Georgia Tech defensive back A.J. Gray (15) holds a sign to celebrate their 28-27 win over Georgia at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, November 26, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Paul Johnson explains the reason for the surplus of defensive backs

Georgia Tech’s signing day puts the Yellow Jackets a little heavy in the secondary. With seven signees expected to start out as defensive backs, the Tech roster has 18 scholarship players in the secondary.

A few factors entered into play. First, Tech had more room for scholarships than it expected with the transfer of eight players since the end of the regular season. Second, coach Paul Johnson said that, once position needs are met with a recruiting class, the policy is to take the best players available, and in this instance, many of those players were in the secondary. Third, three of the signees — Tariq Carpenter of Long County in South Georgia, Kaleb Oliver from Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Avery Showell of Cartersville High — project as safeties, but are athletic enough to move elsewhere.

Johnson said that Carpenter is 6-foot-2 and 188 pounds and “looks skinny,” meaning he could fill out and gain enough weight to move closer to the line. Johnson said he could also play wide receiver.

“He’s just a good football player,” Johnson said. “The Showell kid’s the same way.”

Showell, 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds, played wide receiver and linebacker for Cartersville, which won back-to-back state titles in his junior and senior years. Oliver, 6-4 and 198, was committed to Mississippi State before a coaching change. He is rated the No. 16 prospect in the state of Tennessee by 247 Sports.

“I think we’ve got a lot of guys with length that can run, that can do some things,” Johnson said. “It’ll be exciting to watch them mature and see where they actually end up playing. A lot of these guys may start out at safety but could end up being linebackers or outside linebackers or defensive ends or whatever as they grow and mature.”

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