Paul Johnson’s first signing class was introduced this week as letters of intent came into the athletic association all morning long. Tech signed 20 players during the signing period, short of the maximum 25 new scholarships allowed.
“We signed 20 student athletes…not only are they outstanding football players, but we feel like we have some outstanding young people to represent Georgia Tech. We’re all excited about the group, we felt like we’ve addressed several needs on the football team,“ said Head Coach Paul Johnson.
Tech was able to fill almost all of their needs going into next season. More importantly, Johnson was able to secure several recruits that fit his triple option offense.
Quarterbacks Jaybo Shaw and Tevin Washington are both dual- threat quarterback options. Shaw ran an option offense in high school; he has experience reading defenses for the option and could earn the position as the signal caller come summer practices.
The Jackets also signed two players who are rated very highly. Malcolm Munroe is a linebacker out of Coral Reef High in Miami and is one of the top outside linebackers in the nation.
“[We like a] tall, rangy linebacker who can really run. [He has] a lot of length, can rush the passer and is a good open field tackler,“ said Giff Smith, recruiting coordinator.
Munroe picked Tech over Auburn, Central Florida and Louisville.
Another high-rated recruit Tech secured very recently is Omoregie Uzzi, a top-10 ranked offensive guard. Uzzi has enough power and lateral quickness to fit into Tech’s offensive scheme.
Among other defensive and offensive line recruits are Phil Smith, Nick McRae, T J Barnes and Antonio Wilson. Smith played on both sides of the line in high school, as a junior he had six sacks. Smith recruited recently by Johnson also had an offer from Penn State.
“He’s a kid that committed early, sort of wavered. Once he met Coach Johnson he had a rock solid commitment to Georgia Tech,“ Smith said.
McRae will play center in the new offense and has good speed (5.05 40-yard dash) as well as advantageous size (6’4”, 290).
“His best football’s in front of him. He’s got a good lower body and good feet and we think he’ll be a good player,“ Johnson said.
McRae is the eighth best center in the nation and also had an offer from Maryland. He had offers from Tech as well as Alabama and Louisville. Barnes is a big recruit (6’7”, 322) that will fill a defensive tackle position.
“[The] upside for him is tremendous and we are very excited about having him,“ Smith said.
Antonio Wilson was a pleasant surprise for the coaching staff. The 6’6” defensive end had previously committed to Vanderbilt after playing high school football for just one year.
Among the linebackers, Tech recruited Munroe, Steven Sylvester and B.J. Machen. Sylvester, the No. 23 ranked weak side linebacker played both sides of the ball in high school. He ran for over 800 yards and six touchdowns as well as recording 36 tackles and three sacks. Sylvester also had offers from Alabama, North Carolina, N.C. State and South Carolina.
Machen was a top prospect in the state of Ohio before deciding to sign with Tech.
Among the skilled position players, Tech signed several running backs with big time speed and receivers that are both skilled at catching and blocking. McKayhan, a local prospect, is a speedy receiver (4.5 40-yard dash) who can run routes as well as run back kicks and punts.
“[It’s] always good to keep home kids here. He can play wide receiver and also factor in the return game,“ Smith said.
McKayhan was previously committed to Memphis before speaking with Coach Johnson’s staff.
Among the running backs Tech signed, Richard Watson and Embry Peeples were both recruited during Chan Gailey’s tenure. A recent recruit, Marcus Wright, was a Parade All-American and the Texas 5A player of the year last year after running for over 3,374 yards and 45 touchdowns as a senior.
Among the safeties are Brandon Leslie and Cooper Taylor. The corners who committed are Kamaron Riley, Jon Lockhart and Rashaad Reid.
Leslie, like several other players, committed during Gailey’s regime and stuck with his commitment.
“He stuck with us; he is a solid individual. He said his favorite thing on his visit was drinking sweet tea for the first time,“ Smith said.
The safety out of Fresno has good size and speed (6′, 4.6 40-yard dash) for his position.
Taylor played both sides of the ball in high school as a quarterback and safety. He was recruited to Tech as a safety, but coaches have not ruled him out of playing on the offense.
Riley is another local prospect the Jackets were able to commit. Riley committed out of Hawkinsville High, a school where fellow Jackets Robert Hall and Trey Dunmon attended.
“We’re really excited about him; we’ve got quite a few guys from Hawkinsville. Coach Smith has a real connection [there]. He has a lot of ability, we have him listed as a safety but he can be a great wide receiver,“ Johnson said.
Lockhart is out of Blountstown High in Blountstown, Florida.
“[He] can play defensive back, slot back and wide receiver. He’s a tremendous athlete,“ Smith said.
Reid was another player that wavered on his commitment after the coaching change. He decided to stick with it after meeting Coach Johnson and the staff. Reid also had offers from South Florida, Vanderbilt and West Virginia, among others.