THE FLATS – Georgia Tech addressed immediate needs on the offensive line and defensive secondary with its largest National Signing Day class since 2011.
The Yellow Jackets signed 21 prospects, a number that includes four players that enrolled at Georgia Tech in January, and one transfer.
“We are really excited about this group of young men,” head coach Paul Johnson said. “I think we addressed a lot of needs. We’ve been trying to balance the numbers for a couple of years now. We were a little bit heavy in the offensive line in this class, which we needed to be, and we got some guys in the secondary, which was a consideration.
“Overall, I’m just enthusiastic about this group. Not only are they quality athletes, but quality people as well. They are guys I think will fit in really well here at Georgia Tech.”
Tech’s class of 21 prospects was its largest since signing 22 players in 2011. The list of 21 players does not include Travis Custis, a member of the 2013 class who enrolled at Georgia Tech last month.
The Yellow Jackets signed 10 prospects from the state of Georgia – their most from the Peach State since 2010. Tech signed five players from Florida – its most from the Sunshine State since Johnson arrived on the Flats following the 2007 season. The Jackets went into South Carolina for two signees for the first time since 2008, and Tech continued to find success in Alabama, where it found three recruits.
Three members of Tech’s signing class hail from Lamar County (Ga.) High School: twin brothers Lance and Lawrence Austin, and Qua Searcy. The Yellow Jackets also signed two prospects from Norcross (Ga.) High School: Myles Autry and Clinton Lynch. Autry is the younger brother of Georgia Tech wide receiver Anthony Autry, who enters his third year in the program.
The ’14 class includes six offensive linemen, an area where the Yellow Jackets need to add immediate depth. Gary Brown (Tampa, Fla.), Trey Klock (Hummelstown, Pa.), Andrew Marshall (Cumming, Ga.), Michael Preddy (Charleston, S.C.), Jake Stickler (Brandenton, Fla.) and Jake Whitley (North Augusta, S.C.) will all try to make an prompt impact on the line.
Four members of the class – Step Durham (Jacksonville, Fla.), KeShun Freeman (Hogansville, Ga.), Tre’ Jackson (Valdosta, Ga.) and Matthew Jordan (Jackson, Ala.) -- enrolled at Georgia Tech in January and will be able to participate in spring practice, which begins March 24.
The only non-freshman in the group is defensive end Kenderius Whitehead, a transfer from Georgia Military College who has three years of eligibility remaining.
Jalen Johnson (Oneonta, Ala.) is one of five defensive backs in the class. Christopher Leggett (Suwanee, Ga.), who led the Georgia Class 6A ranks in rushing last fall, comes to Tech as a versatile running back. Terrell Lewis (Ocoee, Fla.) and Antonio Simmons (Jacksonville, Fla.) are two of three linebackers in the signing class. Tyler Merriweather (Demopolis, Ala.) is one of three defensive ends hoping to fill the void of Jeremiah Attaochu and Emmanuel Dieke, Tech’s starting ends in 2013.
One of three players from Lamar County High School who are part of Georgia Tech’s 2014 signing class, joining his twin brother Lawrence Austin and Qua Searcy… played under coach Frank Stephens… helped lead LCHS to a 14-1 record and a runner-up finish in the state playoffs as a senior… played quarterback on offense and in the secondary on defense… rushed for 1,097 yards and 19 touchdowns, and passed for 827 yards and 12 TDs with just one interception as a senior… had 44 tackles, eight pass break-ups, three interceptions (one for a TD), two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery… also participated on the track and wrestling teams.
Personal: Full name is Lance Anthony Austin… parents are Derick and Stephanie… Derick played football at Georgia Southern… siblings are Lawrence and Precious… born March 10, 1996 in Statesboro, Ga… began playing football at age seven… chose Georgia Tech because “my family can come see me play with my brother at one of the top institutions in the nation.”
DB / 5-9 / 170
Barnesville, Ga. / Lamar County
Comes to Georgia Tech along with twin brother Lance Austin and another high school teammate, Qua Searcy… played under coach Frank Stephens… was a standout on both sides of the ball in high school… as a senior, rushed for 1,348 yards and 19 touchdowns with an average of 9.7 yards per carry… caught 10 passes for 211 yards and four TDs… recorded 69 tackles, seven tackles for loss, four interceptions, two pass break-ups, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one defensive touchdown… also returned a kick for a TD… helped lead Lamar County to a 14-1 record and a runner-up finish in the state championship game… also ran track for four years.
Personal: Full name is Lawrence Alexander Austin… parents are Derick and Stephanie… Derick played football at Georgia Southern… born March 10, 1996 in Statesboro, Ga… siblings are Lance and Precious… began playing football at age seven… senjoys fishing… chose Georgia Tech because “it’s one of the top academic institutions in the nation, with one of the top football programs, and because it’s close to home.”
RB / 5-11 / 170
Norcross, Ga. / Norcross
A highly-touted athlete from Norcross High School… played under coach Keith Maloof… hindered most of the 2013 season recovering from knee surgery, but came on strong to lead team to the state 6A championship… shed his knee brace in the state semifinals and caught the game-winning touchdown… had a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 69-yard TD reception in the state championship game… had 30 receptions for 336 yards (11.2 ypa) and three touchdowns in 2013… rushed 32 times for 155 yards and a touchdown… averaged 22.7 yards on six kickoff returns… averaged 8.5 yards on 24 punt returns… brother Anthony enters his third year in the Yellow Jacket football program as a wide receiver.
OL / 6-3 / 285
Tampa, Fla. / Alonso
Played three seasons of football at Alonso High School under coach Brian Emanuel… played both tackle and guard as well as nose tackle during his career… was also on the track team for two years (shot put and discus)… was the school’s lineman of the year three straight seasons… a two-time first team all-county selection… named second team all-state and second team All-Sun Coast… selected to play in the East-West All-Star Game… recorded 72 pancake blocks over his final two seasons… holds the school’s all-time dead-lift record of 605 pounds… compared by some to current Yellow Jacket OL Shaq Mason.
Personal: Full name is Gary Keith Brown II… mother is Cerbrenda… was born in Waterford, Mich… has one sibling, Nicole… uncle, Maize Monroe, played football at Florida A&M... considering a major in business management… chose Georgia Tech because of the education and “great business and networking opportunities.”… first played football at age nine, but hated it and stopped playing until his freshmen year of high school… has been actively involved in volunteer projects… biggest thrill in sports so far was going from not being able to lift weights to breaking the school record for dead-lifting.
DB / 5-11 / 175
Jacksonville, Fla. / Atlantic Coast
An early enrollee at Georgia Tech after graduating from Atlantic Coast High School in December, 2013… played under coach Kevin Sullivan… earned four varsity letters and served three years as team captain… was the first freshman in school history to start for the varsity team… considered the highest-ranked prospect in Atlantic Coast HS history… earned 2014 USMC All-American honors… also named all-region and all-district… named to the 2013 Jacksonville Times-Union Super 11… a 4.0 star recruit by Rivals… the No. 23-ranked player at his position and the No. 46-ranked prospect in Florida… played on the school’s basketball and track teams as a freshman… made the National Honor Society.
Personal: Full name is Stepheny Durham IV… goes by “Step”… parents are Stepheny and Willa Durham… born June 10, 1995 in Jacksonville… has three siblings – Tiesha, Ceteria and Cherish… cousin is LeRoy Butler, the former Florida State and Green Bay Packers standout… considering a major in business management… began playing football at age five… says his biggest athletic accomplishment was verbally committing to Georgia Tech on June 8, 2013… chose Georgia Tech because of the education, the location and the football program.
DE / 6-4 / 230
Hogansville, Ga. / Callaway
Enrolled at Georgia Tech in January after graduating from Callaway High School in December, 2013… played four seasons of football for coach Pete Wiggins… also ran one season of track… played inside linebacker and defensive end… served two years as a team captain… led Callaway to regional championships in 2012 and 2013… named the 2012 Region 4AAA player of the year… earned all-regional honors in 2011… recorded 153 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, three sacks and three blocked kicks as a senior… led team to a 12-2 record in 2013… a 3.0 star recruit by Rivals… ranked No. 29 at his position and No. 54 in Georgia… graduated in the top five percent of his class… was crowned Mr. Callaway High School based on academics and behavior.
Personal: Full name is KeShun Jamal Freeman… born Nov. 10, 1995 in LaGrange, Ga… parents are Charles and Keisha… has four younger siblings – Michael, Jacob, Jalanda and Landon… cousin Justin Woodard played football at Ball State… considering a major in business… pondering a career in anesthesiology… chose Georgia Tech because of the academics, the location and because “it will challenge me to think”… began playing football at age eight.
LB / 5-10 / 235
Valdosta, Ga. / Lowndes
Enrolled at Georgia Tech in January after graduating from Lowndes High School in December… was a standout performer at Lowndes under head coach Randy McPherson… served one year as a team captain… recorded 70 tackles, eight tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries, two sacks and two interceptions as a senior… a 3.0 star recruit by Rivals… played on a regional championship team in 2010… earned all-region honors… the Region 1-AAAAAA defensive player of the year… invited to play in the Georgia Junior Bowl… led team to a 9-4 record.
Personal: Full name is Tre’ Decorian Jackson… born Oct. 10, 1995 in Augusta, Ga… mother is Ashli England… has two siblings – James and Isaiah… enjoys hunting, fishing and weightlifting… began playing football at age six… undecided on a major… chose Georgia Tech because of the academics, the history of the school and the football program.
S / 6-3 / 190
Oneonta, Ala. / Oneonta
Expected to be 100 percent in March after suffering a knee injury that caused him to miss his senior season at Oneonta High School… tore his ACL and meniscus during a preseason game… worked with a trainer twice a week during the rehabilitation process… played four seasons under coach Don Jacobs… served two years as a team captain… helped lead Oneonta to Alabama state Class 4A championship games in 2011 and 2012 where it finished as the runner-up… Oneonta won the state title in 2013… a three-star prospect by 247Sports, Rivals and Scout… earned all-area honors in 2011 and 2012… named all-state in 2012 and voted one of top 25 players in state of Alabama… caught 57 passes for 900 yards as a junior while recording 88 tackles with five interceptions (two returned for touchdowns)... named to the academic honor roll… was also a member of the state championship 4x400 relay team in track and a member of the basketball team that reached the state semifinals.
Personal: Full name is Jalen Ke’shawn Johnson… parents are James and Chastity… born May 25, 1996 in Birmingham… has four siblings – Zac, Taya, Gia and Jag... undecided on a major… chose Georgia Tech because “I can get a great education while playing the sport I love,” the proximity to home and the coaching staff… began playing football at age six… has been active in cancer organizations, the American Heart Society and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
QB / 6-2 / 205
Jackson, Ala. / Jackson
Enrolled at Georgia Tech in January and will participate in spring practice… graduated from Jackson (Ala.) High School in December, 2013… played four seasons of high school football – two years at Jackson Academy under coach Dwain Roberts and two seasons at Jackson HS under coach Danny Powell… played wide receiver and cornerback at Jackson Academy before moving to quarterback at Jackson HS… served two years as a team captain… helped Jackson Academy win a state championship in 2011… led Jackson HS to regional titles in 2012 and 2013… earned all-state honors… a 3.0 star recruit by Rivals… ranked 28th-best prospect in Alabama… once had a 105-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Personal: Full name is Matthew Shon Jordan… born March 15, 1996 in Mobile, Ala… parents are Rodney and Lisa… has one older brother, Ethan… considering a major in mechanical engineering… chose Georgia Tech because of the academics, the football and the proximity to home… began playing football at age four.
OL / 6-4 / 260
Hummelstown, Pa. / Lower Dauphin
Lower Dauphin High School, 2014… earned three varsity letters playing under coach and father, Rob Klock… served one year as a team captain… known best as a standout tight end, but also played offensive line, defensive end, defensive tackle and even quarterback… led team to division and district championships in 2013 and a semifinal appearance in the state playoffs… earned numerous individual honors including PennLive All-Star Team and first team all-state… selected for the Big 33 Game, Pennslyvania’s elite high school all-star contest… team finished with a 13-2 record in 2013… recorded 86 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, one interception, one blocked field goal and five fumble recoveries on defense as a senior… had 10 receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns… also earned two varsity letters in basketball and two in baseball… earned honor roll or distinguished honor roll every grade period.
Personal: Full name is Robert Charles Klock III, but goes by “Trey”… parents are Rob and Karen Klock… Rob played football at Shippensburg in the late 1980s… Karen played field hockey, lacrosse and ran track at Gettysburg College… uncle, Tom Kirchhoff, played football at Lafayette and later with the Philadelphia Eagles… uncle, Gary Strayer, played football at Mansfield… born Feb. 25, 1996 in Camp Hill, Pa… has a younger brother, Tommy… Trey is a distant relative of Grover Cleveland… considering a major in business management… chose Georgia Tech because of the quality of education, the atmosphere and the reputation of the school and football program… began playing football at age 10.
RB / 5-10 / 210
Suwanee, Ga. / North Gwinnett
A standout running back from North Gwinnett High School under coach Bob Sphire… rushed for 1,784 yards and 23 touchdowns on 280 carries in 2013… overcame a turf toe injury early in 2013 to rush for 850 yards and nine touchdowns in five playoff games… also caught 23 passes for 260 yards… led team to a state runner-up finish and a 13-2 record… began high school career at Buford HS in ninth grade, Chattahoochee HS in 10th and 11th grades before transferring to North Gwinnett… Buford won the state title his freshman season… Chattahoochee won a regional title his 10th-grade year… was the state 6A leading rusher as a senior… elected to the 2013 North-South Game and the Gwinnett County All-Star Game.
Personal: Full name is Christopher James Leggett II… often goes by “CJ”… parents are Christopher and Denise… born Jan. 23, 1996 in Atlanta… has one sibling – Alexandria… father, Christopher, played basketball at Princeton… the elder Christopher Leggett is an interventional cardiologist… uncle, Robert Leggett, played baseball at Princeton… is close friends with former NFL standouts Jerome Bettis, Chris Doleman and Chuck Smith… plans to study pre-medicine… chose Georgia Tech for its elite academics and the strong history of the football program… began skiing at age two and began playing golf at age four… started playing football at age 10… has been active in the church and the community.
LB / 6-2 / 215
Ocoee, Fla. / Ocoee
Played four seasons of football at Ocoee High School under coach Dale Salapa… played outside linebacker, defensive end, safety, wide receiver and tight end during his career… earned all-state honors… as a senior, made 90 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, four forced fumbles, five pass break-ups, one interception and scored four touchdowns.
Personal: Full name is Terrell Ian Lewis… parents are Trevor and Nattalie… born in Orlando… has one sibling – Tyler… considering a major in business management… began playing football at age 11… biggest thrill in sports so far was earning a scholarship to Georgia Tech… chose Georgia Tech for the opportunity to get “one of the best degrees in the nation,” the proximity to home and a chance to play in one of the nation’s best conferences.
WR / 6-0 / 185
Norcross, Ga. / Norcross
Played under coach Keith Maloof at Norcross High School… helped lead the Blue Devils to the state 6A championship… recorded 47 receptions for 912 yards (19.40 avg) for four touchdowns as a senior… rushed 13 times for 88 yards (6.8 ypa) and two touchdowns… had an even 1,000 all-purpose yards in 2013.
OL / 6-4 / 265
Cumming, Ga. / West Forsyth
Played center at West Forsyth High School under coach Frank Hepler… helped West Forsyth win the Region 6 6A state championship in 2012-13… named a second-team all-state selection at center in 2011 and 2012, and was a first-team all-state pick in 2013… also garnered multiple all-region and all-county picks… was named his team’s most valuable player in 2013… a standout in the class, was a four-year DECA student and a three-time DECA national qualifier… lists his most memorable athletic accomplishment as beating undefeated Hillgrove in the playoffs in 2011.
Personal: Full name is Andrew Douglas Marshall… born September 19, 1995 in Jackson, Ala… parents are Sonny and Teresa… has one older sister, Lauren… undecided on a major… chose Georgia Tech because of the academics, the football and the proximity to home… began playing football after his father convinced to take up the sport at age seven.
DE / 6-3 / 220
Demopolis, Ala. / Demopolis Academy
Played four years of football at Demopolis Academy under coach Tom Causey… was a versatile athlete, playing outside linebacker, middle linebacker and defensive end… was a three-year team captain... named an honorable mention all-state pick at defensive line in 2013… made 41 tackles his senior season, including 20 for loss and three sacks.
Personal: Full name is Tyler Thomas Merriweather… born July 1, 1996 in Demoplis, Ala… parents are Malcom and Hattie… intends to major in electrical engineering… began playing football in sixth grade.
OL / 6-3 / 270
Charleston, S.C. / Porter Gaud School
Played three years of football at Porter Gaud School under coach Rick Reetz… was also an accomplished basketball player at Porter Gaud… named the football team’s rookie of the year in 2011… played both offensive tackle and defensive end in high school… averaged 4.8 tackles per game as a senior… named an all-region selection in football in 2012 and 2013… on the court, earned all-state honors in 2012 and 2013 and was the team’s leading rebounder both seasons.
Personal: Full name is Michael Preddy… born November 21, 1995 in Charleston, S.C… parents are Michael and Linda… intends to major in business administration/finance.
WR / 5-11 / 170
Barnesville, Ga. / Lamar County
One of three from Lamar County High School to sign with the Yellow Jackets in 2014… was a three-sport standout at Lamar County, playing four years of football under coach Franklin Stephens… also played basketball and ran track… played wide receiver on offense and in the secondary on defense… had a team-best 88 tackles, six pass break-ups, five interceptions and two defensive touchdowns… returned two kicks for a touchdown and passed for one TD… had 576 receiving yards for four touchdowns and rushed for 233 yards and two TDs… led LCHS to a 14-1 record and a runner-up finish in the state playoffs.
Personal: Full name is Micquavius Jordell Searcy… born January 7, 1996 in Griffin, Ga.… parents are Walter and Amanda Williams… has six other siblings and step-siblings – Gregory Boggs, Kenya Williams, Kadeem Williams, Latonya Searcy, Lakeisha Searcy and Dontavious Searcy… undecided on a major… began playing football at age 9.
LB / 6-3 / 190
Jacksonville, Fla. / University Christian School
Played one season of football at University Christian School under coach David Peland… had a monster senior season with 50 tackles, 19.0 tackles for loss and 29.0 sacks… helped his team to a 9-3 record last season, including a 4-0 mark in district play… that included a five-sack effort versus Carrollwood Day and six sacks versus Florida A&M High… also blocked a punt… offensively, finished the year with six catches for 108 yards (18.0 ypc) and one touchdown… was an all-state and all-district pick in 2013.
Personal: Full name is Antonio Maurice Simmons… born February 10, 1996 in Jacksonville, Fla.… parents are Antonio and Tonya… is one of four siblings… is related to current Yellow Jackets Marcus Allen and Chris Milton… undecided on a major… began playing football at age 6… chose Georgia Tech in part because of the family atmosphere on the team, its proximity to home and because of the football atmosphere.
OL / 6-5 / 263
Bradenton, Fla. / Manatee
Was a three-year starter at Manatee High under coach Joe Kinnan… played both offensive tackle and tight end in high school… helped his team to the Florida 7A state championship title in 2011… part of an offensive line that helped Manatee average 323 yards per game rushing and score 47 rushing touchdowns in 2013… his team went 11-1 in 2013.
Personal: Full name is Jacob Sean Stickler… born February 28, 1996 in Bradenton, Fla.… parents are Sean Stickler and Jennifer Hale… has a younger brother, Jordan… his father Sean played football at UCF… intends to major in business… began playing football at age 5 when he joined a flag-football team… has participated in his school’s orchestra for seven years… can play seven musical instruments… chose Georgia Tech in part because of the academic prestige that comes from earning a Tech degree.
DE / 6-5 / 220
Milledgeville, Ga. / Martin Luther King / Georgia Military College
Played this past season at Georgia Military College under coach Bert Williams… comes to Georgia Tech with three years of eligibility remaining... was a first-team NJCAA All-American selection at defensive end… helped GMC to an 11-1 record and a spot in the NJCAA national title game… collected 36 tackles, 7.5 sacks and forced two fumbles last season… Played his senior year of high school at Martin Luther King High under coach Mike Carson... team finished with a 12-2 record, including a 7-0 mark in conference... MLK fell in the state 5A playoffs in 2012... finished with 103 tackles and 16 sacks as a senior... led the state of Georgia in sacks and ranked 34th nationally… earned all-state honors in 2012... played in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in Phoenix following his senior season… initially signed with NC State out of high school… was ranked as the No. 25 weakside defensive end nationally by Rivals, and was the No. 25 recruit in Georgia in 2012.
OL / 6-4 / 295
North Augusta, S.C. / North Augusta
Was a three-year starter at North Augusta High under coach Dan Pippin… started at both guard and tackle in high school… was voted a team captain in 2013… his senior class complied a combined record of 56-11… was a three-time all-region and all-state selection… ranked 55th nationally at guard by ESPN.com… nominated to both the Shrine Bowl (South Carolina vs. North Carolina) All-Star Game and the Border Bowl (South Carolina vs. Georgia).
Personal: Full name is Jake Wolfe Whitley… born July 6, 1996 in Augusta, Ga.… parents are John III and Nancy… has an older brother, Jackson… his brother Jackson was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels out of high school in the 13th round in 2011 and played in the team’s minor league system for two years… is a distant relative of country music singer Keith Whitley… intends to major in business… has participated in North Augusta’s AMP (athlete mentoring program)… has served as a volunteer football camp instructor for AthElite training program, headed by Ryan Bowers, a former Atlanta Falcon and Arena Football player… chose Georgia Tech in part because of the educational opportunity, the great football program and coaches, and the familiarity with Tech’s offensive system.