Cornelius Evans and Nazir Burnett are only two players out of the 18 to 20 high-school seniors who will make up Georgia Tech’s 2019 signing class, which figures to be wrapped up Wednesday with the first day of the spring signing period.
But as Evans, a linebacker from Central Gwinnett High, and Burnett, a wide receiver from Harrisburg, Pa., were both prospects who were recruited to Tech only after the coaching change, they offer indications of where Tech coach Geoff Collins could be headed in years to come.
To wit, size, length and athletic ability on defense, speed on the perimeter on offense and, also, Pennsylvania.
While recruiting prospects who are big and/or fast isn’t some sort of secret that Collins has discovered, they are traits that Collins and his staff have emphasized and already secured. In December, Collins said that recruiting length “is a huge priority for us.”
At 6-foot-4, Evans is taller than any returning scholarship linebacker on the roster. (Chico Bennett, who signed in December, is also 6-4, and walk-on linebacker Josh Tukes is 6-6.) His highlight video shows off a prospect who uses his reach to intercept passes and reel in ballcarriers in the backfield. The only defensive player who signed with Tech in December that wasn’t recruited by former coach Paul Johnson’s staff, defensive lineman Sylvain Yondjouen from Belgium, also is on the long side at 6-4 with a wingspan of 6-11.
Tech also hopes to hear good news from another long defensive end – Michael Lockhart, a 6-5 prospect from Birmingham, Ala. Lockhart is choosing between Tech, North Carolina and Mississippi State.
As for Burnett, he can run the 40-yard dash in the 4.4-second range, according to Burnett’s coach at Bishop McDevitt High, Jeff Weachter. And that’s not even what makes him stand out to his coach.
“What separates him is he can run every route in the route tree,” Weachter said. “We run a pretty sophisticated passing game. What really separates him from other high-school receivers is his ability to get in and out of breaks. He’s very smooth.”
His highlight video features a series of plays in which he combines one move and his speed to get open deep.
Burnett will be one of two wide receivers in the class who did not commit to Tech before Collins’ hire, along with Ahmarean Brown of Tampa, Fla. Collins said of Brown that “we need some elite speed to be able to take the top off the coverage with the offense that we’re going to be implementing, so really nice to get the young man out of Tampa.”
Another prospect with an extra gear could be the jewel of Tech’s class – Rome High running back Jamious Griffin. The Gatorade state player of the year will announce his decision Wednesday morning between Tech, Auburn. Louisville and N.C. State.
Burnett also stands out in coming from Pennsylvania. Weachter said that he knew several members of Collins’ staff at Temple, and Collins himself. Temple actually gave Burnett his first scholarship offer, when he was a sophomore. Burnett reported his offer from Tech on Jan. 5. After visits from wide receivers coach Kerry Dixon and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude and his visit to Tech, Burnett announced his commitment on Jan. 22, choosing the Yellow Jackets over Cincinnati, Rutgers and UCLA. Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker, who was the area recruiter for Bishop McDevitt at Temple, and tight ends coach Chris Wiesehan, who had a relationship with Weachter, also were involved.
While Collins assembled a staff that will be aggressive in recruiting Georgia, the success with Burnett and also tight end Dylan Deveney, a December signee from New Jersey, is a likely indication that Collins isn’t done working the Northeast.
Tech has made offers to prospects in the 2020 class from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maryland. Collins has a proponent in Weachter.
“Let’s face it – Temple’s not the easiest place to recruit because of the area of Philadelphia it’s in,” Weachter said. “But they’re good football coaches. They’re very good recruiters, they’re good guys and then coach Collins just does a great job of really generating excitement for his program.”
Among Pennsylvania’s top 25 players in the 2019 class (247Sports Composite), there are players headed for Texas A&M, Wisconsin, Clemson, Stanford, North Carolina, Baylor and Tech (Burnett).
“Our guys aren’t afraid to go away,” Weachter said. “As a matter of fact, I know it was a little bit colder down there also, but last week, when we had negative-20 up here wind-chill, (Burnett) said, ‘Yeah, I’m glad I’m going down south.’”
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.