By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
As the dawn of the holiday home stretch arrives, Georgia Tech football goes into the offseason with players scattered to their various homes yet united with a good feeling about the future after the first round of 2020 recruits signed National Letters of Intent earlier last week to attend the Institute.
The Yellow Jackets had 22 young men sign last Wednesday to wear the White and Gold – 21 incoming freshmen and Tennessee graduate offensive lineman Ryan Johnson joined the show.
With at least five four-star prospects lined up, Tech’s recruiting class is the highest-ranked since the 2007 group that included Derrick Morgan, Morgan Burnett, Joshua Nesbitt and Jonathan Dwyer among others, as Rivals – one of the primary recruiting trackers in the land – currently sets the Jackets at No. 23 in the nation.
And Tech has sights set on more high-level prospects signing in the second wave, on the first Wednesday in February, when signing commences again.
Head coach Geoff Collins and his staff, which he went out of the way to commend upon the first round of signings, have gone after serious players and serious people. They’ve recruited young men who are not only outstanding football players, but also good students and stewards. They expect incoming Jackets like quarterbacks and Jeff Sims and Tucker Gleason, cornerback Miles Brooks, defensive end Jared Ivey, wide receivers Bryce Gowdy and Nate McCollum and many more student-athletes to be outstanding citizens beyond the field
“We are not just collecting talent, we are building a program,” Collins said. “We’re evaluating character. They’re built to be developed the way we’re going to develop them at a ridiculously high level.”
The newest Jackets are a bit on the bigger side, and many are going to land on The Flats soon.
Eight of the 21 incoming freshmen are slated to enroll in January, and Ryan Johnson – who was a high school teammate in Brentwood, Tenn., of late Tech player Brandon Adams — will be here next month as well.
The six incoming offensive linemen – Wing Green, Ryan Johnson, Michael Rankins, Ryan Spiers, Paula Vaipulu and Jordan Williams – go 6-7, 6-6, 6-5, 6-3, 6-3 and 6-6.
Four incoming defensive linemen – Ivey, Emmanuel Johnson, Kyle Kennard and Akelo Stone – go 6-6, 6-5, 6-4 and 6-2-plus.
“The thing I’ve talked about since I’ve gotten here is we have to get longer, taller, rangier athletes on this roster,” Collins said. “The signing class at O-line averages 6-foot-5, 297 pounds. That’s significant, and we take a lot of pride in it . . . The D-line is 6-4.5.”
Collins’ underlying point was on point. The Jackets were notably undersized on the line of scrimmage last season.
Beyond the greater size that is about to show up on campus, the Jackets will welcome some serious skill.
Sims and Gleason will compete with returnees James Graham, Jordan Yates and Lucas Johnson at quarterback.
Before signing with Tech, Sims – a four-star recruit from Jacksonville – committed to ACC rival Florida State.
The Jackets have recruited hard since Collins was hired a little more than a year ago in the wake of Paul Johnson’s retirement, and this year, the staff gained serious traction.
It’s not just coaches who do the work.
Collins mentioned behind-the-scenes staff members Patrick Suddes, Carina Hargreaves, Mike Gregory, Thomas Guerry, Santino Stancato and Brad Ahern in addition to his assistant coaches. There have been others involved as well.
The Jackets are not finished recruiting. Collins suggested that offensive and defensive line and running back remain target positions for the February signing date.
Even before that happens, the Jackets are looking forward to their newcomers, starting with the nine young men who will arrive officially in the first week of January. A template has been set.
The incoming graduate student transfer, Ryan Johnson, for example was hosted on his recruiting weekend by outgoing tight end Tyler Davis and offensive lineman Jared Southers, who last season were graduate transfers themselves.
“A lot of the (recruiting) decisions were made, who we were prioritizing based on their ability to come mid-year . . . there’s nothing that we do by accident,” Collins said. “This year, it is set, and it is established by the great senior class that we’ve had. I think (the newcomers’) development is going to be even more accelerated.”