October 21, 2017 Atlanta - Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson instructs Georgia Tech running back Clinton Lynch (22) in the second half of an NCAA college football game at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 21, 2017. Georgia Tech beat Wake Forest 38-24. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC/AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC/AJC

With more recruiting staff, Georgia Tech to expand base

Three new assistant coaches and a re-energized recruiting plan will be the basis for an adjustment and broadening of Georgia Tech’s recruiting base.

Speaking on the first day of the regular signing period Wednesday, coach Paul Johnson said that Tech will put more attention on private schools, naming Cincinnati and Washington as possible territories. The strategy in recruiting private schools is that Tech’s academic rigor and the power of the school’s degree may be more appealing and conducive to that set of prospects and their families.

Tech has not recruited those cities much in recent years. During the tenure of former defensive coordinator Al Groh, who came to Tech from Virginia, defensive ends Jeremiah Attaochu and Roderick Rook-Chungong and cornerback Louis Young signed with Tech from Washington’s private school league. However, Tech pulled back after its yield dwindled in years following Groh’s dismissal.

However, the addition of four recruiting staff members, enabled by donations in a fundraising challenge in which an anonymous donor pledged up to $200,000 on a 50 percent match basis, figures to help Tech evaluate more prospects and earlier on in the process. By last week, Tech had well surpassed its initial goal of $200,000.

Georgia Tech fund-raising effort to add recruiting staff starting well

“So as we look to broaden out, we’re probably going to broaden out more in the private schools,” Johnson said.

It would seem a redoubling of a strategy that Johnson committed to as early as 2013. That year, Johnson said that he wanted to broaden the recruiting base and place more of a priority on private schools.

“Maybe we go to where the education is a little bigger deal to people or might be what they’re looking for,” Johnson said then.

Before the late signing period, Johnson made the rounds of metro Atlanta private schools. He did so, he said, not to recruit specific players, but “just to say ‘Hey’ to the coach and get into the school.”

Tech has three  scholarship players from metro Atlanta private schools, defensive lineman Cortez Alston (Westminster), linebacker Tyler Cooksey (Greater Atlanta Christian), and offensive lineman Charlie Clark (Marist). Including signees, Tech has 16 scholarship players on the roster who are private-school graduates.

By comparison, Duke has at least 31 scholarship players from private high schools.

Among the visits Johnson made was to Pace Academy. While a Class AAA school, the elite Buckhead private school turns out between four to six FBS or FCS signees annually, said coach Chris Slade, a former NFL linebacker. To Slade, private schools like Pace Academy should indeed be a focus.

“I think because of the academics at Georgia Tech, obviously they’ve got to eliminate a lot of players in the recruiting process,” Slade said. “Obviously, I know that Pace, I know our kids hardly ever have problems being qualified or academically ready for any institution in the country. And so, yeah, I’d like to see Tech in our school more.”

Slade seems a willing ally. Besides coaching, Slade works in the Pace Academy admissions office and knows well the challenges of winning at an academically rigorous school.

“You’ve got a lot of smart kids that can’t tackle,” he said.

Slade did say that offensive line coach Mike Sewak is a friend of his (they are both Virginia graduates) and that he is a frequent visitor to the Pace Academy campus.

“It’d be nice to see them offer more of our kids,” Slade said. “I think they’ve definitely let a couple slip through the cracks.”

Slade mentioned Realus George, who was rated the No. 2 fullback in the country (247 Sports composite) and signed with Miami.

One city where the strategy has worked is Nashville, Tenn., where inside linebackers coach Andy McCollum has used a network of connections to tap into Nashville schools, including its private academies. Defensive tackle Brandon Adams and signee Jaylon King, a defensive back, are both from private schools in the area.

Marty Euverard, coach at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, said that he won’t push a prospect to a school, but he does let McCollum know about possible recruits “just because of my great relationship with him and Georgia Tech being the academic school that it is. We’re a strong academic school here in Tennessee.”

For Georgia Tech, Andy McCollum ‘one of the top recruiters around’

Staff turnover also necessitated other changes in recruiting. Johnson said that new safeties coach Shiel Wood, formerly the defensive coordinator at Wofford College, will recruit Gwinnett County and follow I-85 up to Spartanburg, S.C., where Wofford is located.

Gwinnett previously was recruited by former defensive coordinator Ted Roof. The talent-rich county is responsible for 13 scholarship players on the roster, including signees.

New defensive line coach Jerome Riase will recruit DeKalb County, a county that has not been fruitful for Tech. Clark (Marist) is the only scholarship player on the roster from a high school in DeKalb. The last high-school player to sign with Tech from a DeKalb public school was Stephen Hill in the 2009 signing class.

New defensive coordinator Nate Woody, having come from Appalachian State, would figure to bring with him relationships with high-school coaches in North Carolina. Tech once had several players from North Carolina on the roster, but now has none.

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