I’m still amazed that every time a high school player announces an oral pledge to play football for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, the first thing that everyone starts bellyaching about is how “nobody else was recruiting him so he must not be that good.” Or; “he doesn’t have any or enough stars.” That is becoming such nonsense it’s reached the level of idiocy.
First off I want to dispel that myth once and for all as the facts are based on performance on the gridiron; Coach Paul Johnson can recruit and find talented high school football players well before the stars groupies begin their after-the-fact coronation. I have two very recent examples that should put this nonsense to rest, however, I’m quite certain that it won’t. But that’s okay. I find all of this recruiting hysteria an endless array of comical amusement from reading all of the doomsday comments it creates.
Remember back in October of 2010, Coach Paul Johnson received an oral commitment from a player at Wayne County High School in Jesup, Georgia named Tre Jackson. He was a 6-foot-4, 300-pound lineman that nobody else was recruiting. He had no other offers of note, if any at all, and my recollection was he wasn’t even rated; translation no stars. All I remember reading on the net was Georgia Tech can’t recruit under this staff and Paul Johnson won’t get a pledge from any of the “big time” stars recruits.
Tre Jackson was just another unranked and unrated high school player that nobody from the SEC even had on their radar, let alone was even looking at as a potential recruit. Starting to sound familiar? Well here is the reality of Mr. Jackson. A few weeks before national signing day all of a sudden the college football world woke up out of their slumber and apparently figured out that Tre Jackson was a darn good football player. So good in fact that the Florida State Seminoles flew him down for a last minute official recruiting trip on January 28, 2011 just a few days before national signing day. Yet they still had not extended him an official offer as they were still recruiting all of those must-have five stars; future hall of fame players.
Coach Johnson was not able to make contact with Mr. Jackson for several weeks prior to all of this and true to his word, told Tre that if he made the trip then he wasn’t committed and his scholarship would be given to someone else. After all it had been four (4) months since he said he was going to attend Georgia Tech. So now he was prepared to throw all of that away on a slim chance the Seminoles might offer him on his official visit. He rolled the dice and got lucky. Excuse me; The Seminoles got Lucky!
He signed to attend FSU and became a fixture on the offensive line at guard ever since he walked onto their campus surging ahead of several higher ranked recruits who are currently sitting on the bench behind Mr. Jackson. Just for the record, UGA and Miami were also trying to recruit him that last week as well.
Imagine that! But it gets better; Phil Steele has him on his All ACC pre-season team as the first team guard. I bet you that nobody remembers Coach Paul Johnson and his staff were the first college team to find this player as he was buried so deep in the potential high school mosh pit of recruits that the wasn’t even rated! So now the Seminoles Head Coach Jimbo Fisher is anointed as a recruiting genius. Apparently the old adage; all’s fair in love and war certainly extends to recruiting committed players. So instead of Tre Jackson being on the All ACC first team offense for the Yellow Jackets, he’s there as a Seminole.
Next up is the player who received Tre Jackson’s scholarship in that 2011 recruiting class, or for a mere three (3) days anyway; Trey Flowers. He was a 6-foot-3, 245-pound DE who looked on tape a lot like the kid everyone wanted that eventually committed to the Ole Ball Coach at South Carolina: Jadeveon Clowney. Trey played football at Columbia High School in Hunstville, Alabama and apparently neither Saban or Chizik wanted the kid as he wasn’t rated or possibly was upgraded to two (2) star status after agreeing to attend Georgia Tech.
So a few days after committing to the Yellow Jackets, Coach Bobby Petrino from Arkansas came calling and unlike Jimbo Fisher, actually offered a Trey Flowers a scholarship. Apparently both Petrino and Fisher recognize that Coach Paul Johnson can find talent without utilizing those stars based recruiting services so they watch and see who he is offering as they figure they can swoop in at the last minute and steal these kids, or at least give it a try.
Now here is what Trey Flowers has accomplished since he set foot on the Razorback campus; he was selected to the SEC All Freshman team as a defensive end his first year (no redshirting). Not a bad beginning for a player whose lone scholarship offer was the South Alabama Jaguars as his only option coming out of high school before the Yellow Jackets told him they wanted him to come play football for Georgia Tech. Ironically, it was courtesy of Tre Jackson deciding at the last minute to become a Seminole.
Maybe Trey should thank Tre since we will never know if Bobby Petrino was ever going to make him an offer but for Coach Paul Johnson stepping up and offering a scholarship to a high school player that he knew could play BCS football. Trey followed up that freshman season by becoming a full time starter at DE over several more highly recruited stars players and had a sophomore season with 50 tackles including 13 tackles for loss; six sacks; and was the SEC defensive player of the week against Auburn. I doubt Coach Petrino ever wrote a thank you note to Coach Paul Johnson, but he should have considering this kid wasn’t even on their radar screen at all until those pesky Yellow Jackets stepped up to the plate.
So keep these examples in mind the next time another player with no rating and zero stars commits to Coach Paul Johnson to play football for Georgia Tech on the Flats. Offers don’t make you a player any more than the number of stars bestowed on you by the recruiting services. These two (2) Big Time Recruits dispel that myth.
As far as the comments that Paul Johnson can’t close the deal on these kids, it all comes down to what a seventeen (17) year old kid wants to do and where he wants to go to school. All Coach Johnson and his staff can do is sell the benefits of obtaining a degree from Georgia Tech. “It is what it is!”
BTW, didn’t another school from the SEC this past 2013 recruiting class grab a Yellow Jackets recruit the weekend before national signing day that had zero stars and no major offers coming out of high school? I’m pretty certain it was the one that has a four legged mascot with an Under bite. It appears that lots of BCS coaches make offers to players Paul Johnson finds out there in the non-rated zero stars world of high school football. The real question is; which recruit will these BCS coaches go after next in the Yellow Jackets 2014 recruiting class? Stay tuned.