Georgia Tech loses two seniors from last year's group of cornerbacks. Reuben Houston and Dennis Davis both took their turns at starting for the Yellow Jacket for much of their careers here. Houston, who is hoping to be drafted in the upcoming NFL draft, missed most of last season though due to some legal troubles but returned to the lineup just in time to help the Jacket unseat Miami. Tech loses a lot of starts and experience with these two but surprisingly Tech is able to reload with a couple of other guys who have seen the field a lot themselves.
Kenny Scott is a senior now and, like Houston, is an NFL prospect at the corner position. He'll anchor the position and will draw the toughest assignments throughout the 2006 season. Jamal Lewis has just been waiting for an opening in the depth chart to explode onto the scene. Lewis has played a lot of minutes as a backup and was often used as the nickel back. He has the speed and hips to be a good corner yet he knocks helmets like a safety. From watching Jamal in practices and games, I have almost no doubt he'll be able to have a lot of success as the starter. But should he falter there is a super talented pair behind him ready to fill in.
To many close to the program Jahi Word-Daniels is a star in the making. Jahi didn't see the field much last year as a true freshman but he did get to play a lot on special team, which helped get him used to the speed of the game. Though not a very big kid, he too can hit well. Word-Daniels will be auditioning all year to replace Kenny Scott when he graduates. In the meantime he'll either push Jamal for a starting spot, force Jamal to nickel again or he'll get a look at the nickel position himself. However you want to look at it, Jahi will definitely factor into the equation in the defensive backfield in 2006.
Another reason to be excited about the cornerback depth is Patrick Clark. After playing the role of slot receiver for two seasons Clark now moves to defense this spring. Fans already have a good idea of his athletic ability and obviously he's adept at catching the football. He seems to have the tools to succeed at corner but will need spring practice to get used to defense again. It shouldn't take long for Pat to get up to speed and I see him being a factor come fall. He didn't move over to sit on the bench either. As solid as he was at receiver, the coaches must feel that he'll be able to do even more at corner.
Finally, you have Avery Roberson. The redshirt junior has been a safety at Tech until last season. He converted to corner and will likely continue to provide depth there and on special teams this season. Brian Fleuridor no longer appears on the roster so it's likely that he graduated early and is finished playing football.
With three players leaving the team from the 2005 season, recruiting gave Tech the opportunity to fill those spots back up. Moving Clark from receiver was the first step to replenishing the depth chart. Additionally, the Yellow Jackets were hoping to land two others for the cornerback position.
Who GT signed:
Laurence Marius (5-11 175) is four stars and the #27 cornerback in the country according to Scout.com rankings. Nicknamed "Poppy", he is also listed as the #33 player overall, regardless of position, in the state of Florida. Though Marius played quarterback, tailback and returned kicks in high school, he's projects as a blue-chip corner in college. Tech coaches feel like he was the "lock down" corner they really wanted for this class and were obviously excited about him joining the program. Laurence had this to say about the Tech program. "I've got family that lives up in there (in Atlanta) and it's a good football program," Marius said. "That's what I want to do; I want to play for a good football program." With the good depth still there at corner for Tech in 2006, Laurence won't have to be thrown into the fire right away. He could be too good to ignore also though. Like Correy Earls, Marius could contribute earlier if he's able to find a role on special teams, possibly returning punts or kicks. It's easy to see why fans were excited about landing the speedy corner.
"The Key West product is a dynamic athlete with a tremendous burst and outstanding balance. He's not afraid to lay a hit on a player either. He runs low to the ground and can turn as if on tracks. He projects as a corner on the college level, but could also be a weapon on special teams or at receiver." – Scott Kennedy, Scout.com
Dominique Reese (5-11 175) is the #27 player in Alabama according to Scout.com rankings. Tech continues to successfully bring some solid talent to Atlanta from the state of Alabama. Reese was one of two new players to join the Yellow Jackets from Bama. The one thing I've heard over and over about Reese from those close to the program is that he's a leader. The coaches weren't even sure what position they were going to start him off at and didn't even see him as a blue-chip prospect. They just really liked his athletic ability, his character and leadership abilities and just had to have him. He's another coaches like to call a "glue guy". He'll give you the full effort all of the time and is just a winner. This year his high school, Auburn High, beat rival Opelika for the first time in nine years. Tech coaches were impressed that he basically, "willed the team to win." Reese may be less likely than Marius to make a run at the 2-deep as a true freshman but he too could contribute early on special teams. Dominique says he ready to move on from high school and focus on the next step, college ball. He has a specific goal for himself before reporting to college. "I plan on gaining 25 pounds this summer," Reese said. If he does that, you'll definitely see him breaking wedges at Bobby Dodd Stadium in fall!
The one who got away:
Georgia Tech was very interested in Chimdi Chekwa, who ended up at Ohio State, but never actually offered him. Chekwa told me at one point in the recruiting process, "Georgia Tech hasn't offered yet but I'm hoping they will," Chekwa said. "They said it might be coming soon, once they look at my tapes, my film that my coach sent in." The Yellow Jackets also had some interest in Texas corner Jeff Wilson (Stephen F. Austin). Finally, Carson Hill (Georgia Southern) was an interesting prospect who very much wanted to come to Tech. Like Chekwa, the offer never came as Coach Gailey's crew was completely satisfied with the two they had landed.
Recruiting Grade: A
This was a pretty easy grade to give. The coaches got two they wanted and didn't really have any bad missed in recruiting the position. Oh and by the way, the landed a 4-star player with a reputation for locking down receivers and the other has unique leadership qualities to go along with his athleticism. It's hard to not be very pleased with the recruiting efforts at corner for the past few years. If you go back to this year's big senior Kenny Scott from the 2003 class, the coaches have had a continuous string of hit after hit. In 2004 it was Jamal Lewis and then-WR Patrick Clark. In 2005 it was Jahi Word-Daniels and Tony Clark, who appears headed to safety this year. And now Poppy and Nique try to continue the streak of solid Tech cornerbacks. This is the reason we are able to re-load after losing guys like Davis, Houston & Fleuridor instead of having to hope you've got something good in the pipeline. If only every position on the team was recruited this well!