Versatility might be the trait that jumps out most about this year’s Georgia Tech signing class.
There are defensive backs who could end up at linebacker — and vice versa. There are linemen who could play offense or defense. There are defensive linemen who can play inside or outside. Such ability gives the Yellow Jackets more options when it comes to putting guys on the field.
“I’m excited about the athleticism of the class,” Yellow Jackets 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 took over the program. 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.
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 fathers’ 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.”
Likewise, the Yellow Jackets signed linebacker T.D. Roof, the son of defensive coordinator and former Georgia Tech standout Ted Roof.
Johnson said he had seen Roof play and told Ted that he wanted to recruit him. Roof was hesitant at first, but Johnson told him, “You’ve got nothing to do with it. I want to recruit him.”
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 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 Mississippi.
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.
One of the most interesting players to watch may be Connor Hansen, a center from Tallahassee, Florida. Hansen attended a camp at Georgia Tech and made an immediate impression with his aggressive approach.
“He came to camp and beat the fool out of everybody,” assistant coach Andy McCollum said. “Coach Johnson called him over and offered him a scholarship, and then he went back out there and beat the fool out of more people. We went to him and said, ‘Hey, you can only get one scholarship. You can’t get two.’ ”
Johnson said the most under-recruited player in the class may be Adonicas Sanders of Charleston, South Caroina, the only receiver signed 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.”
Perhaps the two signees with the best chance to play immediately are the specialists — punter Pressley Harvin III of Sumter, South Carolina and place-kicker Brenton King of Mill Creek. They could fill the roles left by graduating seniors Ryan Rodwell and Harrison Butker.
Georgia Tech signing class
Number of signees: 24
By position: Quarterback – 1; Running backs – 2; Wide receiver – 1; Offensive line – 5; Defensive line – 3; Linebackers – 5; Defensive backs – 5; Specialists – 2.
By state: Georgia -- 12; Tennessee – 3; South Carolina 3; Florida – 2; Louisiana – 2; California – 1; Hawaii 1.
Star of the class: Bruce Jordan-Swilling, New Orleans, OLB: The son of former Georgia Tech All-America and New Orleans Saints great Pat Swilling is the highlight of the signing day. A tremendous athlete with excellent speed, he is believed to have NFL-level ability.
Cortez Alston, DE, Westminster
Jaytlin Askew, CB, McEachern
Gentry Bonds, CB, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Tariq Carpenter, S, Long County
Charlie Clark, G, Marist
Kelton Dawson, DE, Stockbridge
Connor Hansen, C, Tallahassee, Florida
Pressley Harvin III, P, Sumter, South Carolina
Jaquan Henderson, OLB, Newton
Jerry Howard, RB, Rock Hill, South Carolina
Bruce Jordan-Swilling, LB, Brother Martin, New Orleans
Brenton King, PK, Mill Creek
Jordan Ponchez-Mason, RB, Gallatin, Tennessee
Mikey Minihan, OG, Honolulu
Kaleb Oliver, OLB, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Tobias Oliver, QB, Northside
Antwan Owens, DE, Tallahassee, Florida
Zach Quinney, OG, Savannah Christian
T.D. Roof, LB, Buford
Adonicas Sanders, WR, Charleston, South Carolina
Avery Showell, S, Cartersville
Tre Swilling, CB, New Orleans
Boe Tufele, OL, Harbor City, California
Dameon Williams, CB, Norcross