ATLANTA -- For the Georgia Tech fans who are pining for days of improved defense, help may be on the way in this year’s recruiting class.
Of the team’s 15 commitments, nine are exclusively listed as defensive players -- four defensive linemen, four defensive backs and one linebacker. Perhaps these are the players who defensive coordinator Al Groh needs to get the 3-4 defense running at peak proficiency.
“Things look great for a stellar 2012 class,” athletics director Dan Radakovich said.
It is believed that Georgia Tech will sign as many as 20 players.
The Georgia Tech defense showed signs of improvement in Groh’s second year and will need to replace four starters: end Jason Peters, tackle Logan Walls, playmaking outside linebacker Steven Sylvester and safety Rashaad Reid.
The most significant defensive commitment is end Francis Kallon of Central Gwinnett, who never played football until he moved from England to Lawrenceville a year ago. Georgia Tech was the first to offer the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Kallon a scholarship, making its decision before he had played his first game. Kallon has long arms and is very quick off the ball; he makes up for his lack of experience with a great attitude and willingness to work hard. Kallon has rebuffed his many other suitors and claims he’s completely committed to Georgia Tech.
The other defensive line commits are Roderick Chungong of Olney, Mary., a 6-3, 250-pound end; Pat Gamble, a 6-5, 275-pound tackle from Central Carrollton; and Junior Gnonkonde, a 6-5, 225-pound end from Lanier County. Chungong picked Georgia Tech ahead of Michigan State, Virginia and Pitt. Gamble rebuffed offers from Boston College, Virginia, Stanford and Southern Miss.
Other defensive commits include defensive back Anthony Autry (6-2, 180) of Norcross; defensive back Antonio Crawford (5-11, 180) of Tampa, Fla.; defensive back Lynn Griffin (6-0, 205) of Jacksonville, Fla.; linebacker Tyler Stargel (6-3, 250) of Gulf Shores, Ala.; and defensive back D.J. White (5-10, 180) of Union Grove in McDonough.
The offensive line currently looks OK now that All-ACC guard Omoregie Uzzi has decided to bypass the NFL and return for his senior season. This crew of commitments could be afforded a season to redshirt while learning the triple-option offense. The commits on the offensive line include guard Freddie Burden (6-3, 290) from Statesboro; Will Adams (6-5, 280) from Sandy Creek in Tyrone; and Chase Roberts (6-3, 265) from Greater Atlanta Christian in Norcross.
Georgia Tech also has verbal commitments from four players labeled as “athletes,” who are typically quarterbacks who may or may not stay at that position once they reach college. Most likely to remain under center is Justin Thomas, a 5-11, 175-pounder from Prattville, Ala., who switched his commitment from Alabama to Georgia Tech. Rivals.com ranked Thomas as the No. 19 all-purpose athlete in the country.
Thomas took most of his snaps out of the shotgun, but plays with a Joe Hamilton-type flair. He has a good arm and throws the ball accurately, but he handles the ball effectively, shows the ability to escape and has big-play potential with his legs. Head coach Paul Johnson personally handled his recruitment.
Other athletes who have committed are Marcus Allen (6-2, 210) of Hilliard, Fla.; Micheal Summers (6-1, 190) of Statesboro; and Dennis Andrews (5-11, 190) of Tallahassee, Fla., who already has enrolled in school.
Georgia Tech has not yet received a verbal commitment from any running backs. That has been a position of depth for the team, but the Yellow Jackets graduated A-Backs Roddy Jones and Embry Peeples and B-Back Preston Lyons.