New Editions (0):
None, unless you’re counting transfers
TB: *P. J. Daniels, Chris Woods, Rashaun Grant, Drew Gause, Tashard Choice
FB: Mike Cox, Ajenavi Eziemefe, Justin Guadagni
* Previous First Team All-ACC Performer
Georgia Tech returns the same group of Running Backs from last season. P.J. Daniels is a former 1st team all-conference RB who returns with high expectations for his senior season. He will once again be backed up by fellow senior Chris Woods and the talented, speedy and smaller back Rashaun Grant. Drew Gause will be in the mix this year as well. He redshirted last season and will now be available to push for playing time. Should he do well with his opportunities, he could make a run at starting the following season when the competition really opens back up. Right now though, a healthy Daniels will be nearly impossible to pass. Gause will also show off his athletic talents on the baseball field this year as he’s expected to compete for an outfield spot on the loaded Tech baseball team.
Unlike the Tailback position, the Fullback spot takes a hit from graduations. Gone now is former starter Jimmy Dixon and contributing backup Johnathan Jackson. This opens up the door for a new starter at this position. True sophomore Mike Cox is the favorite to win the spot from senior Ajenavi Eziemefe (ACE). ACE has gone back and forth between TB and FB in his career but with the depth better at TB and his weight hovering around 245 he’s probably finally settled into his true spot. Justin Guadagni is the final piece at this position. We don’t know much yet on what to expect from Guadagni. He tore his ACL as a senior in high school and is just now healthy enough to make true strides in his game.
With three upcoming seniors between the TB and FB positions, it was necessary to land at least two backs (perhaps just one after learning of a transfer). Ideally you’d like to see two Tailbacks and one Fullback but the crunch in numbers probably wouldn’t lend itself to landing those numbers at the RB positions. Should no players be added (and no transfers enroll) then Tech would enter go into next spring with no more than 2 Tailbacks and 2 Fullbacks on scholarship. In my opinion, that’s getting dangerously thin.
Who GT signed:
Well… nobody. It wasn’t a total miss though because Tech did land a very valuable Tailback transfer in Tashard Choice (from Oklahoma). Tashard is still working through the process of trying to gain a hardship from the NCAA. On the chances of playing this season Choice said, “It just depends on my hardship. I may be able to play this upcoming fall, so it just depends on how that situation goes.” It would be great for the team if he’s able to play in 2005 but if not, there is still depth now to get through the year; at least more depth at TB than last year. He’ll be desperately needed in 2006 though with only Grant and Gause already in the fold at that position.
The one who got away:
Wells is the name Tech fans had heard about since Signing Day of 2004. We knew that our coaches were in good with him and that we’d be a finalist for him. In fact for a lot of the early recruiting season, Tech was believed to lead for Maurice. In the end though it was clear that Ohio State had pulled ahead in his mind. He had a lot of family in that area and had made up his mind that that’s where he felt he’d be best served. Tech’s all out effort at Wells was done well but it was only good enough for second place.
The player Tech liked at RB as much as Maurice early on was James Davis (Clemson). He is the local prospect from Douglass High, a school that we ended up landing two other players from: Jason Hill and Greg Smith. Another back Tech pursued was Kalvin Bailey (Iowa). It didn’t seem like the same all-out effort was there for Kalvin but he did have an offer and looked better and better to us as Wells seemed to be slipping. In the end, Tech came up empty on Wells and Davis, so Bailey would have been a nice one to have but he will now move from Florida to Iowa where he already knows several players in that program. With those three off the table now, Tech turned to Brandyn Young (South Carolina). This is where the all-out effort might for Wells might have come back to bite the Jackets. Young was interested in Tech but it was a case of too little too late. With South Carolina on him all along, Tech couldn’t get Young to take a visit to Tech before pledging to SC. Finally Tech turned to little-known Brian Whitehurst. He took an official visit to Tech after Signing Day in hopes of getting an offer but the offer never came and Coach Gailey decided he was done at the position after all. Another big possibility for the Fullback position was Jerrell Mabry (Miami). Teams were looking at him as either a FB or Defensive Lineman. Tech liked him more on offense.
Recruiting Grade: F
Getting a high-profile transfer in Chioce certainly helps with the misses at this position in recruiting. I think most fans are okay with going all-in on a big-time prospect if the depth is there on the team to withstand a total miss. In this case Tech had some room to miss but having a good backup option was the preferred route. Even with Tashard in the mix now, I thought Tech still needed another back to sign. It didn’t need to be a blue-chip player but one with potential to contribute down the road. The 2004 philosophy of going all-in on Darius Walker likewise didn’t work but we still had Gause to fall back on. Injuries can just pile up too fast at RB not to have a comfortable number of players there. There’s not too many cases were not landing at least 1 per recruiting season is a bad idea. Coming up short at RB was probably the second biggest miss in this year’s class next to not grabbing a 3rd linebacker.
As for Fullback, it would have been a luxury to land one but numbers were tight and Tech just signed two last year. Additionally, even if the Yellow Jackets enter 2006 with just Cox and Guadagni there is always the option of playing Mike Matthews at the position.
The only positive to take away from this is that Tech will be able to offer a lot in terms of playing time to a class of 2006 RB. The numbers will be low for one, but the biggest thing that scares off talent is a returning starting back. With this being PJ’s last season, he will no longer be a reason for a top back looking for early playing time to not look closely at GT.