New Editions (3):
DT: Mansfield Wrotto, LeShawn Newberry, David Brown
There were no graduations to this group that performed much above expectations last season, but still not all return. The stalwart of the group, Travis Parker, has moved to the outside to help out with the Defensive Ends. This leaves 2 True Sophomores in starting roles and opens up playing time for some very highly touted incoming freshmen.
The one that got away:
No one really to speak of
Amazingly enough Georgia Tech targeted and landed several top prospects at a position they traditionally do not have much success with. There really were not any big losses from recruiting season here to speak of. Going back I see two other top prospects that we would have really liked to have had but we really weren't ever close with either. GT offered the number one Defensive Tackle in the country, Demario Pressley, early in the process just like everyone else. But we were off his list of top schools early and he ended up at ACC rival North Carolina State. Additionally, we pursued Dumaka Atkins briefly until it was pretty clear he was going to end up at Florida State. On the other hand there were several interesting targets that we never seemed interested in getting involved with. GT fans discussed the followed players but none were ever offered to join the program: Earnest Mitchell (Arkansas), Frank Morton (Tulane), Neil Brown (Auburn), or Nick Butler (Savannah State University). The fact that we didn't go after some of these guys should say something about the ones we did land.
Georgia Tech's thinning Defensive Tackle position received a huge and well needed boost during this year's recruiting. The group really overachieved last season and in the off-season watched as the top returner, Travis Parker, moved to the outside. So in terms of recruiting needs… numbers and talent really stuck out as glowing needs. GT needed to sign at least 2 but three would certainly help replenish the numbers. Thinning numbers at Offensive Line also had an effect on recruiting at this position. GT wants to target players that are athletic enough to play either side of the line. Two of the three landed at Defensive Tackle have played on the Offensive Line in high school and could return to that position for GT if it turns out they are more needed there.
Who GT signed:
If Calvin Johnson was the jewel of the recruiting class on the offensive side of the ball, certainly there was no bigger name landed on defense than Darryl Richard. GT won a last minute recruiting battle against the heavy weight champion of recruiting Miami by landing the brilliant kid out of Louisiana. Darryl was told on his recruiting visit to Georgia Tech that other schools are going to tell you that you're a defensive lineman and won't be able to make it academically at Tech. The coaching staff's approach of embracing our tough academics really struck a cord with Darryl and those comments resonated with him throughout his recruiting process. Richard wants to prove that a big-time Defensive Tackle can have school smarts and be successful on the field. This type of character is exactly what Chan Gailey is looking for and makes him a great match for this team with the quality players already in the program. But it's his potential to give us something we haven't had in years at DT is what will eventually set him apart. Make no mistakes about it, expectations are very high for Darryl because this is the type of player we don't just expect to sign every year. I believe he has the type of physical and mental makeup to live up to his hype. I spoke to a coach after signing day about viewing videotape of some of these players and what you could tell from it. The coach told me that a lot of times film doesn't truly tell the story; someone needs to watch the player in person. He said unless you're looking at film on someone like Darryl Richard in which case he looks like Warren Sapp on every play. It was just a passing comment but goes to show that us fans are probably not the only ones that feel we have someone truly special here. I look for Darryl to not only push for immediate playing time but to push for a starting spot.
The super potential of this DT class doesn't just stop at blue-chip prospect Darryl Richard. This class has another that I would consider a blue chip prospect. David Brown could have gone just about anywhere. He turned down an offer from UGA as well as Alabama and Notre Dame, who were previously thought to be front runners for his services. I was truly shocked when David returned from his GT visit and ended it by saying he was going to be a Jacket. I expected this decision to carry out into February but instead we had a blue chip defensive lineman in the bag by mid-December. In any other year, we would have been happy just to get Brown but he seems to get overshadowed by Richard. Brown is a wide body and has a frame easily capable of adding weight. Just looking at his measurables it would seem that he might be a guy that would be better suited to play on the end. But looking at his build, I have no doubt he'll settle in nicely on the inside. He also has a great motor and never seems to give up on any play. Since he does need to add some weight, I'd project Darryl Richard to have a much better shot at getting in the rotation a earlier than Brown. But with our depth and talent what it currently is at DT, I wouldn't be surprised to see Brown get into the rotation as a true freshman himself.
Lastly there is a player that may also need a big spot light himself in the future. Elris Anyaibe was a player we landed early and thought, hey here's a decent pickup at a position of need. Early on he only had 1 offer and it was from Army. But there was a secret on this kid that was about to get out… and it's that he's actually a very good player that some had missed out on early. Around the time Georgia Tech was receiving a commitment, other schools jumped on the bandwagon. He started getting offers from some good programs in his region of the country like Arkansas, Baylor, Oklahoma State and even Purdue. But it was too late. GT's early recruiting work had him locked into coming to Atlanta, Georgia from Desoto, Texas. When gojackets.com received video tape on Anyaibe and showed it to subscribers, many Tech fans saw why he was building up such a buzz. It doesn't take an expert eye to see the talent and speed Elris possesses. It's some of the best film you'll find of an Offensive Lineman pulling to block. In the most memorable highlight clip he lead blocks for a running back 20 yards down the field. At 6'3" and 275 pounds and being fleet of foot, he has a number of options on where he'll end up. He will begin his GT career as a DT but it seems more likely that he'll end up as a Guard or Center. Regardless of what position he plays, this appears to be quite a nice recruiting get for Coach Gailey & Coach Modkins and it a player you'd like to have 4 or 5 more of. I don't see him living in the shadows of Richard and Brown. Anyaibe will find the right position and will be a force there I believe. I trust our staff to put him in the right place and if he does end up at OL, I hope he makes the change early on this fall.
Recruiting Grade: A+
I'm not going to be shy about this grade… it's an A+. Whether or not all 3 end up at DT is irrelevant. The positions will shake out but talent wise and expectation wise it doesn't get much better for Georgia Tech to land this group of three linemen. I liken this to the LB class of several years ago that had Daryl Smith, Keyaron Fox and Hobie Holiday. They may not all be future studs but I think all have the chance to be. The most rewarding part of it all is that linemen have been the hardest positions to land top talent for GT. And here we got 3 excellent talents all in the same year. It's very possible that all 3 could get into the 2-deep rotation as freshmen. The most interesting story to watch early on though is to see what position Anyaibe lines up at. Additionally, I don't think our current Defensive Tackles did enough in spring practice to make themselves feel like their starting positions are safe going into fall even though they were all around last season. If there was ever a time to be excited about focusing on a bunch of freshmen linemen in late summer practices, this could be the year!