I hope Georgia Tech’s new AD doesn’t read this post, but it’s worth noting something MaconDawg wrote over at DawgSports yesterday.
From Clemson’s Deshaun Watson to current Bulldog commit Jake Fromm, to nationally ranked recruits like 2018 Cartersville quarterback Trevor Lawrence (and even younger players like Marietta freshman Harrison Bailey, recently offered by the Bulldogs) the state of Georgia has undergone a renaissance in high school quarterback play over the past few years. USA Today asked those who would know, including some of those top flight quarterbacks themselves, about what has changed.
Not to spoil the answers, but they generally focus on the rise of passer-friendly offenses, 7-on-7 tournaments, and the availability of elite private QB coaching. I think those all play a part. One overlooked answer however may be the rising tide that has lifted the number of elite recruits in the state at every position: an exploding population, especially in the metro Atlanta area. The fact is there are more, bigger high schools, many of which have vastly more athletic resources, than in the past.
But the population boom has been going on for decades. The evolution of high school offenses in the state has been a more recent development, and a rapid one at that. Of the eighteen Peach State high school quarterbacks with the most career passing yards, seventeen graduated in 2004 or after (the lone exception being Americus standout and FSU Seminole Fabian Walker). Only one of the top seventeen seasons in terms of touchdown passes occurred before 2009, the year Hutson Mason’s 54 touchdown passes blew past the record previously held by Charlton County’s Jeremy Privett.
To put it another way, gone are the days when football Friday nights in the Peach State are dominated by the power-I and the triple option (sorry, Tech fans). Not mentioned in the article is the fairly self-evident proposition that Georgia is in position to benefit disproportionately from this phenomenon.
Even given that, as Johnson himself admits, Tech’s recruiting in the era of the triple option has been shabby, this strikes me as a pretty big deal, at least in the near future. Quarterback, no matter what offensive system you run, is the most important position on the field, and if high school offenses are drifting away from running to passing schemes on a widespread basis, that’s going to make it ever harder for Tech to find in state quarterbacking.
It’s not just the one position, either, of course. Offensive linemen that train to block in offenses that throw the ball all over the place aren’t going to be ready to cut block like mad overnight. And some of those high school running backs are either going to find their skills deployed at other positions or running out of a lot of shotgun sets. Either way, that’s not a good trend for Paul Johnson.
What makes it worse is that it allows schools besides UGA that can attract the new blood being developed by Georgia high schools to make inroads there. And once you establish relationships with high school coaches for some of their offensive players, you can grow that to players in general. I don’t see how Tech can prosper ceding much of the talent in as rich a state as this one to out of state programs.
As MaconDawg concludes, though, it sure is a good thing for Kirby Smart.