Paul Johnson not fond of 'star system' for recruit rankings

2014 Tech class includes only one four-star player

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerFebruary 5, 2014 

ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said he likes his latest recruiting class, even though it may not seem to have the curb appeal for national services.

Johnson has never put much stock in the "star system" that's assigned by draft boards to kids who have yet to take their first college snap.

"If you look at the last six years, there are four teams in the ACC who have won more games than all the others," Johnson said, listing Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. "And that's my view of the star system."

The so-called experts won't be knocked over by Tech's list of recruits, which includes only one four-star player, defensive back Steph Dunham. But the list of players otherwise looks very solid.

"If our recruiting is so bad and that (rating) is so accurate, then we must be great coaches," Johnson said.

"And from what I read from (reporters) I don't believe that. We've won more games in the ACC at a higher percentage than any coach that's been here. That's the number I'd be concerned about."

Georgia Tech had 22 signees, including running back Travis Custis of Lovejoy, who signed last year but was flagged by the NCAA Clearinghouse.

The class includes six offensive linemen, four defensive backs, three running backs, three linebackers, three defensive ends, two wide receivers and one quarterback.

Four of the recruits have already graduated from high school, enrolled at Tech and will participate in spring practice. Steph Dunham, defensive end KeShun Freeman, linebacker Tre Jackson and quarterback Matthew Jordan are already on campus and getting acclimated to college life and the academic rigors that come along with being at Tech.

"It helps a great deal," Johnson said. "When you start fall camp they're not lost. Those guys are acclimated, the coaches have gotten to evaluate them, they get more reps and they've learned the sytem."

Dunham is considered a four-star athlete by Rivals and is ranked as the No. 23 defensive back in Florida.

The Jacksonville product is 5-11, 175 and is considered to be good enough to challenge for playing time and potentially start as a true freshman. The other defensive backs include twins Lance (5-10, 170) and Lawrence Austin (5-9, 170) of Lamar County and Jalen Johnson (6-3, 190) of Oneonta, Ala.

The Austin Brothers will likely stay at cornerback, while Johnson, who is recovering from a knee injury that cost him his senior season, is pegged as a safety.

The offensive line group includes Michael Preddy (6-3, 270) of Charleston, S.C., Trey Klock (6-4, 260) of Hummelstown, Pa., Andrew Marshall (6-4, 265) of West Forsyth, Gary Brown (6-3, 285) of Tampa, Jake Whitley (6-4, 295) of North Augusta and Jake Stickler (6-5, 263) of Bradenton, Fla.

"We're excited about our offensive line as a group," Johnson said. "We've got some very athletic guys in the group."

The three defensive ends signed were KeShun Freeman (6-4, 230) of Callaway, Tyler Merriweather (6-3, 290) of Dermopolis, Ala., and Kenderius Whitehead (6-5, 220), who played at Georgia Military College and will have three years of eligibility.

Tech needed additional ends because some of their previous signees, like Francis Kallon, have been moved inside as they've gotten bigger.

"You've got to have guys who can rush off the edge," Johnson said.

The linebackers are Jackson (5-10, 235) of Lowndes High, Antonio Simmons (6-3, 190) of Jacksonville, and Terrell Lewis (6-2, 215) of Ocoee, Fla.

The offensive side wasn't neglected. Jordan was the lone quarterback signed, but the Jackets added Custis, the 2013 Georgia Back of the Year, and C.J. Leggett (5-10, 210) of North Gwinnett, who ran for 1,784 yards and 23 touchdowns and helped the Bulldogs finish second in the state.

Three receivers in the class include Qua Searcy (5-11, 170) of Lamar County, who is versatile enough to play defensive back, receiver or running back, and Miles Autry (5-11, 170) of Norcross, brother of redshirt sophomore receiver Anthony Autry.

Miles Autry missed most of the season with a knee injury, but came back to catch the game-winning touchdown in the Class AAAAAA semifinals and had a 92-yard kickoff return and 69-yard touchdown catch in the championship game.

Tech also landed Norcross receiver Clinton Lynch (6-0, 185), a last-minute steal from Georgia State.

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