ATLANTA — There may be more versatility in this year’s football recruiting class at Georgia Tech than in previous years.
The flexibility in the signing class will allow coaches to move defensive backs to linebacker or vice versa. There are running backs who can play A-back or B-back. There are defensive linemen who can play inside or on the end.
It essentially allows the Yellow Jackets to slide guys around on the field according to their skills and abilities.
“I’m excited about the athleticism of the class,” head coach Paul Johnson said. “We got guys who can run and do a lot of things. I’m excited to see where they’ll end up playing. We’ll know in three years how good they are.”
The Yellow Jackets signed 24 players, the largest group since Johnson arrived on The Flats. Part of the size can be attributed to the decision by several players to leave the program or transfer, as well as the need to look long term and ensure there are no gaps.
“We addressed some needs,” Johnson said. “We’re excited about the length and speed we signed, especially on defense. Overall it’s a really good class and addressed a lot of our needs.”
Most of the class is from Georgia, but the recruiting staff also reached into Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana and extended its grasp all the way to California and Hawaii to fill the ranks.
Georgia Tech signed 13 defensive players — three linemen, three linebackers, four defensive backs and four “athletes” who will like end up at linebacker or in the secondary. They signed four offensive linemen, two running backs, one wide receiver, one quarterback and two specialists.
Assistant coach Andy McCollum said this year’s signees appear to be ready to work.
“We’ve got guys who love to play football,” McCollum said. “A lot of guys love to be recruited, but we signed guys who love to play football.”
Perhaps the biggest plum came from New Orleans, where the two sons of former Georgia Tech great Pat Swilling both signed. Bruce Jordan-Swilling, an outside linebacker, and Tre Swilling, a cornerback, both opted to follow in their father’s footsteps.
“That says a lot about Pat’s experience here at Georgia Tech,” Johnson said. “He talked about what the academics meant to him and how it helped him get to where he is now. He and (wife) Robin wanted their two boys to experience that.”
The Yellow Jackets reaped a harvest of three exceptional recruits from Tennessee — outside linebacker Kaleb Oliver, cornerback Gentry Bonds and running back Jordan Ponchez-Mason. Each could become an impact player.
Oliver is a four-star recruit who played at Murfreesboro Oakland. He had originally committed to Michigan State, but decided to go elsewhere because of changes on that coaching staff. Oliver (6-4, 198) selected Georgia Tech over Ole Miss.
Bonds played at Murfreesboro Riverdale — perhaps Oakland’s biggest rival — but has a friendly relationship with Oliver.
Ponchez-Mason comes from a program known for producing backs. Ponchez-Mason is an old-school runner who lined up in an I formation and ran over, around and past defenders. He is expected to play B-back.
The other running back signee is Jerry Howard of Rock Hill, S.C., who rushed for more than 3,300 yards.
Johnson said the most under-recruited player in the class may be Adonicas Sanders of Charleston, S.C., the only receiver signed on Wednesday. Sanders comes from a program that has put four wide receivers in the NFL.
“I’ve watched him on tape and talked to every high school coach over there and they all think he’s a really great player,” said Johnson, who went to watch Sanders play basketball last week. “I’m excited. He has a chance to come in and play.”
2017 Georgia Tech signing class
(With name, position, height, weight, hometown/high school)
Cortez Alston, DL, 6-3, 247, Atlanta/Westminster
Jaytlin Askew, DB, 5-11, 187, Douglasville/McEachern
Gentry Bonds, DB, 6-2, 192, Murfreesboro, Tenn./Riverdale
Tariq Carpenter, ATH, 6-2, 188, Ludowici/Long County
Charlie Clark, OL, 6-4, 286, Atlanta/Marist
Kelton Dawson, DL, 6-3, 242, Stockbridge/Stockbridge
Connor Hansen, OL, 6-2, 325, Tallahassee, Fla./Chiles
Pressley Harvin III, P, 6-0, 240, Alcolu, S.C./Sumter
Jaquan Henderson, LB, 6-1, 197, Covington/Newton
Jerry Howard, BB, 6-0, 215, Rock Hill, S.C./Northwestern
Bruce Jordan-Swilling, LB, 6-1, 209, New Orleans/Brother Martin
Brenton King, PK, 6-0, 167, Auburn/Mill Creek
Mikey Minihan, OL, 6-3, 275, Honolulu, Hawaii/Saint Louis
Kaleb Oliver, ATH, 6-4, 198, Murfreesboro, Tenn./Oakland
Tobias Oliver, QB, 6-2, 175, Warner Robins/Northside
Antwan Owens, DL, 6-4, 270, Tallahassee, Fla./Godby
Jordan Ponchez-Mason, AB/BB, 6-1, 205, Gallatin, Tenn./Gallatin
Zach Quinney, OL, 6-6, 265, Savannah/Savannah Christian Prep
T.D. Roof, LB, 5-11, 205, Buford/Buford
Adonicas Sanders, WR, 6-1, 185, North Charleston, S.C./Fort Dorchester
Avery Showell, ATH, 6-1, 192, Cartersville/Cartersville
Tre Swilling, DB, 6-0, 185, New Orleans/Brother Martin
Boe Tufele, OL, 6-3, 290, Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne
Dameon Williams, DB, 5-10, 175, Norcross/Norcross