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Georgia Tech Football: Recruiting Class Revisited - 2018

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In which we use the 2018 class as a case study while comparing GT’s on field performance for the past 5 seasons to its recruiting rankings

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Before diving into the 2018 class in particular, I wanted to take a look at how Georgia Tech’s on-field performance over the past five seasons compares to recent rankings in recruiting. To do this, let’s pair each recruiting class with its average performance in its second, third, and fourth seasons on the Flats. Generally, that class should be at the prime of their production and making up a significant portion of the team’s value.

Recruiting Rankings vs. On-field Performance

If a team falls below the x=y line, the recruiting class is generally outperforming its recruiting ranking, while a class above the line (no pun intended!) has underperformed its recruitment.

Over the past five seasons, GT has had 2 (slightly) UTL classes in their three prime seasons (2014 and 2015), while the remaining three have vastly underperformed their recruiting rankings. The two primary contributing factors, especially for the 2017 and 2018 classes, are the “historic transformation” that we’ve heard about so much and the current staff’s ability to develop and deploy talent. In this particular evaluation, there’s no real way for us to parse out the two factors. However, the 2018 class is instructive as we make some observations.

What can we learn? As a reminder, the 2018 Georgia Tech Football Recruiting class was Paul Johnson’s final complete recruiting class. The class came in with a composite average of 85.23, ranking 44th nationally and 8th in the ACC. The composite average was Johnson’s best since 2009. These players are now in their fourth year in the program and should be the core contributors of the team.

Reviewing the 2018 Class

I’ve gone through each member of the class and provided the current position, the original composite rating, the current playing status, and an updated rating that I assigned.

Here’s how I’m evaluating each player:

>95: All-America Candidate

>90: All-ACC Candidate

85: Average Starter

<80: Below the Line

Georgia Tech 2018 Recruiting Class Updated

Name Position 247 Composite Rating Current Status Updated Rating
Name Position 247 Composite Rating Current Status Updated Rating
Jaylon King Safety 89.73 Above the line in 2020, will compete for backup time in 2021 83
James Graham QB 89.58 Transferred to Georgia Southern 80
Justice Dingle DE 87.7 Transferred to Kentucky 82
TK Chimedza DT 87.43 Missed 2020 season, competing to start in 2021 85
Charlie Thomas Nickel 86.81 Played in 7 games in 2020, competing to start at LB in 2021 85
Dontae Smith RB 86.14 Outstanding work as backup RB in 2020, 3rd string in 2021, would start on many teams 87
Malachi Carter WR 85.14 Started 18 games the last two seasons and will start in 2021 85
Jaquon Griffin DT 84.98 ATL in 2019, 2020, competing for backup snaps in 2021 83
Tijai Whatley RB 84.81 Had Career Ended by injury before 2019 Season N/A
Quez Jackson LB 84.63 Started 15 games between 2019-2020, expected to start in 2021 85
Zamari Walton CB 84.6 Started 21 games in 2019-2020, competing to start in 2021 85
Austin Smith OL 84.52 ATL but very limited playing time in 2019-2020, expect same in 2021 79
Mike Maye OL 84.44 BTL in 2019-2020, expect same in 2021 79
Jordan Domineck DE 84.31 Pass rush specialist who has started 7 games, potential breakout player for 2021 92
Juanyeh Thomas Safety 83.51 2 year starter at safety, looking to bounce back in 2021 87
Luke Johns TE 83.1 Enterred Transfer Portal 79
Peje Harris WR 82.76 12 career catches, competing for backup snaps in 2021 82
Harrison Jump OL 82.56 Enterred Transfer Portal 79
Zakk McKeehan OL 82.02 Transferred before 2019 Season 79
Christian Malloy RB 80.65 Transferred before 2020 season 79
Jaylen Jackson WR 80.59 Transferred before 2019 Season 79
Wesley Wells K N/A Transferred before 2020 season 79
Average 84.76 82.52

Evaluation

After doing my own ratings updates, the 2018 class ends up with an 82.5 average, which is a few points below their original rating. That checks out, as the team’s performance has fallen well below expectation given the original class ranking. The recruiting class was ranked 8th in the ACC, but the team has finished T-12th and 11th the past two seasons. 8 members of the class have transferred or entered the portal; another 3 members have not really seen the field.

There’s some top-end talent, highlighted by pass rushing specialist Jordan Domineck, who was the 2020 conference leader in pass rush pressure rate. Charlie Thomas and Juanyeh Thomas both had disappointing seasons last year but are getting good reviews in fall camp. TK Chimedza lost the 2020 season to injury but is getting starter reps at defensive tackle. Malachi Carter, Quez Jackson, and Zamari Walton are expected to start, while Dontae Smith will be a fixture in the running back rotation. Jaylon King, Peje Harris, and Jaquon Griffin will see snaps as backups. Otherwise, nothing of significance is expected on the field from the rest of the 2018 class, meaning at least 11 of the 22 members of the class won’t contribute during their pivotal fourth season.

We mentioned two factors that most likely have contributed to the on-field performance not matching recruiting rankings for the 2017 and 2018 classes. This class is probably the one most affected by the coaching transition. Most notably, none of the four offensive linemen in the class have managed to contribute. The quarterback was simply not a fit for Dave Patenaude’s offense. The receivers have had to adapt to something entirely different than how they were recruited to play.

On the development and deployment side, the higher rated defensive players mostly have not lived up to their billing. That’s almost certainly attributable to the current coaching staff.

If I had to put a number on it, 60% of the class’s disappointment was inevitable if GT moved away from the triple option during their time on campus, while the remaining 40% falls on the current coaching staff for not developing these guys as well as they could have.

For many members of this class, this will be their final season on campus. What a thrill it would be to go out with a season that looks more like how their recruiting class projected!