Geoff Collins' first signing class at Georgia Tech includes two who initially committed to other schools. Collins had 15 signees on Wednesday's, Dec. 19, 2018, first day of the early signing period, less than two weeks after being named Georgia Tech's coach. (Phil Skinner photo)

By design, Georgia Tech will have an Alabama influence

When it comes to recruiting, or virtually any aspect of building a college football team, there are few better templates, if any, than Alabama and coach Nick Saban. When new Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins held a news conference Thursday, his first time addressing media since his hire Dec. 7, he made clear again that Tech’s recruiting efforts going forward will be influenced by Alabama and Saban. 

Collins himself and new general manager Patrick Suddes were formerly part of the Crimson Tide recruiting operation.

They were among the offerings from Collins on Thursday. Others included his meetings with Yellow Jackets players, potential position changes and, as ever, the uniforms.

Both Suddes, who was hired Wednesday to oversee Tech’s recruiting office, and Collins were part of Saban’s first staff at Alabama in 2007, Suddes as associate director of football operations and Collins as director of player personnel (hired away from Tech, where he held the same position).

“When we took over at Alabama in 2007, (Suddes) was one of the integral pieces of helping set up the infrastructure for the recruiting, for the operations that we did over in Tuscaloosa and was a valuable member of the staff,” Collins said. “He understands the blueprint of how we do things.”

Collins said his plan for recruiting will be based a lot on what he learned from Saban.

“We were lucky to be a part of that initial set-up that’s gone on to have a lot of success,” Collins said.

For the past three seasons, Suddes, a graduate of the Marist School, worked at Auburn as assistant athletic director for football in a capacity similar to what he’ll do at Tech.

Collins said that, as he ramps up to his first season, he will not be as involved with coaching the defense in order to give more of his time to branding, culture and recruiting. It was one significant reason why he brought his entire defensive staff at Temple – coordinator Andrew Thacker and position coaches Nathan Burton, Larry Knight and Jim Panagos – with him to Tech.

“So it’s good to have guys that know the defense inside and out,” Collins said.

Collins’ attention to the foundational matters will undoubtedly include working closely with Suddes, whose recruiting expertise “is going to be really huge going forward,” Collins said. Suddes worked at Alabama 2007-13, helping the Tide assemble talent that won three national championships during his time there.

Suddes and Collins are joined by another more recent Alabama employee. Collins closed the news conference with his announcement that the hire of Alabama offensive line coach and Tech grad Brent Key was official. At the news conference, Collins made mention of Key’s contributing to a national championship and two SEC championships with the Crimson Tide.

“I think it’s huge being able to learn from coach Saban the last couple years, be a part of that program and bring that knowledge here to Georgia Tech and a place that he loves,” Collins said.

Tech and Collins – whose own Saban connection was part of the lure for athletic director Todd Stansbury – join the masses in organizing hiring raids on Tuscaloosa. Kirby Smart (Georgia), Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M), Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee) and Will Muschamp (South Carolina) are only the most prominent members of the Saban coaching tree.

Other matters that Collins addressed:

He was in the midst of meeting with every player on the roster to learn about their background and their perspective on their time at Tech. He has been reviewing game video during his down time from the past season to try to learn the team.

He said players have inquired about position changes as both offensive and defensive schemes will change. He has encouraged what he calls “position flexibility,” as it’s one way that players can add value to their NFL candidacy.

“The big thing I told them, every young man that comes in to talk about position changes or other things they’d be interested in is just attacking the offseason (workout) program,” Collins said.

He and the staff will hit the ground running Friday, when coaches will be able to go out on the road for the next three weeks before signing day Feb. 6. Barring players leaving, Tech is at 84 scholarships for the 2019-20 academic year, one shy of the maximum.

“I don’t think there’s a set minimum number that we’re trying to target now, but the big thing is the places that we need to be position-wise are a high priority, but they’ve got to be the right things to bring in in this last bit of recruiting,” he said.

Collins said he took pride in Temple’s uniforms being recognized by a uniform website for its combinations. As for Tech’s uniforms?

“I love the white and gold, and I think it’s one of the iconic uniforms in college football and just excited to continue the great tradition that is Georgia Tech football and carry that forward,” he said.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.