- By Ken Sugiura
When Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson was determining raises for his assistants for the 2017 season, he apportioned an extra $10,000 for A-backs coach and special-teams coordinator Lamar Owens. The reason, Johnson said, was because of his recruiting efforts.
By one measurement (other than Johnson’s), the extra money is well-earned. Of the 2016 and 2017 Yellow Jackets, Owens was responsible for recruiting the most players who started at least six games in either of the seasons and were recruited to Tech on scholarship, a pool of 40 players. Of the 40, Owens led the recruitment on nine of the players, nearly a quarter. They included center Freddie Burden, kicker Harrison Butker and A-back J.J. Green.
The cycle begins again for Tech and its coaches of turning signees into productive players for the Jackets. The spring signing period begins Wednesday, and Tech expects to add at least one prospect to its 18-member class – defensive tackle Ja’Quon Griffin of Rome High.
Owens has particularly served Tech with his effective recruiting of the Jacksonville, Fla., area and southeast Georgia. From that area, Owens has successfully recruited future Jackets such as wide receiver Brad Stewart (Savannah), cornerback Step Durham (Jacksonville) and defensive end Antonio Simmons (Jacksonville).
“For us here at Georgia Tech, I think we have a great story to sell, one,” Owens said in December 2016 before Tech’s appearance in the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville. “And Jacksonville is close enough to where families can drive and get here to Atlanta.”
Assistant coach Andy McCollum, recently moved from coaching safeties to inside linebackers, was close behind with seven. Several packed a punch for the Jackets, such as B-back KirVonte Benson, center Kenny Cooper, defensive backs Lance and Lawrence Austin, A-back Qua Searcy and linebacker P.J. Davis.
In players such as Cooper, who was a Western Kentucky commit before switching to Tech, and Davis (Temple), McCollum has shown a knack for finding overlooked players who have played well for the Jackets.
Johnson praised McCollum’s work in the 2018 class. McCollum signed seven of Tech’s 18 high-school signees and also led the high-school recruitment of transfer Jack DeFoor, an offensive lineman from Ole Miss.
“Just in the last couple years, we’ve started to get kids out of the Nashville area,” Johnson said during the early signing period in December. “Andy’s done a nice job in Nashville recruiting, so hopefully some of those guys, we’ll start to see them some on the field.”
Following McCollum was offensive line coach Mike Sewak, who was the area recruiter for three players who have been two-year starters – guard Parker Braun, safety A.J. Gray and linebacker Brant Mitchell – and six total. He also was the principal recruiter for Tech’s freshman All-America punter Pressley Harvin.
Two coaches who no longer are on staff, former quarterbacks/B-backs coach Bryan Cook and defensive coordinator Ted Roof, were responsible for four players each who either started last season or this season. Roof worked his connections in Gwinnett County, where he starred as a high schooler (Central Gwinnett High). Among his more notable recruits were A-back Clinton Lynch, who may conclude his career as Johnson’s most productive A-back, and defensive end Anree Saint-Amour.
Cook, whose territory included parts of North Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana, was responsible for, among others, four players who contributed immediately as freshmen – offensive linemen Will Bryan, Jahaziel Lee and Andrew Marshall and B-back Marcus Marshall.
They were followed by wide receivers coach Buzz Preston and former defensive line coach Mike Pelton. Preston’s three included two of the 2017 captains, defensive end KeShun Freeman and quarterback TaQuon Marshall.
Pelton was the lead recruiter for three defensive linemen who were starters in the past two seasons, Desmond Branch, Kyle Cerge-Henderson and Brentavious Glanton. He also recruited one of the more significant signees in the 2018 class before he was let go in early January, defensive lineman T.K. Chimedza.
Four coaches, three of whom are no longer on staff, were responsible for one starter in 2016 or 2017 – cornerbacks coach Joe Speed (wide receiver Ricky Jeune), former secondary coach Charles Kelly (quarterback Justin Thomas), former defensive coordinator Al Groh (Roderick Rook-Chungong) and former quarterbacks/B-backs coach Brian Bohannon (defensive tackle Patrick Gamble).