In our look at the offense during last month’s advanced stats season review, we highlighted Eric Eager’s theory that wide receiver is an “Or” position, meaning one guy can make a massive difference in overall performance. We mentioned that Ricky Jeune played a version of this role from 2015-2017, but GT really hasn’t had that guy since DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller in 2014. The passing game can’t fully takeoff until we have him in place, and today we look at three newcomers who hope to become “that guy.”
James BlackStrain committed to Georgia Tech back on May 13th of last year out of Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Cocoa, FL.
At the time, he chose Georgia Tech over reported offers from the likes of Florida, FSU, UGA, LSU, UNC, and USC. This was a great get to build momentum in the 2021 class. As the cycle ended, BlackStrain checked in as a 4 star 5.8 rated prospect on Rivals, a 4 star 90 rated prospect in the 247 Composite, and a 3 Star prospect with an 87 rating on 247. Listed at 6-2, 190 lbs., BlackStrain has a great frame to play on the outside and was a highly productive high school player. In 28 games over three seasons, he caught 120 passes for 2285 yards (19 yards per catch) and 22 touchdowns.
His productivity shines in his senior film. He’s hard to bring down after the catch, and he’s quick and decisive getting off of the ball (see around 1:40). He shows an impressive ability to get off of press coverage and position his body for an outstanding catch around 2:20 in the film. Later, he shows a nice adjustment on a back shoulder throw (3:03). Throughout, he’s creative in adjusting his routes to find space. He lacks elite speed or strength, but he’s a smart football player who should make a lot of catches on the Flats.
Leo Blackburn became the second Georgia Tech commitment in the 2021 class from Westlake High School back on May 27th.
At the time, his reported offers included Miami, Ole Miss, and South Carolina, and his profile only rose throughout the recruiting cycle. Currently checking in at 6-5, 220 lbs., Blackburn has a massive frame and could play a variety of roles in Tech’s offensive formations, including splitting out wide or lining up as a “Joker” tight end closer in to the line. He ended the cycle as a consensus 4 star, with a 5.8 rating on Rivals, an 89 rating in the 247 Composite, and a 91 rating on 247. His senior production included 51 catches for 1,059 yards and 10 touchdowns.
This video gives a glimpse of some junior year footage mixed in with an interview:
I jumped out of my chair seeing how good he is at catching the ball in traffic (around 1:05).
Some of his senior highlight footage shows up here:
Blackburn is big, fast, and great at catching the football. He jumps over people and takes the ball away from them when needed. This is a guy who looks like he can contribute right away this fall, and his physical tools show huge promise for his future as a Yellow Jacket.
Kyric McGowan is the third addition to the wide receiver room for 2021. He arrived in Atlanta already as a grad transfer from Northwestern and could play up to two years at GT. Originally from Dalton High School in northwest Georgia, McGowan chose to come back home and announced his decision on January 2nd.
McGowan stands at 5-11, 205 pounds, and we should expect him to play multiple roles in the GT offense, as he did at Northwestern. During his time in Evanston, he grabbed 66 catches for 773 yards and 2 touchdowns, carried the ball 55 times for 352 yards and 2 touchdowns, and got touches as both the punt returner and kick returner for the Wildcats. He had several explosive touchdowns over his career, including a long catch of 77 yards and a long run of 79 yards.
In these highlights from his time at Northwestern, McGowan’s toughness as a runner jumps off the tape. He should be a valuable weapon for GT on third downs, as he can make some tough catches like the one around 1:10 on the film.
Coach Patenaude should be pleased with these three additions to his wide receiver room. They bring a variety of skills and weaponry to the offense, and most importantly, Leo Blackburn just might be the “Or guy” who can take the passing game to the next level. I can’t wait to see these guys suit up in September.