Through six games, the Georgia Tech freshmen who have burned their redshirts are an interesting mix, and probably not all the ones who might have been predicted to play right away at the time they signed their letters of intent.
Among them are a walk-on tight end, a Belgian defensive end and a converted quarterback. There are six total who have played more than four games, passing the threshold for the number of games that a player can participate in and still preserve his redshirt. Defensive end Chico Bennett, slot receiver Ahmarean Brown, tight ends Dylan Deveney and Dylan Leonard and linebacker Demetrius Knight have played in all six games, with each playing significant roles on offense or defense and also on special teams.
Defensive end Sylvain Yondjouen, from Ruisbroek, Belgium, has played in five games as part of the rotation at end and is improving in pass rush.
Brown has made the biggest impact, using his speed and quickness to make nine catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns. His yardage and touchdown reception total lead the team. He has started all six games, the only freshman to start thus far.
Two more seem likely to go past four games. Running back Jamious Griffin, who was the highest-rated prospect in the class, has seen his role grow in recent weeks, and is now at four games. Wide receiver Kalani Norris has played in three games, mostly as a slot receiver behind Brown. He has been on the “Above the Line” chart each of the past two weeks, an indication of his progress toward being ready to contribute.
Out of the eight, five were players recruited to Tech following the hire of coach Geoff Collins – Brown, Deveney, Griffin, Leonard and Yondjouen. Bennett, Knight and Norris committed to play for Tech before former coach Paul Johnson’s decision to step down at the end of the 2018 season.
By order of recruiting ranking in the Tech class (247Sports Composite), they were first (Griffin), third (Norris), fourth (Brown), seventh (Yondjouen), 12th (Bennett), 16th (Deveney) and 18th (Knight) out of 22 signees. Leonard, a walk-on from Milton High, did not have a recruiting ranking, but has received steady playing time in a rotation at tight end with Tyler Davis and Deveney.
Leonard would stand as the most unlikely freshman to burn his redshirt and another example of a walk-on earning playing time. Another unexpected case would be Knight, who signed with Tech as a quarterback out of Strong Rock Christian School in Henry County.
Knight was moved to linebacker, where he wowed coaches in the preseason with his athletic ability and effort. He has settled into a backup role at linebacker, and played about 40 snaps against Duke because David Curry was disqualified for targeting.
After those eight, four have played two games or fewer and seem likely not to exceed four in order to preserve their redshirts, barring injuries. Cornerbacks Kenan Johnson and Jordan Huff have played two games and defensive back Wesley Walker and quarterback Jordan Yates have each played one.
Yates became the latest to play, getting in for one snap in the loss to Duke on Saturday when starting quarterback James Graham was knocked out for one play. Though only for one play, Yates was sent in for the play, a two-point conversion try, as he was the “next man up,” Collins said.
Nine scholarship freshmen have yet to play their first games. It won’t be a surprise if some in that group see playing time in the final six games as they continue to develop. Running back Devin Ellison, defensive tackle Mike Lockhart and wide receiver Zach Owens look like potential candidates to move onto the Above the Line chart in coming weeks.
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.