Marquez Ezzard caught two passes in three games this past season for Miami. (Miami Athletics) ©JC Ridley/Miami Hurricanes
Photo: ©JC Ridley/Miami Hurricanes
Photo: ©JC Ridley/Miami Hurricanes

Marquez Ezzard’s high-school coach: Transfer a ‘win-win’

Kevin Whitley coached Marquez Ezzard for four seasons at Stockbridge High, where he was a starter from the time he was a freshman. Whitley has a strong sense of what the Yellow Jackets will be getting in the transfer wide receiver from Miami.

“He’s definitely in the top two or three offensive players I’ve ever had,” Whitley told the AJC. “When the ball’s in his hands, he’s special. Like I said, he’s tough, he’s fearless.”

Whitley’s valuation carries some weight. In 10 years at Stockbridge, Whitley’s record was 99-28 with five region titles. He wasn’t coaching lightweights.

“Extremely hard worker on the field, and very personable,” Whitley said. “Everybody liked him in the building.”

At Stockbridge, Ezzard was a four-star prospect and the No. 39 player in the state of Georgia in the 2018 class (247Sports Composite). He chose Miami over Alabama, Florida State, Mississippi and Oregon, among others.

To the extent that recruiting rankings matter, he’s a meaningful addition. When he gets on the field, he’ll be the first four-star wide receiver to play for Tech since the Chan Gailey era. Stars aside, as Tech shifts to a pro-style scheme, he looks like he’ll provide the Yellow Jackets with a playmaking threat on the perimeter.

On signing day, coach Geoff Collins raved about Ezzard, 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, saying he is hungry to be an elite player.

“A dynamic player, electric receiver, a playmaker, high-character guy,” Collins said.

Under the ACC’s rules regarding intra-conference transfers, Ezzard would have to sit out a season, losing a season of eligibility. In his case, as he enrolled in 2018 at Miami and redshirted, that would mean he would have three seasons of eligibility starting in 2020.

However, it’s conceivable that Ezzard could play this season with a hardship waiver and have all four seasons to play. On signing day, Collins obliquely acknowledged the possibility, saying his family will “go through the process, whatever they need to do to get whatever done.”

Whitley was a little more direct. While he said that he wasn’t familiar with the NCAA rules on the hardship-waiver process, Whitley said that he knew that Ezzard wanted to get closer to home and that “I think he’s pretty confident that he’ll get (a waiver).” 

Whitley said that it was a challenge for Ezzard’s father Mardy, a barber, to give up time at work to make the drive to see him play at Miami.

“I’m sure it’s less of a hardship on his family and particularly his dad that he’s home,” Whitley said.

This past season, Ezzard played in three games as a freshman, and Whitley said that he was frustrated by the lack of playing time. Whitley said he encouraged him to keep working hard, but when Miami went through a coaching change, with coach Mark Richt stepping down and new coach Manny Diaz replacing the entire offensive staff, Whitley decided to leave.

“I think that he would probably still be there if coach Richt was still there,” Whitley said.

Coming back to play at Tech held a lot of appeal. He has a chance to play early on a team where everyone will be starting over with Collins and his staff. And he’s coming home. He is expected to enroll at Tech for the summer term.

“I just see it as a win-win for him,” said Whitley, who will soon start a new job coaching at New Manchester High in Douglas County. “I think Georgia Tech is a very good program and a program that’s going in another direction. He’ll have an opportunity to play, and I think coach Collins is a very good coach.”

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