Current Depth Chart:CB: Louis Young, Domonique Noble, Chris Milton CB: Roderick Sweeting, Jamal Golden, D.J. White SS: Isaiah Johnson, Corey Dennis, Demontavious Smith FS: Jemea Thomas, Fred Holton, Lance Richardson, Lynn Griffin
Current Seniority Chart:1 senior – Sweeting 4 juniors – Thomas (R), Richardson (R), Young, Johnson 3 sophomores – Holton (R), Golden, Dennis 5 freshmen – Noble (R), Milton (R), Smith (R), White, Griffin
Expected 2013 Class Open Slots: 1-2
Notes:Tech fans have seen this coming for the last several years in recruiting. As much as any position on the team, Tech coaches have been doing a wonderful job of putting together talent and depth at the defensive back positions. Now it's officially here. Even with someone as highly rated coming in as Ryan Ayers was, the depth and talent in the defensive backfield is still one of the team's strengths. This run of deep talent should continue to show itself for at least the next two seasons on the field. Tech graduated two seniors after last season and has but one senior for next season. It may be a spot in the coming class where the coaches don't need to bring in many bodies. I'm projecting 1-2 at this point as there should be 12 returning scholarship players next season for 4 positions. Coaches will need to have one in the class but only need to get a second if the talent is too great to turn down. They can afford to be picky with giving out these offers.
In 2011 there was some major stability in the players at defensive back. Basically the four starters remained the same for the entire season. Rashaad Reid, Louis Young, Roderick Sweeting, and Isaiah Johnson (second on team in tackles in '11 with 78) were essentially the starters for the whole season. That doesn't even count the play-making Jemea Thomas who contributed greatly including making a start for Young in the bowl game. He also started the Clemson game when the Yellow Jackets opened with five defensive backs. That was a game by the way in which Jemea had two interceptions.
Now Reid, along with Michael Peterson, has graduated. Thomas, who doubled as a punt returner thrice in '11, is expected to slide right into a regular starting role. The four projected starters for 2012 accounted for 10 of the 14 Tech interceptions from last year – Thomas, Sweeting, and Johnson each had three. Their opportunities to make plays depend largely on the defensive line and linebackers doing their job to disrupt and pressure the quarterback. If the front seven can get it done, the talent behind them is capable of having big years. There were times last year when someone in the backfield got out of place and it led to big plays, so they have some work to do themselves. But overall, I really like the personnel returning at those positions.
Perhaps the best part of the defensive backfield this coming season is that – barring injury – Tech really has the luxury of not having to force one of the young guys into playing time. Lance Richardson, the lone upper classman not in the starting rotation, is really the only one who has had multiple seasons to show he belongs. Fred Holton has been around a couple of seasons but took a redshirt last year. The second string will really be up to Richardson, Holton and a bunch of other players Tech fans have mostly talked about in theory for the last couple of years. It will be interesting to see who separates from the back with guys like Holton, Corey Dennis, Jamal Golden, Domonique Noble, Chris Milton, and Demontavious Smith. Then throw in newcomers White and Griffin and there really are some unknowns that will be fun to sit back and watch and see how they answer the questions for the future.
White (5-10, 175) is a three-star player ranked as the #121 cornerback by Scout.com. White was originally committed to USF before opening up his recruitment citing instability in the program. At the time he was still being pursued by Tech, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. In all he had offers from the following: Georgia Tech, Auburn, California, Illinois, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina, South Carolina, Purdue, South Florida, Southern Miss, Central Florida, South Florida, Texas Tech, and Vanderbilt.
Insight: "White is a defensive back that likes to mix it up and play physical. He is a guy I could see helping Georgia Tech at cornerback or safety. I like his toughness, his ball skills, and his aggressiveness." – Chad Simmons
Notes: White seems like a pretty decent picking for the Yellow Jackets with a few things to keep an eye on as flags. Certainly if the offer list is correct, it's pretty impressive. The one thing that is a bit of a flag for me is that Scout.com shows White attending four different camps: GT, Auburn, Georgia, and Virginia Tech. GT and Auburn offered but UGA and VT did not. That probably means he's not considered an elite talent but that he could be very good down the road. I think offers from GT and Auburn are certainly great ones to have. His rankings are decent at three-stars and #121 at his position – again not elite, but analysts, like the coaches, see potential there. I've seen him listed between 5'10" and 6'0" which usually means he's closer to 5'10". At that height and 175-180 pounds, he'll need to probably beef up some. Coaches seeing him in person really helped I'm sure. The GT coaches felt he has the goods. A listed 40-yard dash of 4.56 would be solid if that's his speed.
In terms of "fit" for the defense – it would be difficult to see how one could really say a specific d-back was not a good fit. The final classification I try to measure as objectively as I can is personality/demeanor. Here I generally give a bit of a flag to anyone who changes their commitment. All fans like to ding players when they leave their favorite school for something they think is a better option and assume the player is flaky. I'm not going to assume White or anyone else is flaky unless I see evidence to suggest it but I will mark it as a flag. Sometimes it can be a sign of a personality flaw but other times there are perfectly legitimate reasons or kids just grow up later on. In this case, I give White the benefit of the doubt because he cited USF for having turmoil in the program and he didn't feel comfortable. They may not like to hear it but not having a comfort level is different than just using an offer as a placeholder for a better offer. His on the field demeanor seems just right. Simmons describes him as physical, tough, and aggressive.
Griffin (6-0, 200) is a two-star player who is ranked as the #126 running back by Scout.com. He committed to Georgia Tech in late January and also had offers from Connecticut, Miami (OH), Southern Miss, and Troy. He originally committed to Southern Miss. It looked like he would play there as a safety.
Mike Bakas gave the following detailed scouting report on Griffin back on August 9, 2011:
What to Like: Lynn Griffin, who goes by LJ, was a two-way player at Providence High last season. He first put his name on the recruiting map at Trinity Christian as a sophomore, where he played strong safety for them. He then played both ways after transferring. Griffin is built the right way -- at 5-11 and 195, he's rock solid and has ideal size to compete right away. He understands the game well and has quality instincts that enable him to be around the ball a lot. He's an explosive player, who is up around 40 inches on his vert, so he can drop back and be a free safety if necessary.
What may concern you: He's not going to turn many heads with his speed. He's considered an above average runner with his size. Even though he played running back over the last few years, he never flashed ball skills so his upside is probably limited as a free safety prospect playing centerfield. He had a good junior season playing small school ball in Jacksonville. Some wonder how he'd do if he were playing at one of the bigger schools in the area. That remains to be seen.
Bottom Line: Griffin was recruited like a high two star prospect and Southern Miss is getting one of the top defensive back prospects in the greater Jacksonville area. He has the size, football IQ, and overall ability to step in and compete early in his career there."
Insight: "Griffin has a BCS body and has flashed the tools that are necessary at defensive back. Another player that could play on offense (RB), but it is Safety that many have felt his ceiling is. Not afraid to compete, Griffin often shined in 1-on-1's at various camps. Flew a little under the radar due to playing smaller classification ball in the Jacksonville area." – Geoffrey Vogt
Notes: Like many of the late pickups for Tech in this recruiting class, Griffin seems like a bit of a reach in recruiting terms. His offer list was that of a smaller football college player. He was committed to Southern Miss prior to the GT switch. He also didn't have very high ratings from the analysts. Some of it can be explained by a lack of exposure seeing that he came from a smaller high school. The one thing you really have to like about Griffin though is his size. He is built to play right away and figures, at the very least, to be a potential fixture on special teams. Based on the Bakas comment above I'd be a little concerned about his speed as a free safety.
As for the demeanor/personality category, there's not much to go on. I said there is a natural flag for guys switching commitments but he gets a bit of a pass there as did White, but not totally. The Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora, left during the recruiting season to head to North Carolina. Many would argue that the commitment is to the school not the coaches. The other side would say that the coach had to look out for himself so the player should too. I'll let you decide for yourself if it's a worthy red flag. In this case the timeline shows that Fedora left then Griffin went looking so I don't think he was just trying to trade up for a better offer. Tech coaches were familiar with Lynn because he attended a GT camp previously.
The one who got away:
Antonio Crawford (Miami)
There were some heart-breaking misses this year at the defensive back positions. None more so than former Tech commit Antonio Crawford who broke Tech fan's hearts by making a late switch to hated inter-conference rival Miami. USF and Southern Miss lose out on players to Tech and Tech loses players to teams like Auburn and Miami. It's a frustrating feeling for fans but that's how the game is played. It gives Tech fans another reason to dislike "the U".
Jonathan Jones (Auburn) had GT in his top 3 last summer along with Auburn and Mississippi State. His best friend is Broderick Snoddy but that wasn't enough to sway Jones to the Yellow Jackets and away from Auburn as his wish was to leave the state – though Auburn is probably closer to his home than GT. Additionally, he was helped to Auburn by former GT coach Ted Roof before he bolted to Penn State for the same position – Defensive Coordinator.
In all there were some significant misses and it's clear that Tech had to move down their list some. With plenty of great depth in the pipeline Tech maybe could have used a scholarship elsewhere but coaches felt like there was enough potential in the ones they landed. Next year will be similar in terms of numbers and needs. If they only sign one, they have the chance to really shoot for the moon and go all out for more blue chip prospects at defensive back.