After the 2005 season Georgia Tech lost three of its running backs. Two were long-time staples and starters in the Tech backfield: tailback P. J. Daniels and fullback Ajenavi Eziemefe aka ACE. Add to that group Chris Woods who was a solid contributor for the Yellow Jackets after transferring from the now defunct I-AA program Morris Brown after the 2002 season.
In order to try and cover the losses of that group, the Tech coaches looked to add two tailbacks and maybe a fullback, if the right one came around. With looming probation hanging over their heads, adding a fullback was going to be a tight call with Mike Cox and Justin Guadagni already in the mix. Not to mention a bevy of TEs who could fill in the role if needed in 2006 until the numbers game was less of an issue. So needless to say, if they did not get a FB in this class it would have been understandable but adding quality bodies at tailback was a must. Not only were the Jackets losing PJ but Tashard Choice and Rashaun Grant were going to be redshirt juniors.
Spring practice has already commenced but the resulting depth chart is as expected going into it. Choice leads the pack and looks like a true on-the-field leader as well as carrying the same reputation for off-the-field activities like workouts. Grant is ready to finally step into his promising ability and be the backup. Loyall Gause sat out spring due to a leg injury. And Jason Davis provided depth as a quality walk-on.
At fullback ACE is leaving with a similar situation as PJ… both were memorable backs for Tech but at the same time are leaving with capable replacements to take the torch. Mike Cox could end up being the best FB at Tech since Ed Wilder from several years ago. Mike sat out spring to recover from injuries but he'll be back butting head, blocking, pass catching and maybe more at the end of the summer. In his stead Tech fans finally got to see what Justin Guadagni could do. The past 2 seasons he had been slow to recover from an ACL injury from his senior season of high school. Justin was solid all spring though and gives some relief to the coaches in case Cox isn't 100% come the beginning of fall. In the new offense, the fullbacks will now get to move around the field a lot more which they should very much enjoy. In the future, versatile fullbacks will be the way to go; guys who can block and catch in addition to carrying the ball on rare occasions.
Who GT signed:
Three-star RB Jamaal Evans (5-8 191) is the #28 player in the state of Texas, regardless of position, according to Scout.com rankings. Jamaal was listed as #30 on the "Postseason Southwest Region Hot 100" list by Scout.com as well. "Lil Mal" had narrowed his recruiting list in the end to Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State and Iowa State before choosing the Yellow Jackets and enrolling in January. During the recruiting season, Evans told me, "I had it narrowed down between Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State," Evans said. "At Oklahoma State, a running back went up there this weekend and, I guess, he committed and they didn't have no more space for a running back." Though he says he was going to choose Tech anyway, OSU certainly closed that door by getting a commit from that last running back. That back was Preston Brown and I'm not sure how good he'll end up being but they could regret looking back and seeing that they missed the opportunity to get Evans. It's hindsight at this point but Jamaal showed in Tech's spring practice that many schools may have missed the boat on him. But credit the Tech coaching staff for identifying a solid prospect and getting him to leave the football-rich state of Texas before the secret was out. Those recruiters who put so much stock in measurable physical stats would think that Jamaal was too short and too slow. But he sure did, at times, dominate a solid GT defense this spring. Look for Evans to see playing time in fall. The only issue is finding enough carries between Evans, all-conference candidate Choice and the highly-touted senior Grant.
Quincy Kelly (6-0 225) is the #43 player in the state of Georgia, regardless of position, according to Scout.com rankings. Kelly was looking at Arkansas in addition to Tech but jumped quickly on the GT offer to secure his spot on the team. From his videos Quincy is a devastating power running back. He would make a seemingly great long-term compliment to Evans in the Tech backfield. But with Evans proving his worth beyond expectations and a strong 2007 class of running backs looking at the Yellow Jackets, it's very possible that Quincy gets a strong look at linebacker when he gets to school in fall. Though to many fans, he looks like a more natural running back than linebacker, internally in the program, defensive coaches had made a case all along for him to be on their side of the ball. Either way, he's a solid pickup for the Yellow Jackets and Chan Gailey has proven he knows how to put kids in the right position for the best interest of the player and for the team. There is a long list of brilliant position changes now to Chan's credit, so Quincy can be sure that he'll be used to the best of his abilities either way. In terms of early playing time, Quincy seems to have better shot at linebacker initially given depth issues from injuries that slowed KaMichael Hall, Travis Chambers, Shane Bowen, and Matthew Braman in spring. Additionally, Anthony Barnes won't be eligible to play until the 2007 season.
Trevor Bray (6-0 230) is one of the top private school players from the state of Virginia. He made 1st Team all-conference on both offense and defense. Trevor's stats for senior season: 570 yds rushing on 102 carries for 5.6 yds/carry, 11 receptions for 150 yds, 14 TD's, and 80 total tackles. Trevor had garnered offers from East Carolina, Wake Forest, and James Madison in addition to GT before making his decision. Athletic Director of Greenbriar Christian Academy, Andrew Riddick said of Bray, "He's got a nice football physique. He's definitely going to be a good fullback." Riddick also noted that, "He's a good student," with a GPA in the 3.0 range." Scout.com analyst Scott Kennedy had this to say about Bray after viewing his film, "Bray has excellent balance and will be a weapon out of the backfield blocking, running, and catching." Bray could be the long term replacement for Mike Cox after Cox finishes out his final two seasons. With young guys Guadagni (RS-Sophomore) and now Bray, the Jackets probably do not even need to look for another player at the position for the next class. Guadagni showed some real promise this spring and now Bray should add more instant depth. I suspect he'll redshirt his freshman season (unless the 5-to-play-5 rule in enacted before the season starts) in order to give him 3 years to compete for a starting spot after Cox is gone. Though it's possible Trevor could add value on special teams right away.
The one who got away:
Tech had a lot of good options as it turns out for running back in the 2006 class. Brown (Michigan) was one the coaches liked all along but he chose to take his talents way up north. Beyond Brown there were others Tech offered at some point or another. Some later lost those conditional offers and other committed elsewhere. Other players who came across Tech offers at some point included: Brandon King (FB - Duke), Fred Munzenmaier (FB – uga), Anthony Allen (Louisville), Andre Anderson (Tulane) and Chris Evans (UAB) among others. Both Anderson and Evans really wanted to come to Tech and had their chances early on. Kelly accepting his offer on the spot essentially ended the chances for players like Anderson and Evans to be on the team.
Recruiting Grade: A-
I promise I was planning on giving the running backs a grade in the A-range before seeing Evans play in spring! Jamaal alone could justify a very good grade for this class of backs. Add in a big athlete like Kelly who could contribute on either side of the ball and a solid catch-run-block fullback prospect and this class met expectations. Knowing now they have someone really good to work with at the running back position it takes off pressure for future recruiting classes. Coaches can now focus on a quality big-time back to join next recruiting class. And it seems like they are off to good starts with players like Jonathan Dwyer and Roddy Jones, in particular, for the '07 class. Overall there seems to be a good comfort level with the talent now in the program at TB and FB and thanks can go to the future contribution that are expected of this group.