2012 Big Picture Recap – Defensive LineGoJackets.com continues its series to help you get a view of the big picture in recruiting. With National Signing Day over and Georgia Tech's recruiting class completed, GoJackets.com is taking a position-by-position look at the 2012 recruiting class. Today we will look at the defensive line.
Current Depth Chart:
Current Seniority Chart:
2 seniors – Barnes (R), Cross 3 juniors – Dieke (R), Cummings (R), Crenshaw (R) 2 sophomores – Green (R), Williams (R) 5 freshmen – Kitchen (R), Fallon, Gamble, Chungong, Gotsis
Expected 2013 Class Open Slots: 2 (and hopefully more)
Notes: For Georgia Tech, the defensive line holds the defensive equivalent of the quarterback. The Yellow Jackets have an offensive and defensive system that both rely on one player doing his job and opening up the opposition for the others to contribute. Everyone knows that the quarterback in just about any offensive system can cause a team to succeed or fail. That's particularly true in an option offense when the QB is faced with a number of "options" and must make the right decision or the play, the drive, the game can get away quickly. A good quarterback can make you a good team. A great quarterback will increase your chances of having a special team.
In Tech's 3-4 defense, the nose tackle (NT) is key in the same way. If the offense doesn't need to double-team him on most plays, it's like playing with a poor quarterback. The play is breaking down before it really gets going. More attention can be paid to the defensive ends and linebackers giving the QB more time to look down field and diminish the effectiveness of the defensive backs. The NT doesn't need to necessarily put up big numbers but he has to be very disruptive. Great college football teams like Alabama would not win Championships in two of the last three years without nose tackles like Terrence Cody and Josh Chapman. Georgia Tech can't realistically expect to go out and recruit the highest rated NT prospects because everyone wants them and Tech is not as high on the college football recruiting pecking order as an Alabama, but Tech should still try everything it can. The Yellow Jackets should continue to go after big names and hope one day to convince someone to be their Calvin Johnson of nose tackles. They should also look high and low and even take some chances on maybe developing a special player at the position. To be as disruptive as needed, it would help to get someone who is or can/will be very large and tough to physically move. Just being big though is not enough. They must have the endurance of a wrestler and a low center of gravity. Pretty easy, right?
As a recruiting strategy, there are again parallels between quarterback and nose tackle in the GT systems. An effective strategy for offense is to offer some of the best athletes available like Josh Nesbitt or Justin Thomas and give them a shot at QB when other won't. At least you know they can fall back to other positions if it doesn't pan out. No one ever complains about overcrowding the QB position with talent because everyone knows – if you don't get that position right, it's going to be a long year. Likewise for NT, go take some chances and over-recruit the position. Those guys can play other positions as well if it doesn't work out. It's always easier to find a spot for a former defensive lineman who is not as fast or quick up the field as hoped to move to offensive line as it is to go in the other direction. Former 4-star DT J.C. Lanier is in that transition now. Probably the best Tech example of DT-turned-OL is Mansfield Wrotto who moved to OL in his junior season and went on to a solid career in the NFL on offense. So, go get these big guys and try them all on the DL first. Who knows maybe one will have the frame to grow into a solid NT and really clog things up in the trenches giving Tech the chance to have a special defense.
From last year's squad, two guys are moving on: Logan Walls and Jason Peters. Additionally, Albert Rocker left the team prior to fall to pursue a career at Microsoft. While we're gnashing our teeth about putting together the perfect football team, it's kind of nice to take a second and see that one of the things that causes Tech issues on the recruiting trail – tough academics – is also something that makes the players who come here special. The story of a guy leaving with a year to go and a chance to really contribute but wants to get a start on a promising career at one of the top companies of our era is a rare story in college football. It's also something for Tech football fans to look at and be proud of a former player like Albert. Tech should embrace the academics through recruiting and point to Rocker as an example of why it's not such a bad thing to be smart and have a promising career to fall back on if you're not the next Mount Cody.
Walls and Peters were solid players for Tech. Both were probably best suited as defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme though. Walls - playing at around 300 pounds - was the one asked to take on that role though. I didn't see him forcing opposing offenses in double-teaming him as often as the defense needed but he can't be blamed for doing his best in a less-than-ideal match. On the season Walls had zero sacks and 39 tackles. Peters had two sacks and 41 tackles.
Next year, T.J. Barnes should move into the starting NT role as a senior. He has the weight you like to see from a NT at nearly 350 pounds. The things he needs to concentrate on are getting that 6'7" frame into a lower center of gravity and to improve on his endurance or he'll be gassed by the fourth quarter. Shawn Green will need to step it up and be a big contributor in 2012. He has a good center of gravity but still may be undersized. If he can fight it out in the trenches, then he could be a solid contributor in the coming season.
There is some really good talent returning at defensive end in 2012, particularly Izaan Cross. Also look out for guys like Cummings, Dieke and Crenshaw who were solid in mostly reserve roles last year. These guys, along with Williams and possibly Kitchen (who is questionable for spring practice), will vie for larger roles in the coming season. Should the NT position really pan out, it will give Tech the chance to show off what could be a very good group of defensive ends. As for the seniority chart, there is some pretty good balance across the classes, but I'll remain in favor of flooding the defensive line with even more talent in the coming classes. Adding four this year is just what the doctor ordered. Is the next big time NT prospect in that group? Let's see.
Kallon (6-5, 241) is a four-star player ranked as the #19 defensive end by Scout.com. Along with Justin Thomas, Kallon was one of the two jewels of the recruiting class. Kallon is the highest ranking player in the class at #152 on the Scout.com Top 300. Like Thomas, Kallon was also a member of the Offense-Defense All-Star team. As you can imagine, a player ranked as well as Kallon, was properly bestowed with numerous honors and even more offers. His lengthy offer list includes: Arkansas, Auburn, Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina State, Purdue, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, and Wake Forest.
Tech was fortunate to get in early with Francis. Even after his early commitment, teams kept after him. He took a visit to Auburn who got in late with him and might not have suited him as well. "Auburn might be too big for me. Georgia Tech is much smaller, but it is lively there too," Kallon told Chad Simmons in October. Tech held off all of the other interested programs and Kallon became the prize of the Yellow Jacket class.
Insight: "What can I say about this young man that hasn't already been said? Kallon is still so raw after one season of football, but he has a lot of upside. He is athletic, he is hungry, he catches on quickly, and I have very high expectations for Kallon as he continues to develop his game." – Chad Simmons
Notes: Kallon, originally from England, played his first year of football this past season. The fact that he garnered this much attention so quickly is a testament to the type of talent and potential people see in him. No one will question the ranking or offers, so what does that leave? Demeanor – check. He's described by Simmons as "hungry" and "he has some fire on the field". Fit? Okay, so he's not the next nose tackle for the 3-4 defense but a player of this talent is a good fit for anyone. He could be the type of rush end that could be a real sack master and open up opportunities for defensive backs if he can get quick pressure on quarterbacks in the coming years. His long frame will also help him keep offensive linemen away from him so he can be a force in run defense. I'd be hesitant to believe he'll play as a freshman given his lack of experience and the amount of solid depth Tech has currently at end.
Chungong (6-3.5, 255) is a three-star player ranked as the #46 defensive tackle by Scout.com. He was selected to the Chesapeake Bowl. Chungong, like Kallon, is probably better suited as an end in the 3-4 defense even though he looks to have room to add to his frame. Roderick lined up a pretty solid list of offers in his own right. His list includes: Boston College, Duke, Illinois, Louisville, Michigan State, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Purdue, Rutgers, UCF, and Virginia. That would be solid a region in this year's NCAA basketball tournament! Virginia and Rutgers probably put up the best competition for Chungong's services but Tech again put in a lot of good early work in getting his interest and the Jackets held on as the favorite to land his pledge. As Dale McDuffie was told in a June interview, Chungong was not turned off by other commits at his position and welcomes the competition. "I didn't hear about (Pat) Gamble but I heard about (Francis) Kallon committing over the weekend. That is great that Georgia Tech picked Pat up," Chungong told McDuffie.
Insight: "Chungong will take some time to grow into a defensive tackle, but that is his best position. He is smart, long and plays with leverage and can shed blocks to make plays, but he needs to develop in the strength department." – Brian Dohn
Notes: Roderick is a very solid pickup for Tech. Gamble is next up but I can write that the first three mentioned on the DL for Tech were all on board before the first game of the 2011 season. It was a solid effort for the coaches landing three desirable linemen and even going after some other big fish as I'll point out below. The early attention really helped in landing these players. Chungong has a solid list of offers and is ranked well. He has good size but will likely remain at DE if Tech stays in a 3-4 for his entire career. I like that he "plays with leverage". Too bad he's not about 100 pounds heavier. He'll need to play with speed to be a standout at DE but it sounds like he could develop into a solid run defender.
Gamble (6-4, 273) is a three-star player ranked as the #44 defensive tackle by Scout.com. Pat was another early commit for the Jackets. He rejected offers from Boston College, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi State, South Florida, Southern Miss, Stanford, and Virginia. Though he has a big frame and tackles are needed, he too seems to be marked for end. "Coach McCollum said that he and Coach Groh want me as a defensive end in their 3-4 scheme," he told McDuffie following his announced commitment. Like Travin Henry and Micheal Summers, he was selected to the Georgia North-South All-Star game.
Insight: "Gamble is a defensive lineman that Georgia Tech can move around. He can play a lot of end in the 3-4 defensive front, but can also move inside to give the defensive line some speed on passing downs. He still needs to develop physically, but he moves well and a lot of tools to work with." – Chad Simmons
Notes: For Tech fans, he earns instant points for rejecting an offer from UGA. The Jackets lose too many battles to those guys so it's always a treat to keep some in-state talent to ourselves when the kid has choices. He has a solid ranking. I don't know much on demeanor but he does make intelligent choices! I love the size and he could actually have the body to step in and play early if needed (though Simmons did say he needs to "develop physically"). If the coaches see him as a DE long term then he must not have the torso to really grow into that NT I'm hoping for. Even still, it's a solid get. I just hope Tech finds someone in the middle to eventually take double teams away from the ends in the coming seasons so they can do the damage they have the potential to do.
Gotsis (6-3, 295) is a two-star player unranked as a defensive end by Scout.com. Most people had never heard of Adam until January of this year as he comes to GT from Australia. Tech was his only offer and it came very late in the game though he also heard from Hawaii, Buffalo, and Baylor. Gotsis is a likely redshirt candidate due to his inexperience.
Insight: "Adam Gotsis is from Melbourne Australia. He grew up playing Football for the Monash Warriors and he has also represented both the Australian Junior and Senior National Teams. Adam was also selected to the IFAF 2012 World Under 19's Team which recently beat the USA 35 to 29. Due to NCAA rules Adam was not allowed to play for the World Team otherwise he would [have] lost a years eligibility at GT. Adam has been selected to play Nose Guard at GT and also has the versatility to play on the Offensive Line. Adam is a lean 6'4 295 pounds and he has a big frame to put on more size if needed. Adam has also played a lot of basketball and Aussie rules and he has good hands. Do not be surprised to see Adam playing some TE on the goal line Offense for GT." – Paul Manera
Notes: Forget basketball and forget tight end. We want him to be a nose tackle. There's no secret that this was a reach pick. But I, for one, am happy Tech coaches signed him. This fits the idea of bringing in big bodies who can grow into a true tackle. Tech went halfway around the earth for this one but maybe that's what it takes. No offers. No rankings. He does have an accent that could make him popular with the ladies on campus. For me I hope he gains 35 pounds and causes Alabama to start recruiting in Australia because they fear missing another guys like Adam. Okay, we can dream, but this will be an interesting experiment.
The ones who got away:
Dalvin Tomlinson (Alabama) - Tech actually went to the wire with Alabama for Tomlinson. The rich get richer though. This is a player the Jackets really could have used. It also would have provided some great recruiting momentum for the coaches going into the next year winning guys like Kallon, Tomlinson, Gamble, from top recruiting programs. I applaud the effort but this was a near miss – something that happens far too often it seems.
Ryan Watson (Purdue) - a teammate of Roderick Chungong - dropped Tech off his list when he got it down to a top 4. Tech did beat Georgia out for Pat Gamble but for every one of those there seems to be three more going the other way.
Also, there are three guys Tech offered on the DL that went the wicked way: John Atkins (Georgia), James Deloach (Georgia), and Jonathan Taylor (Georgia). Faith Ekakitie (Iowa) as well as Martin Aiken (Clemson) were 2 other recruits that Tech was involved with that also went elsewhere.