Dalton High running back Jahmyr Gibbs at his locker on November 4, 2019. Gibbs finished the regular season as the state's leading rusher at 2,358 yards. (AJC photo by Ken Sugiura)

Dalton’s Jahmyr Gibbs is prized Georgia Tech commit, Alabama target

“I don’t have a favorite subject,” he said. “I just do the work.”

He likes chicken wings and pizza. He loves football. That’s where things stray from the usual. About a month ago, Gibbs found himself in the office of Alabama coach Nick Saban, hours before the Crimson Tide would play Tennessee, listening to the sultan of college football offer him a scholarship.

“I was nervous,” Gibbs told the AJC following a practice last week. “He’s not really an expressive guy. He has a plain, straight face. I was nervous. I was sweating.”

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In 10 games and 208 carries, Gibbs leads the state of Georgia in rushing with 2,358 rushing yards to go with 39 touchdowns. With exceptional vision, awareness and ability to change direction and speed, Gibbs has further achieved this singular season in Region 6-AAAAAA, one of the strongest regions in the state’s second largest classification. He’ll lead the Catamounts on Friday night in the opening round of the state playoffs against Region 8-AAAAAA champion Dacula High, undefeated and the top-ranked team in the Class AAAAAA.

“He’s as good as I’ve seen,” said Allatoona High defensive coordinator Xarvia Smith, meaning as good as he has seen in his 27 years of coaching. “I definitely think he has that ability.”

Gibbs committed to Tech and coach Geoff Collins in late May, before Alabama, Ohio State and Florida, among others, jumped in with offers as he stacked up 200-yard rushing games. While still considering himself committed to the Yellow Jackets, the surge of interest and offers has changed the playing field. Gibbs hadn’t anticipated it, receiving it with a mix of emotions.

“It’s, like, stressful and fun at the same time,” said Gibbs, rated a four-star prospect and the No. 293 prospect in the country and No. 29 in the state (247Sports Composite).

Gibbs has long aspired to a position like this. Beyond playing youth football, he attended Catamounts football camps and was a ball boy from the time he was in elementary school.

“We’ve watched him ever since he was a little guy,” said Catamounts coach Matt Land, who played for Dalton, walked on at Auburn and returned to Dalton, where he has coached for 27 years, the past 10 as head coach.

Gibbs has been driven, he said, by a desire to experience the world beyond Dalton and help his family. Land said that Gibbs is the type of player who, even when he tells his star to take it easy in practice, knowing the load that he will put on him on Friday nights, ends up going full speed anyway.

“He’s not the guy (who says), ‘Look at me,’” Land said. “He’s not the guy (who says), ‘Give me the ball, coach.’ He’s the guy that says, ‘Hey, coach, tell me where I help the team.’”

As it’s turned out, repeatedly giving Gibbs the ball has proved the wisest tactic for the Catamounts. He ran for more than 400 yards and eight touchdowns in a season-opening win over Ringgold High. He later held his own against stronger competition, as well, like 220 yards against No. 2 Harrison and 180 against No. 7 Allatoona.

His power and elusiveness created 24 missed tackles against Allatoona. His demeanor and running power inspired Harrison coach Matt Dickmann to compare him with a most accomplished former Hoya, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.

“He’ll make something out of nothing,” Dickmann said. “That’s the thing that great players do.”

As far as his recruitment goes, Gibbs’ mind is open. He likes Tech and running backs coach Tashard Choice in particular. The two are in communication two to three times a week. Gibbs attended Tech’s loss to Pittsburgh.

“He’s very energetic,” Gibbs said of Choice. “He’s a family man. He likes helping others, likes developing kids to be the best that they can be. He knows a lot about the game.”

But he said he does plan to take official visits to Tech, Alabama, LSU, Ohio State and Florida.

“Well, I want to go and see these other schools,” Gibbs said. “I guess if a school just blows me away …”

Land said he encourages players to consider four points in their recruitment – proximity to home, fit with the team and position coach, the team’s plan for them and the value of the degree.

“I think he applied that model to it and all four of those were good (at Tech),” Land said. “But I think as a young man, he probably has now kind of got to this point and said, ‘You know what? Still love Tech, I just need to really, really be sure.’”

For Collins and his staff, Gibbs represents something of a one-person test case of their recruiting chops. Collins was hired in no small part because of his reputation as a recruiter and intent to go head-to-head with the likes of Alabama, Georgia and Clemson. In his first full recruiting cycle, Collins has a chance to show what he and his staff can do.

“That’s a tough challenge for them, no doubt about that, going against the big boy Alabama,” said Smith, the defensive coordinator at Allatoona and a Tech fan. “If (Collins) can get this one, I think that will go a long way for him in his recruiting.”

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