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Football Recruiting Review: Week 5

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Exploring what the staff is seeking at running back

NCAA Football: South Florida at Georgia Tech Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Not a ton has happened in recent weeks on the recruiting front for the football program, but it’s worth taking the time to look back at recent developments. The focus this week will be on the running back position, where Tech has a promising three-star commit in the fold—one who may be emblematic of the sort of player that Geoff Collins and his staff will be targeting at the position in the future.

Recent Updates

Since the season began, the only addition to the class (among scholarship recruits) has been Biloxi offensive lineman Ryan Spiers, who announced his commitment via Twitter on September 8. Spiers is rated as a two-star recruit (5.4) by Rivals and a three-star recruit (0.8243) on the 247Sports Composite index. According to Rivals, his other offers were from UAB, South Alabama, and Louisana-Monroe. Tech’s offer is thus a bit of an outlier, but the Biloxi Sun Herald previously reported that Spiers has drawn interest from Auburn and a couple ACC schools. Offer situation aside, he will add much-needed depth at what is almost inarguably Tech’s weakest and thinnest position group this fall.

Among the visitors on campus for the Citadel game was one crucial target: Jay Hardy, a four-star defensive end from Chattanooga. Tech is up against four SEC programs, according to Hardy’s announcement of his top five schools, and the list includes both Tennessee and Georgia, so it will be an uphill climb for the Jackets. Still, being in the mix with those schools is a positive sign, even if Hardy chose an unfortunate week to make his campus visit.

Tech did secure a commitment from a preferred walk-on at the same position in defensive end John Ross, a teammate and close friend of 2020 running back commit Jahmyr Gibbs at Dalton HS. An excellent profile from the Dalton Daily Citizen-News tells the story of how Gibbs has lived with the families of his teammates for several years, including (most recently) Ross, so the fact that the duo should get to remain teammates in college should be hugely beneficial to both of them.

Position Evaluation: Running Back

Turning back to Gibbs, it’s worth taking a look at one of Tech’s higher-rated prospects and what his talents suggest about the coaching staff’s priorities at running back. Here is Gibbs’ junior film:

Gibbs isn’t a tiny back by any stretch, and he’s capable of shedding tacklers, but what makes him such a special talent is his agility. He’s as good as anyone on Tech’s current roster at juking, sidestepping, and generally evading would-be tacklers with relatively subtle moves. It allows him to create room to run just when all of his lanes appear to be closed; pair that with his tremendous acceleration, and he’s a big play waiting to happen when he gets the ball in space.

2019 commit and current true freshman Jamious Griffin is similarly talented in the open field. While a sample size of two is still somewhat limited, the combination of these two players would seem to suggest that the staff is prioritizing speed and agility over power. For the spread offense that they seem to be installing, it makes sense. Run plays from the shotgun tend to develop a little more slowly, as the running back is not moving nearly as quickly when he gets the ball, so quick acceleration and the ability to evade defenders become even more valuable.

Having power isn’t a bad thing, of course. Jordan Mason is a balanced back who has been able to use his size to his advantage so far this year. Given the choice between speed and power, though, it’s clear what this staff is prioritizing.

Running Back 2019 Outlook

Gibbs is so far the only 2020 commit at running back for the Jackets. With at least six backs set to return next season, including all four players who are currently above the line at that position, it’s unlikely that Collins and friends will look to add a second running back in this class.

The bigger concern at present is that Gibbs is drawing interest from some big-name programs. Earlier this month, he received an offer from Ohio State and plans to make an official visit to Columbus, according to 247Sports. This could put Tech in relatively new territory: going head-to-head against a program with far more resources and recent on-field success, something that Paul Johnson often avoided during his tenure. If Collins manages to keep Gibbs in the fold amid serious interest from the Buckeyes and potentially other big-name programs, it’ll be a hugely promising sign for the coaching staff’s future recruiting efforts.

Class Overview

As of September 26, with the addition of Spiers and the confirmed departure of defensive end Eddie Watkins (who for a couple weeks was listed as still committed on Rivals but not on 247Sports), the class still sits at 21 players:

2020 GT Football Recruiting Class

Pos. First Name Last Name Height Weight Hometown State Rivals 247Sports Comp Commit Date Signed LOI
Pos. First Name Last Name Height Weight Hometown State Rivals 247Sports Comp Commit Date Signed LOI
QB Tucker Gleason 6-2 206 Tampa FL 3* (5.6) 3* (.8622) 3/7/19 Yes
TE Billy Ward 6-4 235 Locust Grove GA 3* (5.6) 3* (.8559) 3/7/19 Yes
WR Ryan King 6-4 205 Grayson GA 3* (5.7) 3* (.8830) 3/14/19 Yes
DB Miles Brooks 6-2 183 Jacksonville FL 4* (5.9) 4* (.9087) 3/24/19 Yes
DB Jalen Huff 6-1 169 Buford GA 3* (5.6) 3* (.8689) 4/3/19 Yes
OT Jordan Williams 6-6 305 Gainesville GA 3* (5.7) 3* (.8742) 4/6/19 Yes
OL Cade Kootsouradis 6-4 285 Crestview FL 3* (5.5) 3* (.8473) 4/22/19 Yes
LB Tyson Meiguez 6-2 210 Fairburn GA 3* (5.7) 3* (.8721) 4/23/19 Yes
DL Akelo Stone 6-3 244 Savannah GA 3* (5.6) 3* (.8601) 4/26/19 Yes
APB Jahmyr Gibbs 5-11 194 Dalton GA 4* (5.9) 4* (.9653) 5/25/19 No
EDGE Kyle Kennard 6-6 215 Atlanta GA 3* (5.6) 3* (.8614) 6/12/19 Yes
OT Wing Green 6-7 270 Leesburg GA 3* (5.5) 3* (.8552) 6/25/19 Yes
EDGE Khaya Wright 6-3 200 Miami FL 3* (5.6) 3* (.8605) 6/25/19 Yes
OT Michael Rankins 6-5 275 Ruskin FL 3* (5.7) 3* (.8755) 7/1/19 Yes
WR Bryce Gowdy 6-2 190 Deerfield Beach FL 4* (5.8) 4* (.8980) 7/30/19 Yes
WR Avery Boyd 6-2 198 Tallahassee FL 3* (5.6) 3* (.8376) 8/24/19 Yes
OL Ryan Spiers 6-4 275 Biloxi MS 2* (5.4) 3* (.8160) 9/8/19 Yes
WR Nate McCollum 5-9 180 Hampton GA 3* (5.7) 3* (.8870) 10/25/19 Yes
OL Paula Vaipulu 6-4 303 Channelview TX 3* (5.5) 3* (.8627) 10/31/19 Yes
DE Albany Casey 6-4 240 Bay Minette AL 3* (5.6) 3* (.8518) 12/3/19 No
DT Emmanuel Johnson 6-4 260 North Charletson SC 2* (5.4) 3* (.8336) 12/11/19 Yes
EDGE Jared Ivey 6-6 215 Suwanee GA 3* (5.7) 4* (.8946) 12/11/19 Yes
LB Khatavian Franks 6-2 205 Fairburn GA 3* (5.6) 3* (.8837) 12/18/19 Yes
QB Jeff Sims 6-3 205 Jacksonville FL 4* (5.8) 4* (.9169) 12/18/19 Yes

As of now, if all non-senior players return and all of the current commits enroll, the team will be several players above the 85-scholarship limit. With senior two-way lineman Jahaziel Lee now planning to redshirt and return next fall following his season-ending injury, the math becomes even more complicated. How exactly the staff will balance the scholarships in the offseason remains an open question.