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A Big Day on The Flats

Feb. 5, 2015

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

Paul Johnson wore as big a smile on Wednesday as he might be able to fit, and why not? After 27 high school seniors signed letters of intent to play football at Georgia Tech, the head coach was awash in his biggest signing class on The Flats.

“I’m really proud of our coaching staff and the young men that we signed this morning, kind of went off without a hitch,” he told media. “It was kind of a dream with no drama and not much going on.

“We had more openings this year, more slots than we’ve ever had and I think we were able to hit a lot of key positions and get our numbers balanced to the point that I feel good about it at each position.”

Johnson alluded to the Jackets not dealing with much player “flipping” down the stretch, as Tech’s recruiting cycle was as smooth from start to finish as any in years.

Tyler Cooksey was caught up the warm and fuzzy feelings.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker from Greater Atlanta Christian in Gwinnett County committed to Tech last June.

He found his vibe early in the recruiting run, and felt good about deciding to follow in father Tom’s footsteps as a Jacket (1976-80). His first earnest look into Tech football came during spring practices last year in the form of up-close views of how the program operates.

“I was really happy that I was able to get that decision out of the way,” Cooksey said. “I did my research, and I went and hung out with the players and coaches. I was kind of able to see how they act together without all the parents around.

“During spring practices, I could see how players and coaches interacted in meetings and workouts.”

Cooksey said his father did not over-sell Georgia Tech to his son, yet was plenty proud upon Tyler’s decision.

“He was not rooting for Georgia Tech at all in the beginning,” Tyler said. “He was, in his way, but he was not going to tell me to go there.”

With keen eyes on who is leaving the program, Tech coaches signed six running backs, four defensive linemen, four linebackers, three defensive backs, three offensive linemen, three wide receivers, two quarterbacks, “athlete” TaQuon Marshall from Harris County, and running back/defensive back Dorian Walker from Mt. Paran Christian.

Top B-backs Synjyn Days, Zach Laskey and Matt Connors are seniors, and so are A-backs Charles Perkins, Deon Hill, Tony Zenon and B.J. Bostic.

In those seven and senior wide receiver DeAndre Smelter (three rushes, 103 yards), the Jackets are parting with 3,093 of their 4,789 rushing yards and 29 of their 47 rushing touchdowns. The team’s leading rusher, sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas (1,086 yards, eight TDs) returns, of course.

Running backs KirVonte Benson of Marietta High and Nathan Cottrell of Knoxville, Tenn.’s Knox High are particularly noted for their speed.

Tech will also lose players responsible for 94 of 106 receptions and 18 of 19 receiving scores. Smelter (35 receptions, seven TDs) and Darren Waller (26, six) leave big holes. Michael Summers, who had seven receptions for 45 yards, will be the top returning receiver.

Benedictine Military Academy wideout Brad Stewart (6-1, 190), Harland Howell (6-3, 200) of Wheeler and Christian Philpot (6-3, 200) of Tallahassee North Florida Christian share characteristics with fellow wide receivers Smelter (6-3, 225) and Waller (6-5, 232).

“We’ve got some real speed guys, which is something that we’ve tried to point to especially at the offensive skill positions,” Johnson said. “We wanted to hit wide receiver. You’ve got Harland, who is already in school, who is a big, tall guy.

“Christian Philpott was the 2A Player of the Year in Florida. Brad Stewart was the [AA] Player of the Year in Georgia so there [are] guys who bring credentials in at wide receiver . . . and there are a couple other guys in the class that could end up at wide receiver.”

The Jackets’ strong season last fall sure didn’t hurt recruiting down the stretch as coaches pulled together and kept a class that includes twin offensive linemen Scott and Brad Morgan of Etowah.

Tech finished 11-3, and ranked No. 8 nationally.

“I think if anything it probably helped keep the class together,” Johnson said. “We didn’t have all the negativity talking about flipping and all that stuff. Anytime there is a positive environment going on and a positive attitude around the program, it’s going to help.

“Winning the in-state game helps when you go out to recruit. We haven’t won that game a lot and it helped.”

Cooksey felt even better about choosing Tech as the Jackets rolled to wins over Virginia Tech, Miami, Clemson, Georgia and Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl.

“It was a great season. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation to be coming into,” he said. “They will be expecting great things, and I look forward to being a part of that. I’m proud to say I’m a Yellow Jacket.”

 Victor Alexander 7:46 a.m. LB 5-10 220  Jacksonville, Fla. / Trinity Christian School
 KirVonte Benson 7:07 a.m. AB 5-8 190  Marietta, Ga. / Marietta HS
 Will Bryan enrolled OL 6-4 285  Lavonia, Ga. / Franklin County HS
 Christian Campbell 8:26 a.m. QB 6-2 195  Ponchatoula, La. / Ponchatoula HS
 Kyle Cerge-Henderson enrolled DL 6-1 280  Tampa, Fla. / Plant HS
 Tyler Cooksey 7:04 a.m. LB 6-3 220  Suwanee, Ga. / Greater Atlanta Christian School
 Nate Cottrell 7:44 a.m. AB 5-11 185  Knoxville, Tenn. / Knoxville West HS
 David Curry 8:41 a.m. S/NKL 6-2 207  Buford, Ga. / Buford HS
 Meiko Dotson 7:57 a.m. DB 5-10 185  Daytona Beach, Fla. / Mainland HS
 Brentavious Glanton 8:17 a.m. DL 6-2 280  Albany, Ga. / Monroe Comprehensive HS
 A.J. Gray 7:14 a.m. S 6-1 196  Sandersville, Ga. / Washington County HS
 Harland Howell enrolled WR 6-3 200  Marietta, Ga. / Wheeler HS
 Omahri Jarrett 7:59 a.m. AB 5-10 168  Douglasville, Ga. / New Manchester HS
 Mikell Lands-Davis 8:45 a.m. BB 5-11 205  Douglasville, Ga. / Alexander HS
 Marcus Marshall 8:20 a.m. AB 5-10 200  Raleigh, N.C. / Millbrook HS
 TaQuon Marshall 7:50 a.m. QB/AB 5-10 175  Hamilton, Ga. / Harris County HS
 Brant Mitchell 8:07 a.m. LB 6-2 240  Knoxville, Tenn. / Webb School
 Brad Morgan 7:30 a.m. OL 6-5 266  Woodstock, Ga. / Etowah HS
 Scott Morgan 7:30 a.m. DL 6-5 275  Woodstock, Ga. / Etowah HS
 Christian Philpott 8:10 a.m. WR 6-3 203  Tallahassee, Fla. / North Florida Christian School
 Jaylend Ratliffe 8:15 a.m. QB 6-2 200  Laurinburg, N.C. / Scotland HS
 Anree Saint-Amour 8:26 a.m. DE 6-3 236  Suwanee, Ga. / North Gwinnett HS
 Trent Sellers 8:35 a.m. DL 6-4 230  Tyrone, Ga. / Sandy Creek HS
 Brad Stewart 7:36 a.m. WR 6-1 190  Savannah, Ga. / Benedictine Military School
 Dorian Walker 9:47 a.m. WR/DB 6-0 175  Kennesaw, Ga. / Mt. Paran Christian School
 Quaide Weimerskirch enrolled BB 6-0 205  Milton, Fla. / Pace HS
 Dante Wigley 8:15 a.m. DB 6-1 183  Carrollton, Ga. / Carrollton HS


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