DE: Michael Johnson, Brad Sellers, Jon Morrison (Inj.)
DT: Joe Anoai, Elris Anyaibe, David Brown
DT: Darryl Richard, Vance Walker, Marcus Harris, Ben Anderson
DE: Adamm Oliver, Darrell Robertson, Robert Hall
The Georgia Tech defensive line is still a young unit. Joe Anoai will be the lone senior in the bunch followed by 3 juniors, 6 sophomores and 1 redshirt freshman. Two linemen were lost to graduation from last season. The biggest loss is that of All-ACC second team end Eric Henderson. He's been a steady force on the line for Tech and opposing teams will surely not miss his presence. The other graduate is little used tackle Omar Billy. Another big hit to the line is the position change for senior, 3-year starter Mansfield Wrotto. For the second spring practice in a row, Wrotto will be on the offensive side of the ball. This time the move appears more likely to last. Last season Wrotto was moved back to defensive in fall after the immensely talented Darryl Richard suffered a knee injury toward the end of spring and Travis Parker didn't make the grades.
Even with the losses, if everyone stays healthy, the starting line in 2006 should be very good. With the willingness to send a three year starter over to offense, the coaches must obviously be comfortable with what is returning at the tackle position. Darryl Richard is the true anchor along the line and perhaps one of the best in the conference. On signing day Coach Chan Gailey declared Richard to be 100% ready to go after going through rehab last season. He could have returned toward the end of last season but coaches did not want to burn his redshirt. Anoai is also quite a force at the tackle position. With offenses having to pay attention to D-Rich once again, Big Joe should be free to put up big stats in 2006. It's hard to not be excited about the possibilities at tackle because not only are the starters good but the backups are young and talented. The top backups include three sophomores all with good upside. Anyaibe & Walker will see the field a lot again next season. David Brown was slowed previously by mono but he's supposed to be coming along and back on track to make a contribution. Finally walk-on junior Marcus Harris will add depth to tackle.
The defensive end group takes a hit with the loss of Henderson but they are reloading with talented youth. Adamm Oliver is a returning starter and Michael Johnson likely moves into Henderson's spot. The backups include Darrell Robertson and Brad Sellers, though coaches won't hesitate to move Vance Walker over to help out if need be. Jon Morrison is another end providing depth but is playing catch up from an injury.
Knowing that numbers would be a crunch this recruiting season due to upcoming probation it was still necessary to refill the line with some talent and numbers. The trenches are areas you need to always keep strong. In a normal year, the staff would want to add 4 more linemen to the defense. Given good current depth and having to conserve numbers, you could live with signing only three. One thing you would like to see from the recruiting class is another big tackle in the program like Wrotto or Richard. Tech signed a couple of undersized linemen last year, so getting a big body this year would give the program an eventual replacement for Richard.
Who GT signed:
Robert Hall (6-3 225) is the #63 player in Georgia according to Scout.com rankings. Hall is the second player in two years to come to the Yellow Jackets from Hawkinsville. Former teammate Trey Dunmon came to Tech in last year's class. Hawkinsville is a good school for college talent so it's good to have a presence there two years in a row. Though currently build more like a linebacker, he projects as a defensive end in college. The coaches feel like he can really be a good player if he grows into his frame like they think he will. Hall is likely to redshirt next season given the depth along the line but injuries could open up opportunities early. The fact that he's a little light at this time for the position probably spells the need to redshirt just as much as the depth. Tech coaches like him at end due to his reputation for being quick off the ball, pursuing hard and being a ball hawk.
Ben Anderson (6-2 265) is the #30 player in South Carolina according to Scout.com rankings. The state has provided Tech with some promising talent over the last two recruiting seasons. Anderson and Sedric Griffin were added this season after Vance Walker and Martin Frierson joined the Yellow Jackets from the Palmetto State last year. Like Hall at end, Anderson is on the light side for his role as a defensive tackle and will need to grow into the position some. For those hoping Ben will eventually end up as a 300-pound tackle down the road, it doesn't appear likely. Coaches have said that his frame probably won't hold that much weight but that he could push the 275-280 range eventually. Anderson's on the field reputation is that of a wild man. He plays with a lot of passion and his is constantly working. Though not a blue-chipper, he's a blue collar type guy; coaches consider him a "glue" guy. He'll end up being more of a pass rusher than a gap stopper like Wrotto had been. Anderson was Tech's first commitment of this class and when he committed, he made it clear he was done. "I'm 100% committed to Georgia Tech," Anderson said at the time. "I don't see myself changing. I don't think there is a better school out there for me." He held true to his word even after being pursued by both South Carolina and Clemson among others.
The one who got away:
Since there was a notable miss at both end and tackle, I will list both positions separately.
Defensive Tackle - Chris Neild
Missing out on Neild was not only the one who got away for this position but is probably the one Tech really wanted to get overall near the end of recruiting. It was an apparent GT, Syracuse battle until he made an unexpected commitment to West Virginia on an official visit that was just supposed to be taken to have something to compare other schools to. Behind the scenes he really wavered on that decision but stuck with his word and will remain closer to home. Losing Neild was a tough pill to swallow for those Tech fans who follow the recruiting process. The other big news with the defensive tackle recruiting was the signing week defection of Ricardo Matthews. Though coming as a surprise to Tech fans, Matthews had family in Ohio and in the end was more comfortable being at Cincinnati. His departure left GT with only two defensive linemen for the entire class. Other tackle prospects who were under consideration included: Reggie Odom (Mississippi State) and Michael Lemon (Georgia).
Defensive End - Morrice Richardson
"Mo" is this year's most numbing loss for Tech fans. Notre Dame took him right out of our own backyard after we led for his services most of the way. It comes as little consolation that Tech came close. "I was ready to call them and commit to Georgia Tech. I liked the school and I like Atlanta plus Calvin Johnson is my cousin and I would have a chance to play at least one year with him. It was falling into place for me." It wasn't to be though as Mo wanted to get further away from home.
Other end prospects who were under consideration included: Demarcus Dobbs (Georgia), Tyler Tkach (Pittsburgh) and Jasper Brooks. Dobbs came down to the dawgs and Yellow Jackets but chose the wrong one. Brooks was teammates with future GT QB Byron Ingram at Redan but he reportedly didn't have the scores to get into Tech. To this day he is still undeclared in picking a college.
Recruiting Grade: C-
The defensive line class started with a bang and ended with a thud and a fizzle. Anderson & Hall were the first two players to commit to Tech in the entire class. After that, not another defensive lineman ended up at Tech when you take out the de-commitment of Matthews. There were some great players available to Tech like Mo, Neild, and Dobbs but Tech came in second for all of them. Because of those misses, losing one a couple of days before signing day, and ending up with just two players, the grade took a big hit. As for the 2 Tech did get, both appear to be good pickups who could be 4-year contributors. Since both need to grow into their bodies some, they also present some risk in meeting their potential as a group. Luckily for GT the depth is good right now. There is time for Hall and Anderson to grow into solid players and not be forced into early action. I would have liked to have seen at least one more lineman in this class and a big name to anchor the class. There seemed to be too many missed opportunities.