By David Glenn
September 13, 2006
In four-plus seasons at Georgia Tech, coach Chan Gailey has settled into a pattern of mediocrity the program's fans understand all too well.
Exactly seven wins per season. Good, but only occasionally great, football. The Yellow Jackets haven't put up a bad year under Gailey, but they've never been outstanding for an entire campaign, either.
On the recruiting trail, Gailey's trend has been similar. If anything, the coach's seven-win pattern has been one of overachievement, relative to his completely underwhelming showings on national signing day.
Sure, the Jackets have signed a few prep All-Americans on Gailey's watch -- see all-universe wideout Calvin Johnson, stellar cornerback Kenny Scott, etc. -- but overall their classes have looked more like those in the bottom half of the 12-team ACC than those at the top.
This year, that trend is changing, and more than a little bit. Through mid-September, the Yellow Jackets had 15 commitments, and nine of them held at least four-star rankings (out of five) from one or more of the major recruiting services. That's already more four-star (or better) prospects than Tech landed in Gailey's first four recruiting classes combined.
In particular, Tech has attracted several prominent players from south Georgia, which traditionally has been dominated by the Georgia Bulldogs and other SEC programs on the recruiting trail. Giff Smith, Tech's third-year defensive line coach and first-year recruiting coordinator, is an Atlanta area native and former UGa assistant with strong ties to south Georgia, having played and coached for a total of eight years at Division I-AA power Georgia Southern.
"We're pleased with the way we're being received," Gailey said. "I'll say the same thing whether we're ranked first or last (on signing day): You're not sure exactly what you have until a few years down the road. But, yes, there is a difference in the way we're being received (this year)."
Here's a review of some of the top-ranked prospects who have announced that they will spend their college careers in Atlanta:
Ponte Vedra Beach (FL) Nease DB Mario Butler, rated one of the top 75 seniors in Florida, committed to Tech in July over Maryland and South Carolina. He also had offers from Arkansas, Boston College, California, Central Florida, Clemson, Florida International, Illinois, Louisville, Nebraska, North Carolina, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. As a junior, Butler had 65 tackles and three interceptions for the Class 4A state champions. He runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds. He has a 2.8 GPA and a 17 ACT score. His main recruiter with the Yellow Jackets is wide receivers coach Buddy Geis.
"Everyone is looking for corners who are big enough to match up with the tall receivers but can still run well, and that's what (Butler) has to offer," Nease coach Craig Howard said. "He's a playmaker. One of the reasons we won the state championship was because he kept the other team's best receiver -- and I'm talking about some big-time players -- under control. He also blocked some punts and kicks for us, and when he got an interception he was fun to watch on the return."
Gainesville (GA) High OL Nick Claytor, rated one of the top 25 offensive linemen in the nation, chose Tech in August over Auburn, Florida State and Ohio State. He also had offers from Alabama-Birmingham, Clemson, Duke, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, LSU, Maryland, Mississippi State, North Carolina, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. As a junior, Claytor was a second-team all-area selection. He benches 305 pounds, squats 400 and runs the 40 in 5.5 seconds. He has a 3.5 GPA and a 1,000-plus SAT score. His main recruiter with the Yellow Jackets is special teams coordinator Charles Kelly.
"Tech was the first school to offer me a scholarship (in February), and they were always one of my favorites," Claytor said. "Logan Walls (another Tech commitment) has become a very good friend of mine, and now I know a lot of the other (commitments). They're putting together a great recruiting class, and I just decided I want to be part of it. It's a great school for academics, it's pretty close to home, and I feel very comfortable with the coaches and players there."
Folkston (GA) Charlton County WR D.J. Donley, rated one of the top 25 wide receivers in the nation, picked Tech in July over Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. He also had offers from Florida State, Mississippi, Purdue, Tennessee and others. As a junior, he had 54 receptions for 854 yards and nine touchdowns as a wideout, plus 51 tackles and an interception as a safety. Also a member of the Charlton County basketball and track (800 meters, high jump, relays) teams, he runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds. He has a 3.4 GPA and a 950 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Yellow Jackets is defensive line coach Giff Smith.
"At the end of my junior (football) season, I wasn't thinking about Georgia Tech at all, but they did a great job recruiting me," Donley said. "I didn't know a lot about them, but they came after me so hard that I wanted to give them a visit at least. I went to their Junior Day (in April), and I got to talk with Calvin Johnson, get to know some of the coaches and sit in on some of the team meetings. I was really impressed. Nobody recruited me harder than (Tech), and when I learned more about their academics and athletics, I knew it was right."
Marietta (GA) Kell RB Jonathan Dwyer, rated one of the top 25 running backs in the nation, opted for Tech in August over Florida, Florida State and Georgia. He also had offers from Auburn, Boston College, Clemson, Hawaii, LSU, Maryland, Michigan State, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina, N.C. State, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Virginia Tech. A family friend, Stan Hixon, is a former Georgia Tech assistant coach. As a junior, Dwyer rushed for 1,898 yards and 24 touchdowns, and he caught 18 passes for 298 yards and two scores. He benches 275 pounds, squats 450, runs the 40 in 4.4 seconds, and runs the 100 meters in 10.8 seconds. He has a 2.9 GPA and a qualifying SAT score. His main recruiter with the Yellow Jackets is running backs coach Curtis Modkins.
"I wanted my friends and family to be able to see me play, so that cut out the schools that were too far away," Dwyer said. "Tech is my hometown school, and they have great academics there. That was important to me and my family. I have a lot of respect for Coach Gailey and the other coaches, and it probably helped that some of the guys who are already (committed to Tech) are friends of mine. It looks like we're all part of something special right now. We're excited."
Jacksonville (FL) Sandalwood DT Jacoby Monroe, rated one of the top 25 defensive tackles in the nation, chose Tech in July over Florida and Florida State. He also had offers from Georgia, Miami and N.C. State. As a junior, Monroe missed the entire season after being suspended for bringing onto school grounds something that school officials called a "weapon." (It reportedly was a BB gun.) As a sophomore, he barely played because of various injuries. Monroe benches 350 pounds, squats 800-plus and runs the 40 in 4.9 seconds. He has a 2.5 GPA but still needs a qualifying ACT/SAT score. His main recruiter with the Yellow Jackets is wide receivers coach Buddy Geis, the father of Sandalwood head coach Adam Geis.
"Jacoby is a very quiet, humble kid, and it was important for him to find a place where he would feel comfortable," Adam Geis said. "When he told me he wanted to commit (to Tech), I told him to sleep on it. I told him he didn't have to do anything just because my dad coaches there; I've never sent any of our kids to Georgia Tech. He came back to me a few days later and said he was sure.
"(Monroe) can be the best player we've ever had at Sandalwood, and I expect him to show that this year. He can squat 850 pounds right now -- 850 pounds! There's probably not a dozen kids in college football right now who can do that. On the field, you just can't block him. Double-team him, it doesn't matter. He's a machine out there. He doesn't want any special attention, either. He just loves getting the job done and letting his play speak for itself."
Greensboro (GA) Greene County QB Josh Nesbitt, rated one of the top 25 quarterbacks in the nation, selected Tech on Sept. 8 over Auburn, Florida and South Carolina. He also had offers from Central Florida, Duke, Florida State, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. As a junior, Nesbitt threw for 2,844 yards and 35 touchdowns, and he ran for 1,723 yards and 22 TDs. He also played some at safety, and many colleges recruited him for that position or outside linebacker. He runs the 40 in 4.55 seconds. His main recruiter with the Yellow Jackets is defensive line coach Giff Smith.
"Some people like me for other positions, but I want a shot at quarterback," Nesbitt said. "I trust the coaches at Tech, and they said they'll give me that chance. If I can't cut it (at QB), I'll help the team somewhere else. I know they have another good quarterback coming in, but that wasn't a factor in my decision. At all of the good programs, you're going to have a lot of competition."
Adrian (MI) High QB Steven Threet, rated one of the top 25 quarterbacks in the nation, opted for Tech in June over N.C. State and Wisconsin. He also had offers from Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Miami-Ohio and Stanford, plus interest from childhood favorite Michigan, Michigan State and Tennessee. As a junior, Threet threw for about 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns with 11 interceptions for an 8-2 team, earning all-conference and all-county honors. He has a 4.0 GPA and a 27 ACT score. His main recruiter with the Yellow Jackets is offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Patrick Nix.
"I can't say that one thing was the deciding factor. It was a combination of a lot of things, and it just felt like the right fit," Threet said. "The coaching staff and the academics were very important to me, and (Tech) is great in those areas. Another thing is, I've always liked the ACC more than the Big Ten, even though I'm here in Big Ten country. I just like the style of play better in the ACC. It's faster-paced. It's more fun to watch, and it's definitely more fun to play."
Kingsland (GA) Camden County WR/S Willie White, rated one of the top 25 wide receivers in the nation, picked Tech in July over childhood favorite South Carolina and Virginia Tech. He also had offers from Central Florida, Duke, Illinois, Kentucky, Troy, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest, plus interest from Florida State and Tennessee. As a junior, White played safety and wide receiver for Class 5A power Camden County, which finished 12-1 last fall. He has a qualifying GPA and an 860 SAT score. His main recruiter with the Yellow Jackets is defensive line coach Giff Smith.
"The biggest factor for me was the coaching staff," White said. "I have a lot of respect for Coach Gailey and a great relationship with Coach Smith, and I respect the way they do things. They're very straightforward, and you can trust them, and you don't get that feeling with everybody. At Tech, they care about you as a person and as a football player. I also like the city of Atlanta, and it's close enough to home that everybody can see me play."