WR: *Calvin Johnson, James Johnson, Xavier McGuire, Martin Frierson
WR: Damarius Bilbo, Patrick Clark, Chris Dunlap, Eddie Lee Ivery Jr., Greg Smith
* Previous First Team All-ACC Performer
Georgia Tech loses four wide receivers from last season including two who were major contributors. Starter Nate Curry and spot starter Levon Thomas will be deeply missed. Both players could be trusted to start games and be very productive at times. The other two gone are both guys who split time between QB and WR last season. Mark Logan was mostly a QB but did fill in at WR when needed. His unselfish attitude will be missed the most plus he made the most of his few opportunities he did get in games at WR. Pat Carter was another former QB who had to make the adjustment to WR. It looks like he had potential to be a good one but for reasons unknown he has transferred to South Florida to play the exact same position. Many felt he left because he wanted to play quarterback but he probably just wanted to be back closer to home as it turns out.
First Team All-ACC receiver Calvin Johnson, a freshman last season, should anchor the WR position for at least another 2 years. The other starter in 2-receiver sets at this time will be senior Damarius Bilbo. But there will be heavy competition coming from 2 other players who were also freshmen this season. James Johnson is expected to push for Bilbo's spot and some observers, like me, feel like they are not far apart. Patrick Clark will likely be the third starter when Tech uses 3-receiver sets. He's smaller but tough and has good hands. Clark, like Calvin Johnson, played as a true freshman. Backing up the 2-deep are 3 juniors who have been climbed over on the depth chart. Xavier McGuire & Chris Dunlap both have potential to contribute heavily in 2005 but will need to step it up or this young group from last year will make it tough to earn time. Both look good physically. Xavier is tall, strong and tough to bring down when he has the ball. Chris is also strong and runs great routes. The problem though is that both have issues holding onto the ball consistently, and that's an easy way to stay in the dog house. Of course Levon used to have the same stigma attached to him but he turned it around, so there's hope for "X" and "D-lap". The final player is Eddie Ivery. He's battled injury his entire career so it's hard to tell what to expect. He showed some nice moves in the bowl game as a RB so maybe it's a sign that he's back closer to 100% and ready to compete for a spot.
With only 7 receivers on campus and no obvious candidates at other positions that can move there, numbers appear to be tight. Also take into account that of the 7, 1 is a senior, 3 are juniors and Jacket fans will be lucky to see Calvin play at the college level for all 4 years. In my opinion, we should sign 3 new receivers but you could get by with 2. Any less though would put you in a tough position experience-wise down the road.
Who GT signed:
Martin Frierson (6-2 185) was a real steal for this class. Originally committed to Notre Dame, he changed course when they fired Coach Willingham and started looking for another school. It's possible though that GT could have turned Frierson even without the coaching change. He was still planning to visit Tech after the ND commitment and before the coaching change. Still, Martin helps make up for not getting Ray Herring to turn from the Fighting Irish. The other school heavily involved with Frierson who also offered was Vanderbilt. From watching clips of Frierson he seems to be a solid chain-mover. He seems to have excellent hands and, unlike a lot of young receivers, already knows how to look the ball all the way in before making a move after the catch. The Tech coaches also feel that Martin has the speed to break away for big scores too. That was helped by Frierson running the 7th fastest time at this year's camp. From film I don't see blazing speed but he appears to be plenty fast just the same. What really strikes me though is that he has the ability to concentrate and make tough catches in just about any situation. He looks like a more mature receiver to me than just a high school senior. He doesn't look to me like he'll need a lot of seasoning to be ready, but he could probably use a few more pounds.
Greg Smith (6-2 190) seemed like Tech's to lose almost the entire recruiting season. Tech was on Greg way back in spring and he spent a lot of time at Tech, so most feel it was just a matter of time. When some of the dominoes started to fall at the WR position, he decided not to wait around any longer and committed to GT. Smith was also heavily recruited by Duke and Connecticut and Greg also claimed offers from Auburn, Clemson and North Carolina at one point. Smith is fresh, bold and flashy according to some and he didn't disappoint when I interviewed him just before he committed to GT. He told me that, "That's all I do is make plays," and that if he came to GT that Calvin Johnson would be the man, "for now." Greg seems like a real fun guy and should be a good addition on the field and off. Not only that he has already added to the team by helping recruit teammate Jason Hill to sign with Tech as well. Aside from being a good athlete with a tall, wiry frame, Greg is the leading scorer on his basketball team and will be a contender for the state track titles in the 400 and 200 meters. At Signing Day coaches seemed to really like the speed and potential from Smith. From his personality I'd guess he'll be looking to make big plays at the receiver position while at Tech. With a similar build to Frierson, it will be interesting to see if the two are similar type receivers. I suspect not though.
The one who got away:
Briscoe officially visited GT but Tech came in second ultimately to Tennessee for his services. He seems to be in the mold physically of Frierson and Smith so I'd guess Coach Gailey was looking for a particular type of receiver this year. Those three were all in the 6'2"-6'3" range and wiry with good speed. Briscoe would have been a nice get but it's tough to go up one-on-one versus Tennessee in recruiting. They ended up #1 in scout.com's team recruiting rankings this year, so they no doubt won many battles. Rendrick Taylor, a blue-chip prospect also with the similar physical profile, chose Clemson but he was offered by many including Tech. GT was also involved at times with other players like Daryl Jones, Michael Thomas, Raimond Pendelton and Michael Hicks.
Recruiting Grade: B
Although I wanted to see Tech sign three receivers, two seemed to be the number the coaches were looking for all along. I like that they seemed to have a profile of the type of receiver they were looking for this year but still took a shot at others when deemed too good to pass on. Frierson & Smith weren't household names but both have some size and some wheels too. The numbers at WR being what they are, if either player is physically and mentally ready to play early, I see room for them to contribute early. The way it usually works though is that one will be more ready than the other and will play while the other redshirts. If you ask fans to pick which of these two they think will ultimately be the better receiver you'll seemingly be split 50/50 in your responses. I can say that I was very impressed from what I saw in Frierson's video while I didn't really get to see enough of Smith. On the other hand, the coaches were very complimentary of Smith on Signing Day on what they thought was his potential. Both guys were in run-oriented offenses in high school so the best is to come from them. I trust that the coaching staff has what they feel are two solid additions that will add solid future depth behind the Calvin-lead receiving corp. And with Calvin, they'll learn from watching the absolute best.