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Recruiting Class Revisited: 2014

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Let’s take a look at one of CPJ’s best classes to date.

Georgia Southern v Georgia Tech Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

The 2014 recruiting class brought with it a new wave of excitement following an underwhelming 7-6 season in 2013. Arguably Paul Johnson’s best recruiting class since 2010, there was hope that this group could elevate the Jackets to perennial contenders in the ACC Coastal.

While that hasn’t been the case, the 2014 class has undoubtedly produced some players and moments that will be cemented in Georgia Tech Football history. Here, we’ll take a look back at all 21 players who committed to the Jackets over four years ago and how their careers have unfolded since then. Since there is no way to evaluate the potential of a player who left the program early due to injuries or personal reasons, the grades given below are solely based on each player’s contributions to the Georgia Tech Football program.

Georgia Tech 2014 Recruiting Class

Name Position Height Weight Hometown Rivals 247 Sports Composite
Name Position Height Weight Hometown Rivals 247 Sports Composite
Myles Autry AB 5-11 170 Norcross, GA 3-star (5.6) 4-star (0.8906)
Step Durham CB 5-11 175 Jacksonville, FL 4-star (5.8) 3-star (0.8793)
C.J. Leggett BB 5-10 210 Suwanee, GA 3-star (5.7) 3-star (0.8737)
Keshun Freeman DE 6-4 230 Hogansville, GA 3-star (5.6) 3-star (0.8559)
Qua Searcy AB 5-11 170 Barnesville, GA 3-star (5.6) 3-star (0.8509)
Andrew Marshall OL 6-4 265 Cumming, GA 3-star (5.7) 3-star (0.8502)
Jake Stickler OL 6-5 263 Bradenton, FL 3-star (5.5) 3-star (0.8488)
Lance Austin CB 5-10 170 Barnesville, GA 3-star (5.6) 3-star (0.8465)
Lawrence Austin CB 5-9 170 Barnesville, GA 3-star (5.6) 3-star (0.8450)
Tyler Merriweather DE 6-3 220 Demopolis, AL 3-star (5.5) 3-star (0.8448)
Trey Klock OL 6-4 260 Hummelstown, PA 3-star (5.5) 3-star (0.8440)
Jalen Johnson S 6-3 190 Oneonta, AL 3-star (5.5) 3-star (0.8395)
Matthew Jordan QB 6-2 205 Jackson, AL 3-star (5.5) 3-star (0.8370)
Gary Brown OL 6-3 285 Tampa, FL 3-star (5.5) 3-star (0.8325)
Kenderius Whitehead DE 6-5 220 Milledgeville, GA 3-star (5.7) 3-star (0.8322)
Michael Preddy DE 6-3 270 Charleston, SC 3-star (5.5) 3-star (0.8290)
Antonio Simmons DE 6-3 190 Jacksonville, FL 3-star (5.5) 3-star (0.8247)
Terrell Lewis LB 6-2 215 Ocoee, FL 3-star (5.5) 3-star (0.8217)
Tre Jackson LB 5-10 235 Valdosta, GA 3-star (5.5) 3-star (0.8215)
Jake Whitley OL 6-4 295 North Augusta, SC 3-star (5.4) 3-star (0.8059)
Clinton Lynch AB 6-0 185 Norcross, GA 2-star (5.4) 2-star (0.7817)

Myles Autry

Position: A-back

247 Sports Composite: 0.8906

Autry was touted as one of the highest-rated recruits of the Paul Johnson era, and fans expected him to be an immediate impact player. However, prior to entering the program he requested a release after his older brother Anthony (wide receiver) was dismissed from the Jackets roster for an undisclosed policy violation. Myles played in two games for De Anza College in 2016 and it’s unclear if he played another down of football after that.

Grade: F


Stepheny (Step) Durham

Position: Cornerback

247 Sports Composite: 0.8793

Durham made minor contributions in his first two seasons before earning a starting role in his final two seasons. He amassed 64 tackles and 12 passes defended for his career, and will be remembered as a serviceable defensive back who at times struggled in pass coverage.

Grade: B-


C.J. Leggett

Position: B-back

247 Sports Composite: 0.8737

Leggett unfortunately never played a snap for Georgia Tech. He redshirted the 2014 season and missed the 2015 season due to injury before being dismissed for violation of team rules. He has gone on to have a respectable career as a running back for Mercer.

Grade: D-


KeShun Freeman

Position: Defensive End

247 Sports Composite: 0.8559

Freeman lit up the field as freshman in 2014, being named a True Freshman All-American by several media outlets as well as earning All-ACC Honorable Mention honors. He seemed primed for a colossal career on The Flats, but unfortunately his production declined each successive year after his meteoric freshman year. While he racked up 4.5 sacks in 2014, he accumulated just 2.5 more over his final three seasons. Despite the decline, he will always be remembered as a solid four-year contributor.

Grade: B

KeShun Freeman (GT, #42) sack vs. Miami in 2014

Qua Searcy

Position: A-back

247 Sports Composite: 0.8509

Searcy’s career got off to a slow start after he redshirted the 2014 season and suffered a season ending injury in Week 3 of the 2015 season. When he’s on the field, however, Searcy has been dynamic and exciting with the ball in his hands. He’s averaged 5.9 yards per rush and a whopping 21 yards per reception thus far, and he returns in 2018 for his redshirt senior season where he will likely again be a first-string A-back. Searcy also gave us one of the most memorable plays of recent Georgia Tech Football history when he scored a diving touchdown with 30 seconds remaining to beat Georgia in Athens in 2016.

Grade: A-

Qua Searcy (GT, #1) dives for the game-winning TD against Georgia in 2016

Andrew Marshall

Position: Offensive Lineman

247 Sports Composite: 0.8502

Marshall’s solid offensive line play has earned him 33 game appearances (including 9 starts) for the Yellow Jackets so far in his career. After redshirting the 2017 season due to injury, he is currently preparing for his final season where he is projected to compete for a starting role.

Grade: B


Jake Stickler

Position: Offensive Lineman

247 Sports Composite: 0.8488

Stickler started 10 games in 2017 and was positioned to be a key contributor on the offensive line again this season. Unfortunately, a medical issue forced him to retire this past offseason.

Grade: B-


Lance Austin

Position: Cornerback

247 Sports Composite: 0.8465

Lance Austin will be forever immortalized in Georgia Tech football history as the player who in 2015 returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown to beat FSU in what would become known as the “Miracle on Techwood Drive.” Besides that, he will be remembered as a solid tackling defensive back whose lack of size was sometimes an issue in pass coverage.

Grade: B

Lance Austin (GT, #17) returns a blocked field goal for a TD to beat FSU in 2015

Lawrence Austin

Position: Cornerback

247 Sports Composite: 0.8450

If not for his brother stealing the spotlight on final play of the game mentioned above, people likely would have remembered Lawrence Austin’s heroic effort to force an interception on 3rd and goal with only 8:14 remaining in the 4th quarter. As a cornerback, Lawrence exhibited similar traits to his brother: he was solid at tackling, but inconsistent in pass coverage.

Grade: B

Lawrence Austin (GT, #20) jars the ball loose to set up a Jamal Golden (GT, #4) interception vs. FSU in 2015

Tyler Merriweather

Position: Defensive End

247 Sports Composite: 0.8448

Merriweather hasn’t made much of an impact so far in his career, recording six tackles over the past two seasons. He returns in 2018 as a redshirt senior looking to earn a starting spot on the defensive line.

Grade: D+


Trey Klock

Position: Offensive Lineman

247 Sports Composite: 0.8440

Klock worked his way up to the top of the depth chart and started the final three games of his redshirt freshman season in 2015. While he looked ready to be a dominant force on the offensive line for the next several years, Klock announced in the 2016 offseason that he intended to transfer to a school closer to home. He now plays at Northwestern, contributing in 2017 on field goal units and goal line packages.

Grade: C-


Jalen Johnson

Position: Safety

247 Sports Composite: 0.8395

Johnson has been a serviceable backup safety so far in his career, amassing 30 tackles along the way. With the departures of last year’s starting safeties A.J. Gray and Corey Griffin, Johnson will have a chance to earn a starting role in his redshirt senior year.

Grade: C


Matthew Jordan

Position: Quarterback

247 Sports Composite: 0.8370

Jordan decided to forgo his redshirt senior season after spending most of his career as the Jackets 2nd string quarterback. He will always be remembered for his heroic performance against Virginia Tech in 2016 when he started in place of an injured Justin Thomas and led the Jackets to a 30-20 victory in Blacksburg.

Grade: B

Matthew Jordan (GT, #11) runs for a 53-yard TD against Virginia Tech in 2016

Gary Brown

Position: Offensive Lineman

247 Sports Composite: 0.8325

After the 2015 season, Brown decided to leave the team to pursue his art career. While he wasn’t a contributor on the football field, it’s nice to see someone pursue their dream and we hope the decision has worked out well for him.

Grade: D-


Kenderius Whitehead

Position: Defensive End

247 Sports Composite: 0.8322

Whitehead transferred to Georgia Tech after playing at NC State and JUCO Georgia Military College. His career stats at Tech: two tackles against Alcorn State in 2015.

Grade: D


Michael Preddy

Position: Defensive End

247 Sports Composite: 0.8290

After redshirting the 2014 season, Preddy left the program reportedly due to being near the bottom of the depth chart. It’s unclear if he attempted to continue his football career elsewhere.

Grade: D-


Antonio Simmons

Position: Defensive End

247 Sports Composite: 0.8247

Simmons had a solid career for Georgia Tech. In his final two seasons he accumulated 62 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles as a starting defensive end. His strong senior year performance caught the eye of some NFL scouts, and he’s now trying to make the Denver Broncos roster as an outside linebacker after signing as an undrafted free agent.

Grade: B+

Antonio Simmons (GT, #93) sack against Pittsburgh in 2016

Terrell Lewis

Position: Linebacker

247 Sports Composite: 0.8217

Lewis never earned a starting role, but he did show marginal production as a linebacker and special teams contributor, accumulating 50 tackles for his career.

Grade: C+


Tre Jackson

Position: Linebacker

247 Sports Composite: 0.8215

Jackson currently has 9 career tackles, which he has accumulated playing on special teams and as a reserve linebacker. He’ll be back in 2018, hoping to compete for a spot on the starting linebacker rotation.

Grade: D+


Jake Whitley

Position: Offensive Lineman

247 Sports Composite: 0.8059

Whitley came to Tech rated the 55th best guard in the country by ESPN and was expected to be a future starter. He was redshirted as a true freshman and played in one game in 2015 before an injury unfortunately ended his football career and he was placed on medical scholarship.

Grade: D


Clinton Lynch

Position: A-back

247 Sports Composite: 0.7817

Last but certainly not least is Clinton Lynch. By far the lowest rated recruit of the 2014 recruiting class, Lynch has proved all the doubters wrong by establishing himself as the most productive Georgia Tech A-back since Orwin Smith. While he saw a decline in both rushing and receiving yards in 2017, that can likely be attributed to new starting quarterback TaQuon Marshall’s struggles with passing and hitting the A-back pitch. With an extra year of practice under their belts, Marshall and Lynch will be a highly dangerous combination for opposing defenses this upcoming season.

Grade: A

Clinton Lynch (GT, #22) runs for a 42-yard TD vs Georgia in 2016

Top Five Players of the Class

1. Clinton Lynch

2. Qua Searcy

3. Antonio Simmons

4. Andrew Marshall

5. Lance & Lawrence Austin

Based on the grades given above, here are the Top Five (well, six) players of the 2014 recruiting class with honorable mentions to KeShun Freeman and Matthew Jordan. Three players on this list (Lynch, Searcy, and Marshall) will be back in 2018, where they’ll have one final chance to leave a lasting legacy.

Conclusion

While the 2014 recruiting class has given us plenty of heartbreaking losses (the Jackets have lost 13 one-score games since the start of 2014), they have also contributed to two wins against Georgia, two bowl victories, and a historic walk-off win against the #9 team in the country. Six players from the 2014 recruiting class will return for the 2018 season, and all eyes will be on them to step up as leaders and impact players in their final year on The Flats.