When it comes to Georgia Tech and recruiting, the numbers lie.
The numbers says that Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets should be perpetual also-rans in the ACC's Coastal Division. They say that Georgia Tech simply doesn't have the skill position personnel to compete with elite-recruiting programs like Florida State, Clemson, Miami and North Carolina.
But Tech's bottom line, year after year, says 'what do the numbers know?'
Johnson, since he took over the Georgia Tech program prior to the 2008 season, has never had a recruiting class ranked higher than 41st nationally by Rivals. His 2011 class of 22 signees was, according to the 'experts,' his best. His 2010 class was ranked 43rd, his 2008 and 2009 classes 49th, and his 2012 class 56th, again by Rivals. The other recruiting website networks differ only marginally.
So what is it that makes Georgia Tech a consistent contender in the Coastal Division (not to mention an annual thorn in Clemson's side as the Tigers' designated out-of-division rival)?
Johnson recruits solid, high-academic standing players specifically for his systems, on both sides of the ball.
Not everybody does offense like Johnson. And Al Groh's defenses offer similar out-of-the-mainstream twists.
At no position is Johnson's approach more evident than at quarterback.
Most of Georgia Tech's quarterback signees are assigned the ambiguous 'athlete' tag by the recruiting services. High schools teams often put their best athletes at quarterback, and college recruiters often look long and hard at those players as potential wide receivers and defensive backs.
Johnson, of course, cares more about his quarterback's intelligence, adaptability and elusiveness than his arm strength.
So in 2012, two players recruited by others to play other positions opted to sign with the Jackets as quarterbacks: four-star Justin Thomas of Prattville, Ala., and three-star Dennis Andrews of Tallahassee, Fla.
For more than a year, Thomas was committed to Alabama. Then, as signing day approached, the Tide's coaches began to waver on their commitment to keeping Thomas at the quarterback position.
Thomas, an undersized quarterback with 4.3 speed, had his heart set on playing quarterback. He began talking to Georgia Tech, and just before signing day, switched his commitment to the Yellow Jackets.
"They decided that they wanted to go another way with me," Thomas told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "They weren’t 100-percent sure I would get to play QB. They said they wanted to go a different route. Now Alabama said it wasn’t like they didn’t want me because they still wanted me to sign there. They just felt like I wasn’t going to be a quarterback in their system. That’s what I want to do in college – play quarterback. I want to go somewhere where I would get a fair chance to do that.”
At Georgia Tech, Thomas will compete with Andrews, and if one or the other doesn't end up finding a home at quarterback, he'll be satisfied that at least he got the chance he wanted.
Other highlights of Tech's 2012 recruiting class include a pair of big receivers in Anthony Autry of Norcross, Ga. and Travis Henry of Adel, Ga.; a player recruited specifically for Johnson's B-back position in 6-2, 210-pound Marcus Allen of Hilliard, Fla.; and defensive linemen Pat Gamble (6-5, 265) of Carrollton, Ga., Francis Kallon (6-6, 275) of Lawrenceville, Ga., and Adam Gotsis (6-4, 295) from Australia. Gottis has played both American football and rugby during his high school career, and may also compete for a spot as the team's long-snapper.