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Recruiting Change Could Aid Jackets

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 10:10am
By: Georgia Tech Insider

ATLANTA – Several Georgia high school recruits have taken advantage of the recently enacted NCAA rule that allows prospects to sign financial aid agreements with college programs ahead of signing day.

Clemson signed two Georgians, including top recruit DeShaun Watson, a quarterback out of Gainesville. North Carolina signed another, as did Conference USA’s Marshall. The practice is not a true early signing period, as the agreements are binding for the schools but not for the athletes. Recruits can’t sign scholarship offers until signing day in February – and are not obligated to ink a letter of intent with the same school they sign a financial aid agreement with.

Georgia Tech has yet to announce any financial aid agreement signees, and it will be interesting to see Paul Johnson’s approach. He’s been mum on the practice, which was just added to the NCAA rulebook last month.

Given Johnson’s philosophy, the new rule is unlikely to play much of a role in his recruiting. Johnson doesn’t extend an offer unless he’s fully committed to a recruit, and he’s been known to pull offers from committed recruits who take visits elsewhere. He couldn’t do that with a recruit who signs a financial aid agreement.

Yet the carrot of unlimited communication – which is allowed with recruits who have signed financial aid agreements – may lead Johnson to change, or at least lighten, his stance. More and more blue-chip recruits are waiting until signing day or the days immediately prior to make their final decision, and having a recruit signed to a financial aid deal will give that coach a leg up in warding off any late pushes from other programs.

Another advantage to signing recruits to financial aid agreements is that schools are allowed to publicize the signing once the paperwork is received. Under normal circumstances, neither coaches nor other school personnel are allowed to acknowledge a recruit has verbally committed to their program, even if the prospect himself is publicizing it. Handled properly, coaches and athletic departments should be able to turn a financial aid agreement signing into a billboard for other recruits to admire.

The new financial aid agreement rule seems to fit the type of recruits Georgia Tech chases. Only prospects enrolled in all coursework necessary to graduate high school at the midyear point are eligible to sign the financial aid agreements. The Yellow Jackets rarely take on prospects in danger of not qualifying under NCAA academic standards, and many of their recruits do graduate early.

One interesting piece of the NCAA financial aid agreement legislation is prospects aren’t required to graduate early. They can stay in high school and finish on time – and enjoy all the end-of-high-school festivities – if they so choose.

Division Title Shot Motivating Jackets

Georgia Tech committed divisional football’s cardinal sin earlier this year by losing to its two main rivals for the ACC Coastal Division crown. Doing so essentially put the Yellow Jackets two games behind Virginia Tech and Miami, as the Hokies and the Hurricanes would hold the tiebreakers – and thereby the ACC championship game edge – in the event one or both of those teams finished tied with Georgia Tech atop the division.

Most thought the two losses doomed the Yellow Jackets’ chances. Yet heading into their ACC finale against Clemson, the Jackets understand a win could allow them to sneak back into the game for the fourth time in the 10-year history of the game.

Georgia Tech would finish with a 6-2 record with a win at Clemson. Both Virginia Tech and Miami have two ACC losses, and the Hokies have two games remaining while the Canes have three. Neither team faces murderer’s row – Virginia Tech has Maryland and Virginia while Miami has Duke, Virginia and Pittsburgh – but both the Hokies and Canes are struggling.

Virginia Tech’s anemic offense has already contributed to losses to Duke and Boston College, while Miami is a team without a playmaker since losing tailback Duke Johnson to injury against Florida State.

How Virginia Tech and Miami fare means nothing if Georgia Tech fails to knock off Clemson. Georgia Tech traditionally plays its best against the rival Tigers, and Johnson is 4-2 versus Clemson in his tenure. A win would also legitimize the Yellow Jackets’ claim to the division title, as their best win to this point came against Duke.

A victory would give Georgia Tech confidence and momentum heading into the rivalry game against Georgia on Nov. 30. The Yellow Jackets have lost four straight and 11 of the last 12 in the series, but the Bulldogs are injury riddled and the game is in Atlanta this year.

Surprising Hoops Depth Showing

You needn’t understand the finer points of sonar technology to recognize the added depth of Georgia Tech’s basketball team.

Coach Brian Gregory inherited a young team with several open scholarships three years ago and has recruited well in his short tenure. The Yellow Jackets returned four starters and their sixth man from last season’s team. Add in a promising player coming off knee surgery and a veteran transfer, and Gregory’s bench was more like a trench.

If the first few looks at the 2013-14 Yellow Jackets are any indication, they might be even deeper than anyone thought.

Corey Heyward, he of the knee injury, started the season opener at point guard. The veteran transfer, Trae Golden, started at shooting guard. Both played well, but both are probably soon to be replaced: Heyward by true freshman Travis Jorgenson, a dazzling player who runs the point like a veteran, and Golden by returning starter Chris Bolden, who is sitting out the season’s first three games because of a suspension.

Add Heyward and Golden to a bench that already has three high-energy contributors, Kammeon Holsey, Stacey Poole and Solomon Poole, and Gregory has the personnel to play the kind of up-tempo, in-your-face defense he favors. And another veteran, Jason Morris, should be recovered from foot surgery in time for ACC play.