Transfer Whitehead could make quick impact

Kenderius Whitehead is not taking the typical route to Georgia Tech. That matters little to coach Paul Johnson.

“I think he’s a really good football player,” Johnson said Wednesday after receiving Whitehead’s letter of intent on national signing day.

Whitehead, a defensive end from Lithonia, will transfer from Georgia Military College, the rare Tech signee to join the Yellow Jackets after playing at a junior college. The last player to do so was punter Durant Brooks, who also came from GMC in 2005 and won the Ray Guy Award in 2007 as the nation’s top punter.

“He’s got a great motor when he’s out there on the field,” GMC coach Bert Williams said of Whitehead. “He runs exceptionally well and plays hard. He’s good about playing snap to whistle all the time out there.”

It sounds similar to praise often given to Jeremiah Attaochu, Tech’s All-American and all-time sack leader. It is fitting — Whitehead was signed as a possible replacement for Attaochu at the rush-end position in defensive coordinator Ted Roof’s scheme.

Said Williams, “He’s a true edge-threat type of guy.”

Whitehead will be ahead of his fellow signees by having two years of college experience and thus likely more able to make an immediate impact. Whitehead, whom Tech lists as 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, easily could add 20 pounds without losing speed, Williams said.

“Our goal is to try to put some additional mass on him before he gets to Tech,” Williams said.

Johnson made a point to explain that Whitehead is “really not a JUCO guy.” Whitehead was an NCAA qualifier coming out of M.L. King High and redshirted his freshman season at N.C. State before transferring to GMC. In fact, Tech recruited him out of high school. He is spending the 2013-14 academic year at GMC, is on track to earn an associates degree in business management and then can enroll at Tech. With his degree, he’ll be eligible to play this fall and have three remaining years of eligibility.

Whitehead chose Tech over West Virginia. He said he selected Tech because of the relationships developed with the coaching staff, “and I’ve seen the opportunity to come in and play right away and it’s close to home. My family will be able to come and see me.”

While Whitehead is a rarity in coming to Tech from a two-year college, it isn’t necessarily for a lack of looking on Tech’s part. Wednesday, Johnson said Tech coaches “looked at a couple (junior-college) guys” in this year’s class. One was an offensive lineman from California who signed with Oregon (the only player fitting that description was Haniteli Lousi, rated by recruiting website 247 Sports as the top junior-college guard in the country).

Said Williams, “They always call and ask and say, ‘Hey, is there somebody good enough to play in the ACC but also has the mental ability to do well in our school?’”

The obstacle, Johnson said, is that “it’s almost impossible for us to take junior-college kids.”

Tech’s degree requirements are such that several courses on a potential transfer’s transcript often can’t be accepted. As a result, they have trouble being credited with enough credit hours to be eligible to compete. Johnson gave the example of former Tech B-back Anthony Allen, who transferred from Louisville before the 2008 season, Johnson’s first. Allen had to take a couple of math classes at a junior college before enrolling at Tech to meet the standards.

Given those challenges, it’s doubtful that Whitehead will pave a path. Still, Williams said he may have a few players that Tech might be interested in next year.

Said Williams, “It just has to be the right fit.”