Recruiting notes: More on Georgia Tech’s early enrollees

Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson is the latest coach to take advantage of a new NCAA rule permitting coaches to publicly comment on some football recruits.

Georgia Tech confirmed that four prospects have signed financial-aid agreements, paving the way for them to enroll in January at the ACC school.

After an interview request from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnson commented on the foursome.

  • •Keshun Freeman, a 3-star defensive end from Callaway High School: "He is going to enroll here in January," Johnson said. "He's going to have spring ball and we're excited. He was heavily recruited and had a bunch of offers. We're hopeful that he can come in and fill a void rushing the passer off the edge at defensive end."
  • Tre Jackson, a 3-star linebacker from Lowndes High School: "I just think Tre is a good football player," Johnson said. "I think he was the defensive player of the year down in that region, where there are a lot of good players. I know he loves to play the game. He's real physical. And he has been committed for a pretty good while now."
  • Matthew Jordan, a 3-star quarterback from Jackson, Ala.: "He's had a great career there in high school and he's accomplished a lot," Johnson said. "He's a guy who has made a lot of plays. He can do everything we want to do with the offense. He can run and he can throw. We're only going to take one quarterback in this class and he's it."
  • Step Durham, a 3-star defensive back from Jacksonville, Fla.: "He's another guy that was real highly recruited," Johnson said. "He's a cover corner. He's a guy that's going to come and hopefully have the chance to compete early. Spring practice ought to help him a bunch because it puts him ahead of the curve."

If it works out, all four Georgia Tech commits would form the largest group of early enrollees since Johnson was hired in 2007.

“It’s hard for kids to get in here early,” Johnson said. “I think a lot of it depends on the kids and they all wanted to come early. They were committed long enough in advance where we could help them with what classes they had to take. We could tell them the stuff they had to do to get in early.”

A couple of months ago, the NCAA stated that a recruit or prospective student-athlete (PSA) who was on track to graduate early could sign a financial-aid agreement beginning of Aug. 1 of his senior year of high school. But the participating college had to establish that the PSA was academically qualified to be a mid-year enrollee.

The financial-aid agreement is not the same as a national letter of intent, which binds a recruit to a college after signing it on Feb. 5. However, the financial-aid agreement does bind a college into providing a scholarship for a recruit, who can sign agreements with multiple colleges, although that is rare.

Why do colleges want prospects to sign financial-aid agreements? The big advantage is that it lifts most recruiting restrictions for colleges, allowing for coaches to have “unlimited contact” with recruits and to publicly comment on them.

In November, LSU coach Les Miles was the first coach to take advantage of the rule to comment a recruit who had signed a financial-aid agreement with the Tigers. Last month, Georgia coach Mark Richt was believed to be the first to comment publicly on a recruit who had not committed to his team.

Wide receiver Josh Malone of Gallatin, Tenn., signed a financial-aid agreement with Georgia and three other colleges. After Richt commented on Malone, coaches from the other three predictably did the same. Malone ended up committing to Tennessee but could change his mind before enrolling or signing a national letter of intent.

All four recruits who signed financial-aid agreements with Georgia Tech are committed to the Yellow Jackets.

Latest recruit: Georgia Tech's newest recruit is CJ Leggett, the 3-star running back from North Gwinnett High School who committed to the Yellow Jackets over Pitt and UCLA last week. Leggett needed less than a week to reach a decision after getting an offer.

“I decided to move quickly because once I narrowed it down, Georgia Tech was the school that was the most serious and wanted me the most,” Leggett said. “When everybody is recruiting you, you want to go the school that’s showing you the most love and that was Georgia Tech. I really wasn’t as sure where I stood with the other schools.”

The 5-foot-9, 200-pounder blossomed into one of the state’s top running backs as a senior. After being hampered by a turf-toe injury during the regular season, Leggett finished with 1,743 rushing yards, including 840 in the playoffs.