With a handful of transfers now eligible to suit up, the Georgia Tech football program could see a few fresh faces make some big impacts in 2020.
Many look at a 3-9 record in Collins’ first campaign in 2019 and see a disappointing season, but when you take into account the complete changeover in philosophy, lack of depth on the roster, and a rash of injuries, there were several positive aspects for Tech fans to point to as hope for the future.
Now, as Collins heads into Year 2, the roster is starting to look different and more like how he wants it to look going forward. There’s still a long way to go to get all the way there, but there has been a good bit of progress shown.
A big part of the transformation so far has come from the transfer portal as several players have opted to come to be a part of the new era at Georgia Tech under Collins.
Below, we will look at several new faces (freshly-eligible transfers) that could play a key role in Georgia Tech’s improvement and roster makeover in 2020. Here they are in no particular order:
Antonneous Clayton (DL, RS-Sr.)
There was a clear lack of two things on the defensive line last season for Georgia Tech…size and playmaking-ability. Antonneous Clayton is a candidate to provide both of those in 2020 after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules.
The 6-3, 270-pound redshirt-senior is expected to step right into a starting role at defensive end this season and will be looked to for leadership and production. He has the potential to provide a strong pass rush and ability to create problems in opposing teams’ running game as he will try to showcase his skills for a possible shot at being an NFL Draft Pick in 2021.
Clayton is a former five-star recruit coming out of high school and spent three seasons at the University of Florida before transferring where injuries and other big-time players on the depth chart played a role in him not being able to get on the field as much as he would’ve wanted to.
Tech fans should be excited about the potential for Clayton and what kind of impact he can make in the trenches on the defensive side of the ball over the next few months.
Ryan Johnson (OL, RS-Sr.)
Johnson was one of two big offensive line grad-transfers that announced their intention to head to Atlanta in the offseason and both gave Tech coaches and fans a lot of reason to be excited about possible dramatic improvement at the point of attack this coming season. But after it was revealed a few weeks ago that Devin Cochran (a multi-year starter at Vanderbilt) wouldn’t be enrolling at Georgia Tech, Johnson was the lone member of the duo left standing in preseason camp.
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The pair would’ve both likely been starters for the Jackets in 2020, but even without Cochran coming along, Johnson (6-6, 325 lbs.) provides plenty of reason for optimism. The former four-star recruit coming out of high school was a three-year letterman at Tennessee and played in 36 total games, appearing both guard and center and making 19 total starts.
From the info coming out of preseason camp, Johnson is likely to start at right guard as he will look to provide experience and tenacity as a run-blocker and pass-protector. Look for Tech to be better at the line of scrimmage in 2020, and Johnson will play a large role in that.
Marquez Ezzard (WR, RS-Soph.)
Ezzard transferred to Tech prior to the 2019 season after one year at Miami and will be eligible to hit the field this year after sitting out last season. He is a metro-Atlanta kid, playing his high school ball at Stockbridge and developing into a four-star recruit who had offers from programs all over the country before deciding on being a Cane.
The receiver position is already pretty deep for the Jackets with Jalen Camp, Ahmareon Brown, Malachi Carter, and others filling out the top spots on the depth chart (or Above the Line chart), but Ezzard has a chance to work his way into solid playing time this year as a redshirt-sophomore. At 6-2, 210, he has good size, solid speed, and reliable hands according to those who have seen him play and practice.
You can never have enough depth, especially at the skill positions, and Ezzard will provide some much-needed depth at receiver in 2020.
Derrik Allen (DB, RS-Fr.)
One position group that was already deep when Collins took over was the defensive backs, but you never turn down an opportunity to add a talented player. That’s exactly what safety Derrik Allen was, and Collins and Tech wasted no time offering to bring him into the fold in Atlanta.
Allen committed to Notre Dame out of high school, where he was a four-star recruit at Lassiter High. After just one season in South Bend, he announced his intention to transfer and couldn’t pass up the chance to come back home to Atlanta and be a part of the new era under Collins.
While returning starters and talented playmakers Tariq Carpenter and Juanyeh Thomas will get the first crack at the safety spots, Allen will be one of the first guys off the sideline in 2020 to provide quality reps in relief. Once he gets on the field, he should make the most of his opportunities. Don’t be surprised if he makes some key plays for the Tech defense this Fall.
NOTE: Check back over the next few days as we look at some of the true freshmen that will step right into big roles this coming season.