New Editions (3):
OLB: Gerris Wilkinson, Gary Guyton
The Linebacker position welcomes Gerris Wilkinson back from Defensive End. He filled in admirably at DE last season as we were in a pinch from losing Terron Pullen, Tony Hargrove and Greg Gathers not being able to return. Gerris returns as one of the elder members of the LB crew since the 3 starters from last season have graduated. Anyansi is now the only senior LB on the roster and Gerris is the only junior. Sophomore Nick Moore will battle Anyansi in spring ball for the first shot at MLB, while Hall and Wheeler will likely compete for time on the outside.
The one that got away:
Early on in the recruiting process it seemed unlikely that Georgia Tech could lure the state's best prospect out of Colquitt, Georgia. But as Signing Day neared, it became apparent that GT was landing top talent away from the top football schools. A usual no-brainer to go to the University of Georgia became more of a battle than UGA fans wanted to see. Brandon ended up where everyone thought he would from the beginning but there were moments when even his high school coaches thought GT might be the surprising answer on Signing Day. GT won head-to-head battles for Calvin Johnson and David Brown, but it was not to be for Mr. Miller. Another solid LB prospect that GT looked strong with was Ronnie Palmer. After his visit to Atlanta, he was believed to be a strong lean to GT. Weeks later though he was swayed in a different direction after a great visit he had to Arizona. It was a disappointing loss but that battle didn't have near the intensity and heartache of the battle that loomed for Miller. Jae Thaxton is another good prospect from the state of Georgia that GT had some brief mutual interest in. This one was never really close though and he ended up at Florida State. Another stud GT pursued without much success was Chase Bullock from NC. He ended up signing with Maryland over his in-state schools. The case of Maurice Crum was perhaps the biggest mystery of this year's recruiting efforts. GT had a huge need for linebackers. Crum was highly touted and for most of the time was said to favor GT. However after landing a few other commitments at the position, GT surprisingly backed off of Crum. We focused on all or nothing efforts with Miller and Palmer saying that if we didn't land another player at the position, we were fine. Some disagree with that philosophy but the coaches see much more than the fans do for their evaluations and apparently they were okay with letting Maurice go from the Tampa Bay area all the way up to Notre Dame.
The Linebacker position is where Georgia Tech gets hit hardest this off-season. Losing Seniors Keyaron Fox, Daryl Smith, and Ather Brown leaves huge holes in the roster. It was of great importance to not only fill the roster back up with numbers but we needed to add players with high potential to make up for the loss in talent. The best number to get at the position appeared to be 4 new additions but our coaches said from the beginning that they really didn't want to add more than 3 at the position. We would have added a 4th in Miller or Palmer only because they were too good of talents to pass up.
Who GT signed:
Travis Chambers was a key player in this year's recruiting class. He's a talented, though undersized, Middle Linebacker prospect that chose GT over heavy interest from co-National Champions LSU. With Daryl Smith graduating there is an immediate opportunity for playing time for Chambers. Though he doesn't have prototypical size, he is supposed to be a fierce competitor with tons of heart. That kind of description isn't easily measurable and rarely leads to super recruiting rankings. But coaches love to have players like Travis on their team and by all accounts he'll be a heck of a football player. Travis has been compared favorably to Keith Adams formerly with Clemson, now with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Gary Guyton has been described as a super athlete. GT coaches reportedly clocked Guyton at 4.4 in the 40-yard dash at one of their camps. His HS coach says that speed-wise he's already ready for the college game. The only concern he has is that he gets his strength and weight up to college standards. Gary is working on trying to get to around 235 pounds before reporting to late summer football practice. The GT coaches have said he is a player they expect could compete immediately on the 2-deep chart for them at LB. Guyton committed early to GT and already had other offers from Duke, South Carolina, Louisville, and Vanderbilt. Had he not ended the process early, he no doubt would have added to that list of offers. He is just a kid that knew he wanted to be at Georgia Tech.
Eric Williams was last year's top Safety prospect in the state of Georgia. GT however wants to add some weight to his tall frame and turn him into a Linebacker. Eric has already been given the nickname "Hitman" by GT fans who have seen the video of his vicious hit in the Georgia Dome during last year's playoffs. Knowing that he already has pass coverage skills from being a Safety, Eric should be able to make a nice transition to Outside Linebacker. There he can show off both his ability to cover and to lay the wood to offensive players. Like Guyton, Williams committed to GT early on. He turned down another offer from Maryland and late overtures from other schools like Arkansas, South Carolina, and Florida.
Recruiting Grade: B
I think GT did a nice job of filling their needs at the Linebacker position. We almost hit it big-time if we could have landed one of our last two targets but we were content with the numbers we ended up with. We have two players in Chambers and Guyton that can and likely will fill in some holes as true freshmen. Williams could also see the field as a freshman but if he's to completely make the switch from Safety to Linebacker, he really needs to add the weight first. His situation reminds me a lot of when Kingi McNair first got to campus. Kingi played Safety for the first practice and on day 2 he was a LB. Kingi was a terror on the practice field as a freshman but took the year to add to his frame physically. Unfortunately we never got to see Kingi's talent at use on the field because of his academic troubles but hopefully Williams will be a similar player and can follow through on the promise that McNair showed in his time at Tech. Overall I think we landed a very good but not quite great group of Linebackers. Each one though could turn out to be quite a catch. I think this is a group that will play a lot of minutes of football at Georgia Tech. I base that on their talents as well as the opportunities they have for coming to GT at a time when there is a real need for players at their position.