Georgia Tech had a real need for replenishing the safety position this recruiting season. First team all-ACC senior James Butler is moving on to the NFL and valuable senior backup Nathan Burton graduates as well. Additionally, the two starters for next year, Chris Reis and Dawan Landry, are rising seniors. Behind next year's two starters there is nearly no experienced depth. Djay Jones is a promising prospect though, who should provide plenty of minutes. Gaston is an undersized but hard-hitting backup and Roberson hasn't really settled into a position yet. Roberson could end up at corner or safety this spring depending on where he's needed and where he best fits. So given the situation it was important for the Jackets to land a couple of future safeties. With the unproven players providing depth and senior starters, it was a good area to promise early playing time to any big-time safety looking for a home.
Who GT signed:
Anthony Barnes is one of the centerpieces to this recruiting class. Tech needed some talent in addition to numbers and he provided both. Anthony is a freakishly big (6'3", 210 pounds) safety who could even project as a future linebacker. He could also be inserted into the offense where he racked up around 800 yards receiving as a wide out. His high school coach describes his athleticism. "He's a good enough athlete that he could play on either side of the ball in college," Coach Barden said. "He's not your typical wide receiver. He's a physical player that likes to hit. He's awfully fast with legit 4.5 40 speed." It appears though that Chan Gailey has made his decision on where "AT" will start out. "They said I'm going to play free safety. They're losing some guys there, and I might be able to come in and play early," says Barnes. With an athlete like Barnes on campus, the stellar Tech defense could look to be reloading rather than rebuilding in 2006 when AT could expect to compete for a starting role, if he hasn't outgrown the position by then that is. Barnes had many suitors but he never seemed to waiver after committing to Tech. He had previous offers from the likes of Florida State, LSU, and Mississippi State.
After missing on some top targets to team up with Barnes at safety, Tech reached back into the deep scouting connections and came up with an intriguing player in Jake Blackwood. Jake comes with NFL bloodlines. His father (Glenn Blackwood) and uncle (Lyle Blackwood) teamed up to become one of the all-time favorite combos for Miami Dolphin fans. They were given the nickname "The Bruise Brothers." Jake will need to add some weight to his 6'2", 160-pound frame though before becoming a bruiser of his own in college. Tech coaches described Jake as a, "Nathan Burton-type kid." He's brilliant in the classroom (1500 SAT) and has a reputation for being a heady defensive player as well. In defensive coordinator John Tenuta's scheme, that is a must quality to have. Jake was impressed with Tenuta's football mind after they spoke on the official visit. Blackwood said, "Coach Tenuta is a very focused and intense man. He is a brilliant man when it comes to making a defensive game plan."
The one who got away:
Ray Herring is "the player who got away" that Tech fans had fallen the most in love with. His online journal on the Florida Today site was followed closely by Yellow Jackets. He seemed to feel the same way about GT after his official visit and most thought we would be the team to beat. But in the end he signed with Notre Dame despite the fact that they fired their head coach, Ty Willingham, who originally recruited him there. So in the end, the draw to Notre Dame was too much to overcome.
Besides Herring, Tech had some other good leads at safety which also went dry. Anthony Scirrotto visited but Tech came in second to Penn State for his services. Other solid safeties Tech was associated with along the way included: Gerrod Sinclair (South Carolina), Corey Hall (Arizona), and Cory Reamer (Alabama).
Recruiting Grade: B
This is probably the toughest position for me to grade this year. Recruiting for the safety position was a mixed bag. With Barnes, you know Tech got a top-of-the-line "athlete". He's going to have to translate that athleticism to his play on the field, but he is a great start to the safety class and could be a potential 3-year starter. It would have been nice to land Herring. He would have made it one of the strongest positions we recruited this year. Instead we likely went down the list some to find a nice hidden gem in Blackwood. But just as you can't assume AT will be a great football player just because he's a great athlete, you can't sleep on Jake just because he didn't have the same pile of offers Barnes did. Chan Gailey has shown that he will not offer a player just to fill in a spot. He's proven that over and over again this recruiting season by passing on 5-6 players who even came as far as taking official visits to GT and still not being extended an offer. As selective as Gailey is, you have to know that there's something he sees in Blackwood that could translate into a solid ACC player. Having said that, Jake does get the title of deepest find this season, as no one knew a thing about him before GT showed interest.