 (Robert Godhigh), Rod Sweeting, and Stephen Hill on this squad, but they were each in their early years on campus. The talent on this team was extremely impressive. Is there really a place amongst these players for guys on our current team?
Yes, and there is more room than you would think. Justin Thomas is a lock within this group. The type of athlete that Justin Thomas is simply cannot be taught. 2014 JT is the best QB we have had here on the Flats under CPJ. Even if he delivered at last year’s level at QB, his supreme athletic ability would shine out at AB or in the secondary within that group.
AJ Gray is another lock within this group. We saw last year what type of ability he had as a true freshman as he always seemed to find himself around the ball and in position. It was quite reminiscent to a player already on the 2009 list, Morgan Burnett. If you don’t believe me, simply look at what CPJ had to say about AJ at the ACC Kickoff. This is a guy who could be an all time great here.
Who does that leave? I actually believe both Shamire Devine and Will Bryan belong in the 1-8 talk. In Shamire, GT has one of the most physically imposing linemen it has ever had. The problem with Shamire has been with weight control, not talent level. He was simply dominant at the camps he attended before coming to Tech. When he is in the right condition with the right attitude, Shamire plays at an extremely high level. With just a solid last two years on the Flats, Shamire will be a high draft pick on talent alone. He fits the bill of the 1-8.
With Will Bryan, he would have easily been our highest rated linemen commitment under CPJ if he had remotely played out the recruitment process. Fortunately for Tech, Will knew exactly what he wanted, committed early, and never looked back. The kid played last year as a true freshman for GT and has completely overhauled his body to lock himself into a starting spot at guard for this team. He is just a sophomore, but he is our next Shaq Mason. Will is the real deal.
My Brant Mitchell and Dedrick Mills hype train had me dangerously close to pulling the trigger on this 1-8 level already, but I could not quite do it. I have not even seen Dedrick Mills in a college game yet (two weeks away!), but from his film and the little live action I have seen, I think Mills is something special. And with how Mitchell played last season seemingly getting better every single week, it won’t be long until he is sitting comfortably at the 1-8 level.
In summary, I honestly think the talent level at the top that CPJ has assembled at GT is getting back to where it was in his first two years. No doubt Tech is a deeper team now than back then, but GT is finally starting to assemble a group of top end talented individuals to get the infamous 1-8 back. We do not quite have the 1-8 of a 2008 or 2009, but this group is so close to being there, and I am extremely excited about it.
Sound off on what you think. Are my Pantone 874-colored glasses a little too gold right now, or am I on the right track? Would you change anyone on this list or add to it? Are we as close as I think we are to that talent pool?