Johnson Signs OK Class; He Thinks It's Better
By Eric Russell
We get it. Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson doesn't pay attention to those pesky rankings given to recruiting classes, and he hates the ratings system the recruiting sites use to evaluate talent. But what do you expect from a guy whose recruiting classes over the last six seasons averages a ranking of 47th, according to Rivals?
His 2014 class mirrors its predecessor in terms of the type of players included. The 2013 class featured a lack of four-star recruits. This year, a couple guys have a four-star rating from at least one of the major recruiting sites.
Johnson recently told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the recruiting rankings placed on recruiting classes aren't what matter. He pointed to the fact Georgia Tech has 47 wins (they won 48, but the 2009 ACC title game was vacated) over the last six seasons as an indicator that Yellow Jackets recruiting hasn't been so bad. That's the fourth-most victories in the ACC in the last six seasons behind Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech.
However, Johnson neglected to mention that 19 of those wins came as he was riding Johnathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan and the rest of the Chan Gailey-recruited players to success in his first two seasons. I guess he doesn't realize that much of his success came following Georgia Tech's 2007 recruiting class, which was ranked 18th in the nation. The class, which featured Dwyer, Morgan, Josh Nesbitt and Morgan Burnett, was a big part of his 19-7 start in his first two seasons.
Without those two seasons, Johnson and the Yellow Jackets are 28-25 during the other four years of his tenure. That would make them the sixth-best team in the conference over that time period. Those results seem to be on par with where Johnson's recruiting classes have ranked.
Johnson does have a point. You can't always judge by the rankings, but they aren't as absurd as he attempts to make them seem year after year.
Johnson's 2014 class certainly seems to be another middle-of-the-pack class as many recruiting sites suggest. It's hindered by the same thing that has haunted Tech's classes in the past, missing out on the key piece. This year it was in the form of Shai McKenzie, a speedy, four-star running back out of Pennsylvania, who landed at Virginia Tech. Georgia Tech will enter the season with quite a few redshirt seniors on the depth chart and some incoming talent at running back, but the addition of McKenzie would've provided a potential bright spot for the future run game.
The Yellow Jackets also missed out on cornerback Malkom Parrish and defensive tackle Mike Sawyer. However, it's not as if the class doesn't have its positives.
The Yellow Jackets replenished their pool of athletes on both the offensive and defensive line as well as in the defensive secondary. Tech added a total of 10 linemen between the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The biggest loss along the line from last season is All-ACC defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu. The 2014 class has its share of candidates to be a big presence down the road at that position. Five players in the class have the potential to play the position, including Kenderius Whitehead and Keshun Freeman. The Yellow Jackets also added some depth to the secondary by signing an athletic group of defensive backs.
Head Of The Class
Stepheny Durham is one of the defensive backs Johnson added to the roster. The 5-foot-11 cornerback got some attention from several programs in the Southeast and some Big Ten schools as well. Durham had a nose for the big play at Atlantic Coast High School in Jacksonville, Fla., and it should carry over at Tech. Durham, a four-star recruit according to ESPN and Rivals, has athleticism that will give him an early shot at playing time for the Yellow Jackets. He was a member of the basketball and track team in high school as well. He is already enrolled, so look for him to make some noise this spring.
The late signing of Myles Autry, a running back out of Norcross, Ga., was a big get for Johnson and crew. The Yellow Jackets were able to beat out ACC foes and rival Georgia for him. It doesn't make up for what they could've potentially had in McKenzie, but he does have the ability to be an impact runner. In addition, as we've seen, the Georgia Tech offense will give athletes like Autry ample opportunity to make big plays. Johnson believes Autry is one of a handful of freshman who can see the field this season. Georgia Tech lost its top three rushers from 2013 when Robert Godhigh and David Sims graduated and Vad Lee transferred. Fullback Zach Laskey is the leading rusher returning to the squad. Autry's running ability isn't the only thing that makes him a good signing. He spent some time in high school playing everywhere on the field, so he can line up at different spots on the field.
Keshun Freeman can certainly get after the quarterback. The three-star defensive end is another signee who will get to participate in spring ball. He's a smart kid and it wont take long for him to catch on. One interesting thing will be where he lines up as a Yellow Jacket. In high school, he played a good bit at linebacker; however, his ability to get into the backfield and shed blockers could be something Tech decides to use at the defensive end position to replace Attaochu. Freeman will be key if the Jackets want to continue to make strides in the right direction on defense.
What It Means
Despite Johnson's constant claims that the class rankings mean nothing, the stats suggest otherwise. The numbers also say he might want to turn his recent classes into something successful. This class give the Yellow Jackets some needed pieces to work with. It wasn't as good as it could've been, but Johnson and company didn't do too bad. The head coach joked in the aforementioned article about coaching having to be great if the recruiting is at the level the rankings suggest. Well he better get to coaching because this year, much like the last few years, the ranking seems spot on. However, Johnson is going to need better results then the last few years. His time could be ticking.