Taking a look at who can fill Georgia Tech’s biggest lineup holes

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Signing day at Georgia Tech did not yield announcements of any new Yellow Jackets, which was an expected result after coach Brent Key and his staff had already brought in (and announced) 19 high school signees and 11 transfers in December and January. With an 85-scholarship maximum, it’s a major turnover of the roster.

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For the Jackets’ aspirations in Key’s first season as full-time coach, the transfer class could make a significant impact, as the transplanted players have arrived to fill holes in the lineup. Barring unforeseen circumstances, they’ll be at the practice field when Key convenes his first spring practice starting in mid-March.

The two groups that have the biggest spots to fill are probably linebacker and wide receiver. Last season, linebackers Ayinde Eley and Charlie Thomas played almost 85% of all defensive snaps played by Jackets linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus. They were credited with a combined 130 tackles, including 20 for loss. The leading returning tackler at linebacker is Trenilyas Tatum with 31. With Eley and Thomas, both named All-ACC, went scores of experience and playmaking ability.

Tatum, who played all 12 games and started four, will have an opportunity to establish himself as a fixture on the defense. Teammates often have lauded his potential in his first two seasons. But two grad-transfer linebackers – Andre White (Texas A&M) and Braelen Oliver (Minnesota) – both will bring four seasons of playing experience to the group.

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White was a full-time starter for the Aggies in 2021 but was limited by injury in 2022. In 2021, when he played in nine games and started nine, White was in on 57 tackles, seventh on the team. Oliver played 40 games in four seasons at Minnesota, amassing 79 tackles, including a career-high 33 in the 2022 season. From Douglas County High, he started seven games in 2021.

Neither appears to have been exceptional at their former schools, but earning a consistent spot in the lineup indicates a level of playmaking ability. At Tech, they’ll have an opportunity to play in a scheme that has enabled linebackers to stand out and will play for linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer, who has coached linebackers at Georgia, Tennessee and in the NFL.

At wide receiver, the Jackets will have to make up for the losses of Nate McCollum (transferred to North Carolina) and Malachi Carter and E.J. Jenkins, both of whom have completed their eligibility and are pursuing the NFL. The three combined for 100 of the 134 receptions that Jackets wide receivers made, led by McCollum’s 60 receptions, which were good for 655 yards and three touchdowns.

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The returning receiver with the most receptions last season is Leo Blackburn with five. Three wide receivers have come through the portal, Abdul Janneh (Duquesne), Chase Lane (Texas A&M) and Christian Leary (Alabama). Lane is the most experienced of the three, having played in 27 games over three seasons and started 20. As a redshirt freshman in 2020, he caught 29 passes for 409 yards and two touchdowns, but then caught a total of 19 passes for 208 yards and no scores in the two past seasons. It’s not ultra-productive, but a 29-catch season doesn’t happen without some knack for route running and trustworthy hands. His time at Texas A&M would suggest he has both, along with a bit of speed.

Leary’s opportunities at Alabama were limited; he caught three passes in two seasons while playing in 18 games. His recruiting profile suggests untapped potential. In the 2021 recruiting class, Leary was the No. 75 prospect in the country and the No. 10 wide receiver (247Sports Composite). At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, he is destined for the slot. Having run the 100-meter dash in high school in 10.5 seconds, he may be the fastest player on the roster.

Janneh made waves at FCS Duquesne in his third season, catching 43 passes for 579 yards and nine touchdowns. While mostly against FCS competition, he had three receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown against Florida State. His YouTube highlight reel shows crisp route running, an ability to make catches against tight coverage and a willingness to block. He’ll have to adjust to a different level of competition, but the ability is there. On his 22-yard touchdown catch against the Seminoles, he broke free from one-on-one coverage from Seminoles defensive back Azareyeh Thomas, younger brother of former Tech safety Juanyeh Thomas.

GEORGIA TECH SIGNEES (30)

Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Hometown

Nacari Ashley, LB, 6-3, 205, Marietta

Elias Cloy, OL, 6-3, 280, Alpharetta

Jacob Cruz, LB, 6-3, 215, Kennesaw

Evan Dickens, RB, 5-11, 180, Roswell

Bryston Dixon, DL, 6-3, 330, Leroy, Ala.

Bryce Dopson, WR, 6-2, 180, Snellville

Nico Dowdell, DB, 6-0, 175, Loganville

Gabe Fortson, OL, 6-3, 285, Kennesaw

Benjamin Galloway, OL, 6-3, 300, Powder Springs

Ashton Heflin, LB, 6-0, 220, Newnan

Shymeik Jones, DL, 6-5, 265, Camden, S.C.

Steven Jones, DB, 6-1, 195, Gadsden, Ala.

Ethan Mackenny, OL, 6-4, 280, Marietta

Ezra Odinjor, DL, 6-3, 220, Kennesaw

Malcolm Pugh, DL, 6-4, 215, Leroy, Ala.

Patrick Screws, OL, 6-5, 300, Eufala, Ala.

Taye Seymore, DB, 5-11, 200, Atlanta

Eric Singleton, WR, 5-11, 170, Douglasville

Zion Taylor, WR, 5-11, 195, Norcross

Transfers

Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Hometown (School)

Jordan Brown, OL, 6-5, 320, Long Beach, Calif. (Charlotte)

Trey Cooley, RB, 5-10, 200, Raleigh, N.C. (Louisville)

Abdul Janneh, WR, 6-3, 180, Hanover, Pa. (Duquesne)

Haynes King, QB, 6-3, 205, Longview (Texas A&M)

Chase Lane, WR, 6-0, 185, Houston (Texas A&M)

Christian Leary, WR, 5-10, 175, Orlando, Fla. (Alabama)

Jackson Long, TE, 6-3, 230, Hendersonville, Tenn. (South Florida)

Braelen Oliver, LB, 6-0, 230, Douglasville (Minnesota)

Etinosa Reuben, DL, 6-3, 295, Kansas City, Mo. (Clemson)

Brett Seither, TE, 6-5, 228, Clearwater, Fla. (Georgia)

Andre White, LB, 6-3, 235, Harrisburg, Pa. (Texas A&M)