DE: *Eric Henderson, Adamm Oliver, Jon Morrison, Brad Sellers
DT: Joe Anoai, David Brown, Omar Billy, LeShawn Newberry
DT: Darryl Richard, Elris Anyaibe, Marcus Harris, Vance Walker
DE: Travis Parker, Darrell Robertson, Michael Johnson, Jason Hill
* Previous First Team All-ACC Performer
Georgia Tech returns a stellar group of starters once again across the Defensive Line. The entire second team consists of highly thought of younger players with high upsides. This is as good a position at Tech has been in at D-line in years. The only loss through graduation is Chirod Williams, a senior last year who finally contributed some minutes off the bench in his final season. The near future looks so bright at Defensive Tackle (to go along with a less rosy outlook on the OL) that two-year starting Tackle Mansfield Wrotto is moving to offense. Additionally, LeShawn Newberry is likely moving to OL as well. Even with the moves to the Offensive Line, GT can still lineup a solid group in 2005. Joe Anoai and potential future superstar Darryl Richard will man the first team and are backed up by Brown & Anyaibe. Both backups have received a lot of praise from the coaching staff for their work in practice during their redshirt freshmen seasons last year. Filling out the roster at Tackle is senior Omar Billy and walk-on Marcus Harris.
Seniors Eric Henderson and Travis Parker make up perhaps the best pair of Defensive Ends in the ACC. Should the Tackles need any help next year, Parker can always play inside and one of talented young Ends could play more. The backups are expected to be sophomores Adamm Oliver & Darrell Robertson. Jon Morrison will provide depth but needs to gain some valuable playing time this spring as he's making a position change from Tight End.
The goal in recruiting for the DL has been to try and bring in 4 per year and keep a solid rotation and pipeline going. Ideally, Tech would like to sign two Ends and two Tackles but with the solid young depth currently on the team Tech was in the position of going after the best players available to them. For this class, Tech was in a position to really cement one of the better future Defensive Lines in the conference should they land a class on par with the one from last season. Given the solid group already on campus, there was a little room to take a chance or two on some guys with high upsides.
Who GT signed:
Tech got off to a fast start in filling out the Defensive Line slots. The second verbal commit of the season, in mid-July, was Brad Sellers (6-2 255). Brad ended up being the only player to sign from Coach Gailey's old stomping ground in Texas. Sellers was a good one to pull out of the state too. He just cracked Scout.com Texas Hot 100 list. Sellers is a ‘tweener lineman. He's coming in as an End but will likely soon grow to play on the inside. "It's possible I could move to the inside down the road if I gain another 20 pounds or so, but for now I'll play on the outside," says Sellers. Tech coaches have compared him with starting DT Joe Anoai and say no matter which names GT signs this year Brad will physically be the strongest of all of them. Already at 255 pounds, Sellers is expected to report at 265. Brad says he weighed in at 247 pounds at the GT camp this summer where he impressed the coaches enough to earn his offer. Coach Chris (Brad's HS coach) said that Sellers was looking at the following schools in addition to GT: Oklahoma State, Duke, Miami, Toledo, Texas A&M and TCU. Brad camped at Miami and they kept in touch with him but never offered. He did say that Oklahoma State, Duke and Toledo came through with offers for Brad.
Another early committed turned out to be a lot more of a player than Tech fans knew about. The early August commit from Michael Johnson (6-7 215) probably put big smiles on the faces of the Tech coaches, while fans were happy to land a serviceable Tight End. In the end though, Johnson would move his way up the rankings list to #7 TE in the country and ended up Tech's highest of three players on Scout.com's 2005 Southeast Top 100 list. Johnson came in as the #30 prospect overall, regardless of position, in the Southeast and is regarded as the top player signed in the 2005 class for the Yellow Jackets. The other thing about Johnson that Tech fans didn't know at the time he committed was that he'd come to Tech as a Defensive End and not a Tight End. On film he looks like an absolute brute on defense and a possible impact player. With a late commitment from another TE on the Scout.com 2005 Southeast Top 100 list, Colin Peek (#60 player in the Southeast regardless of position), the decision to start Johnson off on defense was probably all but a done deal. Tech coaches believe that Michael will arrive on campus at 235 pounds but with his frame, they optimistically image he'll end up between 270 and 280 by graduation. If he gets anywhere close to those targets while maintaining his athleticism, he could be a terror in the ACC. But don't put out completely the idea of him playing offense either. His offensive skills could eventually be too much to leave just on the defensive side of the ball. Johnson did give Tech fans a bit of a scare late in recruiting. After a couple of defections from a great start to the recruiting class, Tech fans got antsy when Johnson decided to also schedule some extra visits. He took a trip to Purdue but they were unable to change his decision and he cancelled a late visit to Vanderbilt. In addition to the previously mentioned schools, Johnson also had offers from Louisville, Clemson, and Southern Miss. And if all of the previous accolades weren't enough, Michael is in the running for Valedictorian of his high school class.
The third commit on the Defensive Line is a really good find for Georgia Tech. People in South Carolina knew about Vance Walker (6-3 255), but he was a sleeper to the rest of the recruiting world. That is until GT brought in Vance for an official visit in late January. Tech fans were told on Signing Day that Vance led the state of South Carolina in sacks. Walker's family seemed to be big South Carolina fans too and the Gamecocks recruited Vance early on but that changed with the coaching change. Vance's mother Janet told Scout.com, "University of South Carolina was recruiting him also heavily and then all of the sudden when Spurrier, from Florida, once he came into the picture, we didn't get any more calls. He did a great job at the Shrine Bowl and he still doesn't understand why they still weren't looking at him." Despite a lack of early offers, Georgia Tech had to fight off a big-time school for Walker's services in the final weeks. Walker had camped at Virginia Tech but they were slow to offer him. Just after he committed to GT, Coach Beamer and five assistants visited Vance with an offer but couldn't sway him away. Before the Two Techs got into a battle for Walker he was leaning toward going to East Carolina. With Vance currently weighing 255, his mother thinks the 17-year old will have no problems adding another 15-20 pounds.
It looked like GT was done on the Defensive Line but there was one more surprise to go. Jason Hill (6-5 260), a previous commit to North Carolina, parted ways with UNC and found a home with the Yellow Jackets just 5 days from Signing Day. Hill, Scout.com 2005 Georgia Top 100, is a very interesting prospect who was recruited as both an OL and DL depending on the school. Many teams liked Hill as an Offensive Tackle prospect but GT sees him as a Defensive End. Tech coaches seem to think he doesn't have the build to be an OL down the road, so they'll probably try and keep him around 250 pounds while taking advantage of his sub 4.8 40 speed. Hill will be a little raw since he didn't play on the Defensive Line in high school but with good current depth at End, Tech can afford to groom him into the type of End they want him to be. GT might not have landed Jason if not for the recruiting efforts of another GT commit. WR Greg Smith is a high school teammate of Hill and helped convince him and GT to get together. "He's a real close friend of mine. I've known him since the 9th grade," said Hill. "He's been working ever since he heard they offered, he started persuading me to come to Georgia Tech." The problem though was that Hill was planning on going to UNC but that all changed when a current Tar Heel received a medical redshirt and UNC backed off of Hill. Jason's other offers at the time of the GT commitment were from Oklahoma State, East Carolina, and Middle Tennessee, although he added another late offer from Alabama after he committed to GT.
The one who got away:
Aaron was the big-time blue-chip Tackle Tech was on early in the game. He probably would have taken an official visit to Tech later in the recruiting season but he pulled the trigger early and committed to Texas in July. Tech probably had an uphill battle to land Lewis, and many thought he'd end up at Florida State, but it would have been nice to get an official visit from him so Tech could take their best shot.
Vladimir Richard (Tennessee) was another highly rated DT who GT recruited for a while. The other interesting case at DT was Vernon Jackson. Jackson was very high on Tech but the Jackets never offered. Vernon signed with Iowa who put together a very stellar recruiting class themselves, so it will be interesting to see if Gailey made the right call by not offering Jackson.
There was also the case with Defensive End Jammie Kirlew where Tech passed up on a nationally rated player. But one guy GT really did want at End, John Russell, decided to avoid the big-city campus and signed with Wake Forrest instead. This was a surprise to Tech fans since it was known that his teammate Colin Peek was also very high on Tech.
Recruiting Grade: B-
It didn't look like Tech would hit on its goal of landing 4 Defensive Linemen even late in the process. Fans were curious why seemingly good players like Jackson and Kirlew were getting passed over when it was clear they were open to coming to GT and we still had needs at their positions. But things all worked out in the end with Tech pulling out surprise commitments from Walker & Hill.
As for the grade, you have to start with Michael Johnson who is, according to Coach Gailey, probably the best athlete we signed this year. It would have been nice to team up a highly touted Tackle to go along with Johnson on the end but Tech found some good players anyway. I think many Tech fans were hoping to see a third year in a row of landing a ready-to-play, 275-300 pound Tackle like Tech had with Wrotto and Richard. Instead we're back to signing a couple of quick but lighter guys who will hopefully grow into heavier interior linemen. Even though Sellers, Walker and Hill were not household names, they all have credentials that say each could be huge contributors. With Walker and Hill being hunted down by VT and Alabama respectively in the days leading up to Signing Day, it's apparent that Tech landed some late sleepers with good value and potential. This group didn't have the star power of last year's class but this group will make plenty of contributions down the road. They have time to grow and get better without needing to be rushed into large roles.