GT focuses on bowl & recruiting
By Matthew Osborne
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For the first interview in this series, I recently chatted with Rod Mackenzie of GoJackets.com to get his take on how Georgia Tech has fared in recruiting this year.
As recruiting hits the home stretch for the class of 2012, Southern Pigskin will begin to interview recruiting experts for many of the top teams in the ACC and SEC in order to get their take on their team’s 2012 class.
For the first interview in this series, I recently chatted with Rod Mackenzie of GoJackets.com to get his take on how Georgia Tech has fared in recruiting this year, as well as get the latest news on some of their top remaining targets.
What were some of the greatest positions of need for the Yellow Jackets in the class of 2012 and how do you think coaching staff has done in addressing those positions?
“I think probably the two most important positions are the defensive line and the safety position in the secondary. They lose two seniors on the defensive line and one safety, but they were pretty thin at safety this year. They’ve got three verbals from defensive linemen so far, and at the safety position they’ve also got three commits. Again, Coach Kelly, who is the secondary coach, he likes to cross-train the guys so they can play both positions. Right now, they have three commits at that position and they are also looking at Elijah Shumate, who is the fourth-ranked safety in the country. He is coming for his official visit in January.”
Tech currently has 13 commitments in this class. How many prospects are they hoping to sign on Signing Day?
“Right now, they have room for, just based on the open scholarships, three more commits. As is usually the case each year, you may have three or four redshirt juniors who have finished their education who decide to move on. Even though there are only three available right now, we might see two or three additional scholarships become available before Signing Day.”
Who are some of the top prospects remaining on Tech’s recruiting board?
“Probably the top man on the board right now is Elijah Shoemate from Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey. He’s been selected to play in the Army All-American game and that’s probably where he’ll make his decision. Dalvin Tomlinson is probably number two on that list. He’s a defensive lineman and a four-star prospect at a position of need. They are also looking at Darion Monroe, who is another four-star. He’s currently committed to Texas A&M as a cornerback, but Tech is looking at him for quarterback. There is also a linebacker named Alex McAlister from right outside of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Those are probably the tops guys on the board right now.”
Who is currently the highest-ranked prospect amongst Tech’s commits?
“That would probably be Francis Kallon. His is a unique story. This is his first year playing high school football. He moved here from England last year and committed to Tech in the spring before he had even played a down of high school football. He worked his way up from basically no recognition to becoming a four-star recruit in just a few months.”
Can you give us a breakdown of Kallon’s game?
“Physically, he’s a very imposing player. He’s close to 6-6. He’s going through the process now of learning the technique, but even without the technique he’s beating his opponent. He’s a good pass rusher. He’ll have to learn to play the run better, but that will come when he learns technique.”
Of the current commits, who is a guy that you think could end up having a bigger impact at Tech than his ranking might suggest?
“A couple of players come to mind. One would be Dennis Andrews, the quarterback from Tallahassee. I’ve had different people tell me that he could be one of the dark-horses of the class and could be a steal for Georgia Tech. Another player could potentially be Antonio Crawford, a defensive back from Tampa. He ran a 4.3 at Georgia’s camp and then also ran a 4.3 at Tech’s camp. The recent commit, Anthony Autry, could be another guy as well. He has put on a lot weight since his junior season and he could play either receiver or safety at Tech. He had a strong senior season and Tech was lucky enough to see his talent early and get him on campus and they got a commit from him.”
What are some of the challenges that Georgia Tech faces in recruiting?
“Well, the process that they have to go through, they have to clear transcripts before they offer a player. Involved in that is they have to clear the core subjects. They have a couple of exceptions available to them, but they would prefer not to take a borderline academic recruit because that means that they might have to babysit that recruit down the road. They are looking for a player that has to score pretty high on the SAT. You compare that to other schools, where a quarter to a half of their class might be exception players. There is also a limited number of majors they can go to outside of the engineering and science school, so that’s something that limits them as far as who they can look at.”
How do the Yellow Jackets go about overcoming those obstacles?
“I think that the most important thing right now for them is the fact that they have some continuity with the coaching staff. They have formed some solid relationships with high school coaching staffs around the state and that is going to help them establish relationship with recruits at an earlier state. I think the longer they are here, the better they are going to recruit. Because of how things have been over the last 15 years, kids grow up knowing that Georgia is a strong program instead of Georgia Tech, so they are going to have to keep winning in order to change the minds of some of these kids.”
Overall, how would you rank the Yellow Jacket’s current class, as it stands right now?
“When you look at the rankings for the various classes around the country, naturally, because they aren’t going to be able to sign 25 recruits, they aren’t going to be one of the top classes, but you need to look at average star rating when evaluating a class, and right now they are averaging a ranking of over 3.0 per recruit. A three-star prospect is a kid who ranks somewhere between 301 and 2,000 amongst high school players. If you can get a kid between 301 and 2,000, you are getting a very good player. There are only 50 five-star kids and there are only 250 four-star kids, so anything right below that is still a really good player. If they can close on the guys like Shoemate, McAlister and Tomlinson, that will improve their rating. Right now, their class ranks about 31st in the country in terms of average star rating.”