Far more than his two immediate predecessors, Johnson has made recruiting in-state a heavy priority. In George O’Leary’s fifth season at Tech – the year in which every player on the roster has been selected by the head coach – there were 51 players from Georgia on the roster. In Chan Gailey’s fifth season, there were 46. Johnson’s 2012 team, his fifth, had 80 Georgians.
“We want to try to do our very best to recruit the state of Georgia as hard as we can,” Johnson said. “I would say overall on average we want to continue to do that, but we also want to broaden out a little bit.”
The plan dovetails with a strategy that new athletic Mike Bobinski vowed to employ on the day of his hire – “to find those competitive advantages that we might have here at Georgia Tech.”
In this instance, Johnson is counting on Tech’s academic reputation – 36th in U.S. News and World Report’s college rankings, 14th among BCS conference schools and Notre Dame – to hold sway with private-school football players and their families. Further, it is a pool likely to be more academically prepared for the rigors of the Tech curriculum.
Said Johnson, Tech “has got a great reputation academically, and it seems to carry that reputation the farther away you get.”
Tech has already worked this angle in the seven-school Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. Outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu (Archbishop Carroll), cornerback Louis Young and defensive lineman Roderick Chungong (Good Counsel) and signees Kevin Robbins and Darius Commissiong (Bishop McNamara) played in the WCAC.
“Our kids are a little different,” said Gonzaga College High School coach Aaron Brady, who had a signee with Notre Dame as well as Princeton and Cornell, among others. “They’re interested in the academic side, too.”
Brady further noted that, since many Washington-area families are transient, “the kids aren’t afraid to leave.”
Former defensive coordinator Al Groh deserves significant credit for opening up the pipeline, which he tapped often during his nine years at Virginia and then at Tech. Milloy raved about him.
“He was really good,” he said. “He was persistent, but not a pain. … He was an excellent recruiter.”
Secondary coach Joe Speed has replaced Groh in Washington; he helped close the deal on Commissiong and Robbins after Groh’s dismissal. Speed also has recruited New Jersey, from where he signed another Catholic school product, wide receiver Ricky Jeune. Tech can also send special-teams coordinator David Walkosky, who has about 20 years of experience recruiting Ohio, into that state. He landed signee Donovan Wilson from Dublin, Ohio, Tech’s first from that state since the 2008 class.
With Tech planning on a class of about 20 players in 2014 after its 14-player class this year, Tech will have opportunity to employ its new harvesting technique.
Milloy and Brady will be waiting.