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2014 Georgia Tech Signing Day Snapshot

Monday, February 3, 2014 6:01pm
By: ACCSports.com Staff
Here's an inside look at Georgia Tech 's 2014 recruiting class. 


Head Coach:  Paul Johnson
Total Number of Expected Signees: 21
National Recruiting Rankings  
Rivals.com:  No. 63 (2002), No. 50 (2003), No. 79 (2004), No. 62 (2005), No. 57 (2006), No. 18 (2007) under Chan Gailey; No. 49 (2008), No. 49 (2009), and No. 43 (2010), No. 41 (2011), No. 57 (2012), No. 85 (2013) under Paul Johnson
Scout.com:  No. 51 (2002), No. 34 (2003), No. 35 (2004), No. 48 (2005), No. 49 (2006), No. 15 (2007) under Chan Gailey; No. 37 (2008), No. 44 (2011), No. 32 (2009), No. 41 (2010), No. 46 (2011), No. 59 (2012), No. 72 (2013) under Paul Johnson
247Sports.com:  No. 49 (2011), No. 61 (2012), No. 74 (2013) 
ACC Rankings (Rivals.com):  No. 7 (2002), No. 6 (2003), No. 9 (2004), No. 11 (2005), No. 11 (2006), No. 3 (2007), No. 9 (2008), No. 8 (2009), No. 8 (2010), No. 8 (2011), No. 10 (2012), No. 13 (2013)
2014 Georgia Tech ACC & National Rankings By Network
ESPN: No. 54 overall nationally
Rivals.com: No. 10 ACC, No. 48 overall nationally 
Scout.com: No. 9 ACC, No. 47 overall nationally
247Sports.com: No. 11 ACC, No. 52 overall nationally 
Signee Breakdown by Star Rating
Rivals.com: Five Stars (0), Four Stars (1), Three Stars (18), Two Stars (2)
Scout.com: Five Stars (0), Four Stars (1), Three Stars (17), Two Stars (2)
247Sports.com: Five Stars (0), Four Stars (0), Three Stars (18), Two Stars (2)
States Represented (5): Georgia (10), Florida (5), Alabama (3), South Carolina (2), Pennsylvania (1)  
January (Spring Semester) Enrollees: Step Durham, KeShun Freeman, Tre Jackson, Matthew Jordan
Unconfirmed Academics: None Known
Breakdown by Position: Defensive Linemen (5), Defensive Backs (4), Offensive Linemen (4), Linebackers (2), Quarterbacks (1), Running Backs (2), Tight Ends (1), Wide Receivers (2) 

Top Recruiter 

This year’s honors could have gone to any one of three Georgia Tech coaches, but we’ll give the ever-so-slight edge to running backs coach Lamar Owens, who was point man for four of the Yellow Jackets’ successful recruitments in the 2014 class, including Rivals.com four-star defensive back Step Durham out of Jacksonville (Fla.). Owens also helped Georgia Tech land two defensive ends - fellow Jacksonville (Fla.) native Antonio Simmons, and Charleston (S.C.) native Michael Preddy. Simmons and Preddy are both consensus three-star recruits by all three major networks. Owens also aided Georgia Tech in landing a commitment from Ocoee (Fla.) linebacker Terrell Lewis. It’s also worth briefly noting the recruiting efforts of defensive line coach Mike Pelton, a native of Goshen (Ala.) who helped the Yellow Jackets land three commitments from his home state of Alabama and four commits in total, as well as linebackers coach Andy McCollum, who successfully recruited four Georgia natives to Tech’s 2014 class. 

10 Key Misses

Washington (D.C.) defensive back Miles Taylor (Iowa), Kingsland (Ga.) defensive back Kalvaraz Bessent (Auburn), Clyattville (Ga.) offensive tackle Dyshon Sims (Georgia), Cleveland (OH) defensive back Erick Smith (Ohio State), Washington (Pa.) running back Shai McKenzie (Virginia Tech), Cleveland (OH) wide receiver Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State), Cleveland (OH) offensive lineman Marcelys Jones (Ohio State), Atlanta (Ga.) defensive back Nick Ruffin (Auburn), Locust Grove (Ga.) defensive back Cortez McDowell (Tennessee), Suwanee (Ga.) wide receiver Nate Brown (Missouri)

 Georgia Tech Recruiting Storylines

  • The 2014 Yellow Jacket signing class, for the most part, came together during a critical stretch between late May and late September. From May 30, 2013, when Tech got a commitment from Oneonta (Ala.) wide receiver Jalen Johnson, to June 29, when Jackson (Ala.) quarterback Matthew Jordan came aboard, Georgia Tech landed nine players - approximately half its total class. Four of those commitments came during a four-day stretch in mid-June, including three from the same high school - Lamar County High School in Griffin (Ga.). Twins Lance and Lawrence Austin, both defensive backs, pledged to the Yellow Jackets June 17, while two days later their teammate, fellow defensive back Qua Searcy, also committed to Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets added two more commitments in July, one in August, and three in September, putting Georgia Tech at 16 commitments. Only three more prospects were added to the commitment list between October and early February. 
  • Georgia Tech has supplemented its recruiting classes with players from neighboring Florida for years, having signed at least one player from that state every National Signing Day going back well over a decade. The Yellow Jackets have continued to do it again this year with the additions of defensive back Step Durham of Jacksonville (Fla.), offensive lineman Jake Stickler of Bradenton (Fla.), linebacker Terrell Lewis of Ocoee (Fla.), offensive lineman Gary Brown of Tampa (Fla.), and defensive end Antonio Simmons of Jacksonville. The five Sunshine State pledges this class for Georgia Tech is the most since 2008, the ‘bridge’ class between former Yellow Jacket head coach Chan Gailey and current head coach Paul Johnson, when Georgia Tech signed a total of six Floridians. This marks the fourth straight year going back to the 2011 recruiting class that Georgia Tech signs two or more Floridians, and over that time the Yellow Jackets have signed a total of 15 Sunshine State natives - four each in 2011 and 2012, two in the small 14-man 2013 class, and five this cycle. 
  • Paul Johnson is known for holding players to commitments and cutting them loose if they look around at other schools, and the Yellow Jackets found themselves on the short end of five de-commitments at the end of the 2013 recruiting cycle. In the 2014 class there was one notable de-commitment, as Washington (D.C.) safety Miles Taylor initially committed to Georgia Tech in March - becoming Tech’s first 2014 commitment at the time - but then elected to take a secret official visit to Iowa in late January. Depending on which source you believe - Taylor or people at Georgia Tech - Taylor either lied to the Georgia Tech coaches, or the Georgia Tech coaches didn’t show enough sustained interest after he committed to make him feel comfortable enough to sign with the Yellow Jackets. Within hours after word leaked out that Taylor had taken the secret official visit to Iowa City, the Washington D.C. defensive back pledged to the Hawkeyes. 
  • Thanks to solid graduation rates and relatively low attrition, Georgia Tech’s coaching staffs under both Chan Gailey and Paul Johnson weren’t forced to over-extend themselves on the recruiting trail. The 2014 class is quite bigger, at 19 prospects, than Georgia Tech’s 2013 class, which had 14 signees, but this marks the seventh different time going back to 2002 that Georgia Tech is signing 19 or fewer prospects on Signing Day. Not once since the first national rankings were released by Rivals.com and Scout.com back in 2002 have the Yellow Jackets signed a ‘full’ class of 25 or more prospects. The closest the program came was back in 2004, when Georgia Tech signed 24 high school players, and 2011, when Johnson and company signed 23 prospects. 

A Closer Look At ...

Step Durham, DB (5-11, 185) Jacksonville (Fla.) Atlantic Coast
Rivals.com Ranking:  (No. 23 cornerback, No. 41 in Florida)
Scout.com Ranking:  (No. 81 cornerback)
247Sports.com Ranking:  (No. 30 cornerback, No. 52 in Florida)
Lead Recruiter(s):  Lamar Owens
Georgia Tech had to beat out multiple Southeastern Conference schools including Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina for Durham, who showed flashes of brilliance during his senior season at Atlantic Coast High School in 2013, including a game in which he recorded 22 tackles. He had two interceptions as well this past fall. "Durham is a capable corner and can play safety at the BCS level," said Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Kynon Codrington. "He wasn't tested a lot last fall, but he made an impact in run support. We like his athleticism, and ability to make an impact on special teams or in nickel situations as a freshman." Durham, who enrolled at the Institute in January, was selected to play in the Semper Fidelis Bowl in California following his senior season on the gridiron. That was a particularly special honor for Durham considering his father, Step Durham Sr., is a former Marine. 
Tyler Merriweather, DE (6-3, 230) Demopolis (Ala.) Demopolis
Rivals.com Ranking:  (No. 23 in Alabama)
Scout.com Ranking:  (No. 87 defensive end, No. 25 in Alabama)
247Sports.com Ranking:  (No. 39 weak-side defensive end, No. 22 in Alabama)
Lead Recruiter(s):  Mike Pelton
Merriweather was a productive defensive line standout throughout his career at Demopolis High School, combining over his junior and senior seasons to record over 90 tackles and eight sacks. He added four fumble recoveries his junior season, earning All-County honors, and 19 tackles for loss his senior season. Following his senior season, Merriweather was named Honorable Mention All-State by Alabama sportswriters. He was ranked the No. 23 prospect in the Yellowhammer State by TideSports.com, and was an AlabamaVarsity.com preseason All-State selection in 2013. “Merriweather does an excellent job in back-side pursuit and taking on blockers. He excels in making plays against the run,” said Rivals.com analyst Andrew Bone. 
Andrew Marshall, C (6-4, 270) Cumming (Ga.) West Forsyth 
Rivals.com Ranking:  (No. 9 center, No. 36 in Georgia)
Scout.com Ranking:  (No. 12 center, No. 72 in Georgia)
247Sports.com Ranking:  (No. 12 center, No. 97 in Georgia)
Lead Recruiter(s):  Bryan Cook
Marshall took a little longer than some of the rest of Georgia Tech’s 2014 signing class to make his decision, but the Peach State center’s mid-September pledge was a huge piece to this year’s Yellow Jacket recruiting puzzle. Marshall will get a chance from the outset as a possible replacement to multi-year Georgia Tech center starter Jay Finch, an honorable mention All-ACC selection in 2012 who has graduated out of the Yellow Jackets program. “(Marshall) is a legit interior offensive lineman, a natural center, and he (possesses) good strength (and) solid footwork,” said Scout.com national analyst Chad Simmons. Following his senior season at West Forsyth High School, Marshall was named first-team All-State by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, joining some of the Southeast’s top offensive lineman prospects on that particular list including Auburn-bound Nick Wilson and Class of 2015 standouts Mitch Hyatt, Kaleb Kim, and Chuma Edoga. 

 Why They Chose Georgia Tech

I just want to play football at Georgia Tech. I have a chance to play for a great team and get a great education that I can fall back on if I don’t make my dream of playing in the NFL. I am very excited to be a Jacket.
---Griffin (Ga.) defensive back Qua Searcy to JacketsOnline.com. 
I've been on top of Georgia Tech's board from day one. That meant a lot, because I know they really, really want me. I like that while the offense is run first, Coach Johnson showed from the Georgia game, he will take what the defense gives him. When I visited, they treated me the best. It just felt like home. I really love it. The campus is kind of secluded from downtown Atlanta, actually. You don't have to have a car, everything is walking-distance. It will keep me out of trouble, too. They got water slides, high dives, bowling alleys, movie theaters, they have everything. I really don't have to leave campus.
---Jackson (Ala.) quarterback Matthew Jordan to Scout.com 
I felt like Georgia Tech wanted me more than any other school and that was important to me. Coach (Ted) Roof and the staff made it known that they wanted me and that I could be a big player for Tech so that was a big part of the reason I decided to commit. It is also close to home and I feel comfortable at Tech compared to other schools. I had a great senior year leading Class AAAAAA in rushing and I am hoping to have the same type of success at Tech. They want me to play both A and B-back and they said I will probably always play both spots.
---Suwanee (Ga.) running back C.J. Leggett to JacketsOnline.com 
The most important thing was the academic side. The school of business is great. The offensive line coach (Mike Sewak) talks about the migration of kids coming down to Georgia Tech. I’m joining the migration of kids coming from the north down to play in Georgia. What (clinched the commitment) was sitting down with the coaching staff and getting to meet everyone on campus. I’m in love with the football program and the way I’m going to be used. I’m a tight end, but with their type of offense I’d be an h-back, slot-back type of guy, but I could also possibly play defensive line. I’m really up for that challenge and I’m excited to get there and prove to them why I deserve to play at a school like Georgia Tech.
---Hummelstown (Pa.) tight end Trey Klock to Scout.com