Class loaded with locals

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ATLANTA --- Paul Johnson made his first big mark in the state with Georgia Tech's drought-ending win over Georgia to end his first regular season.

Another sign of change under Johnson came Wednesday, when 14 of Georgia Tech's 21 signees were in-state players. Included in that group was Jefferson County defensive end Chris Crenshaw and Washington County linebacker Brandon Watts.

It was the most in-state signees for Georgia Tech in at least 15 years, according to the school's records.

Johnson said the high percentage of in-state signees was no accident.

"My philosophy on that is the local guys and the guys in-state are going to win all ties," he said. "That doesn't mean we're not going to go somewhere else for a special guy who wants Georgia Tech or is a good player. But it makes no sense to me to fly to California to recruit a guy when there are six of them just like him in the city limits."

Johnson signed players from seven states, but the renewed emphasis on Georgia talent was obvious.

"I think the biggest thing on enabling us to get the kids in the state of Georgia compared with years past is we actually had all nine assistants have a part of the state," said recruiting coordinator Giff Smith, who also headed the recruiting efforts on former coach Chan Gailey's staff.

"I felt like we did a better job of actually covering the state and being able to pinpoint the guys earlier that kind of did what we wanted to do and fit academically with what we want to go after," Smith said.

One of Johnson's notable in-state signees Wednesday was receiver Stephen Hill of Miller Grove High in Lithonia, Ga. Hill made a verbal commitment to Georgia Tech before also considering an offer from Georgia.

Other highly ranked recruits were quarterback Jordan Luallen, defensive tackle J.C. Lanier and cornerback Rod Sweeting.


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