In 2007, Georgia Tech hit it big in the recruiting game. They signed a class full of high school stars that Tech fans weren't used to bringing in the previous years. Scout.com rated it 15th-best in the nation despite the fact that the class was only bringing in 20 players. Every position was covered bringing balance to the class.
At the time, former Navy head coach Paul Johnson couldn't possibly have dreamed of the situation presenting itself to him in 2008 when he became head coach of Georgia Tech. Sure, Georgia Tech is dealing with some depth issues this year with few upperclassmen, but the talent of those contributing is not to be overlooked.
The Yellow Jackets are 6-1, ranked 18th in the BCS, and tied for the ACC Coastal Division lead to the surprise of many. Let's take a look at the players from the class of 2007 and their impact on Tech's season this year.
QB Josh Nesbitt
The true sophomore has missed three games with a hamstring injury but has proven to be the leader of the offense, continually making big plays in big situations. Nesbitt is grasping the new offense (once foreign to him) and making his reads on the option, getting better every week.
He's led comeback wins on the road against Boston College and Clemson already and also led a comeback to tie Virginia Tech on the road in the fourth quarter before the Jackets lost by three. He's rushing for over 73 yards per game with five rushing touchdowns and has passed for two touchdowns, averaging over 12 yards on each completion he's had.
RB (B-Back) Jonathan Dwyer
The 6'0", 228-lb. sophomore is one of the nation's most complete backs. He has power, agility, and sprinter speed. The "Diesel," as Tech fans call him, has rushed for over 100 yards in five of seven games. He's scored four rushing touchdowns (all over 20 yards) and has also caught a 79-yard touchdown this year.
Dwyer lines up at the B-back spot in Paul Johnson's flexbone spread offense, taking a hit every time he has the ball or not. He is the prototypical feature back in this offense, as stated by his coach already this year. Enjoy No. 21 as long as you can, Tech fans.
RB (A-Back) Roddy Jones
Jones starts at one of the slotback, or A-back, positions for the Yellow Jackets. The shifty back has great speed and has shown some blocking ability.
He is a redshirt freshman and has rushed for 177 yards on 31 carries with two touchdowns this year. He has caught four passes for 126 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown. Jones may also now be the starting punt returner after taking over the job in Saturday's game against Clemson after Tyler Melton went out with an injury.
WR Tyler Melton
Melton has started every game opposite sophomore star Demaryius Thomas. The true freshman (greyshirted last year) joined the team in the spring of this year and has been a solid blocker. He has five receptions for 53 yards and has returned punts and kicks for the Jackets.
OG Joseph Gilbert
Gilbert redshirted last year and has been starting at right guard most of the season. Senior A.J. Smith got the start at his position last game against Clemson. However, Gilbert was still important in the rotation.
OT Nick Claytor
Claytor was a high profile recruit who redshirted last season. He is second string at left tackle behind All-ACC tackle Andrew Gardner. He gets his share of playing time and has a few years ahead of him as a likely starter at tackle.
DE Derrick Morgan
Morgan is a shining star for the Yellow Jackets this year. The sophomore is big and fast too, at 6'4", 270.
On a defensive line that boasts three senior stars in future NFL draft picks Michael Johnson, Vance Walker, and Darryl Richard, Morgan is getting a lot of one-on-ones and making the most of it. He is fourth on the team in tackles with 29, leads the team with nine tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, and has blocked a kick.
DE Jason Peters
Tech plays its solid second string defensive line often. The redshirt freshman Peters is Morgan's backup and has contributed nicely, making five tackles—three for loss—two sacks, and a forced fumble. Expect to see the 275-lb. end starting opposite Morgan next year.
LB Kyle Jackson
The redshirt freshman won a starting job in the spring and has held on to it. He has also made the most of it. Jackson has played consistently while missing one game, and he is still second on the team with 38 tackles, one for loss. Jackson started the year on the outside but has started some games in the middle due to injuries to starter Brad Jefferson.
LB Brad Jefferson
Jefferson earned the starting middle linebacker position going into the fall. He looks to be in the mold of the great linebacking family Georgia Tech has produced over the years, along with Jackson.
Jefferson started the first game of the season and broke his wrist in the second half. "The Gladiator," as teammates call him, is now back and should be starting again soon after seeing much time against Clemson.
CB Mario Butler
Tech's former coaching staff was really excited about Butler's arrival. The speedy corner has been pretty good as a sophomore this year, getting his first real significant playing time.
He starts opposite of senior Jahi Word-Daniels and has showed some decent tackling ability and coverage. Butler has 21 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and an interception through the first seven games.
S Morgan Burnett
The defensive line is getting a lot of attention, but expect to hear Burnett's name come up more often when you hear conversations about some of the nation's top defensive backs.
Burnett is an amazing athlete who leads the team in tackles with 44, 2.5 for loss. He has forced a fumble and is tied with Eric Berry for the national lead in interceptions with five passes picked off. All-American, anyone?
P/K Scott Blair
This kid does it all: kicks field goals, punts, and handles the kickoffs. Blair walked on in 2007 and kicked off last year. He has done a decent job handling all kicking duties, as he is 6-11 overall on field goals (improving every game) and averaging over 42 yards per punt.
He has a huge leg and even showed speed in the Clemson game, tracking down a kick returner from behind to save a touchdown and get his second tackle of the game.
Other guys I expect to see step up in the future from this recruiting class are offensive tackle Clyde Yandell, defensive tackle Logan Walls, and wide receiver Willie White.
All these players have really been consistent for the Yellow Jackets this year, and young guys are stepping up as leaders for a team that is currently setting itself up for a possibly huge season.
The team as a whole is young, but so is the whole ACC, so they sure have a great shot to even win the ACC in Coach Paul Johnson's first year.
One thing Coach Johnson has said about these young men is that they don't get rattled. This certainly has been shown as Tech is 2-1 on the road against the three best teams on their schedule so far, making a comeback in each game.
All the players have bought into Johnson's system, and that should make for an exciting future on "The Flats." Hey, the present's looking pretty darn good, too.
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