For Johnson and staff, recruiting optimism

Photo by John Nakano

Remember the Tech football program that was forced to make competent collegiate starters out of three-star recruits? The team that was lucky to snag one or two four-star players in a single cycle?

It might be time to do away with that notion.

The past two weeks have been historic for Tech football as the program has picked up three straight four-star football recruits headlined by the Swilling brothers. This week, Tre Swilling and Bruce Jordan-Swilling gave their pledge to Coach Paul Johnson. The two brothers hail from New Orleans, La.

Their surname holds a special place in school athletic history. Their father, Pat Swilling, is one of the greatest football players to play for Tech, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and a teammate of current Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof. The Swillings’ uncle Ken was an All-American for Tech in their memorable 1990 national championship winning campaign.

Tre was recruited as a defensive back and Bruce has been recruited as a possible BB/LB. According to 247Sports, Bruce is the second highest rated recruit in the Paul Johnson era.  Both brothers were pursued heavily by other major football schools, from Alabama to Michigan, but getting a chance to continue the family legacy at Tech pushed them to choose the Flats.

“With very careful consideration, I have decided to commit to Georgia Tech and continue the Swilling Legacy that my father and uncles started. There was no other place that could give me more motivation then playing in their shadows and working to standout as they did in their time,” Tre Swilling posted on his Twitter account after committing. “Being able to run out on the field and look up to my father’s name on the HOF banner will serve as a constant reminder of the hard work and effort it takes to be great on and off the field.”

Both Swillings have been very vocal for recruiting for Tech and getting other top level players to join them next season.

Legacies have been hard to come by for Tech recruiters as of late. Defensive end Carl Lawson, Jr., chose Auburn over his father’s alma mater three years ago, for example. The Swillings’ choice could serve as an example for other young players in a similar situation to play in The Flats.

The third four-star commit was safety Gentry Bonds from Murfreesboro, Tenn. Bonds chose Tech over Tennessee, Duke and UNC. Bonds’ junior season was remarkably productive; he made 49 tackles, break up 13 passes and snag four interceptions.

Tech now has 13 commits in this class and will look to get about 20 by next February.

Tech has an average star ranking of 3.15 which ranks 27th in the nation, courtesy of Tech usually signs smaller classes than most power five schools, so they are generally never that high in overall recruiting rankings.

The frenetic pace of the 2016–17 recruiting cycle evokes memories of the 2007–08 haul, the last of head coach Chan Gailey. That group included stars Jonathan Dwyer, Josh Nesbitt, Morgan Burnett, Roddy Jones and Derick Morgan. While it is much too early to assess the impact of the newest set of Tech players, history is on their side.

The influx of higher rated recruits has been a surprise given that Tech is coming off a season where they went 3-9. That is good news for the program that the down season has not seemed to affect recruiting. The class currently has seven defensive players, four offensive players, one punter and one kicker. Tech has no wide receivers or A-backs signed for this class, so the recruiting staff will address that before signing day.

Compared to previous classes, this class has a chance to be Tech’s best class under Coach Johnson. The last few classes haven’t had as many highly rated recruits, and the ones who did commit did not stay for long.

Coach Johnson always says that recruiting stars do not matter and that the staff trust their evaluations, but there is no denying that teams with top-rated classes win more games than others.

For years, Tech coaches have made more with less, fitting players uncoveted by other teams into a unique scheme to produce remarkable results. Despite a prolific running attack and a sometimes opportunistic defense, Tech’s unremarkable talent level is often exposed against the highest level of competition.

Perhaps this is the year that begins to change. Fans have seen what coach Johnson can do with typical talent. He may have the beginnings of more: a team that compete in earnest for national relevance year after year.