As Georgia Tech’s 2011 recruiting class came together, wide receivers coach Buzz Preston hoped his find in Fayette County could remain a secret.
“That’s what you’re praying for,” Preston said. “You’re hoping that nobody gives him a little more love or offer that he might really want to jump at and cost you.”
In mid-December 2010, room finally opened up for Tech to offer a scholarship to Starr’s Mill High running back Zach Laskey, who accepted on the spot. Saturday, Laskey again validated Preston’s scouting eye, catching a 70-yard touchdown pass on Tech’s first play from scrimmage and adding 43 rushing yards in one half of play as the Yellow Jackets splattered Virginia 56-20 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Said Preston, “We just lucked up.”
Preston’s efforts mining Fayette for talent were on display against the Cavaliers. On Tech’s second possession, wide receiver Jeff Greene, Laskey’s teammate at Starr’s Mill, plowed a Virginia defensive back down the field to clear a route for A-back Orwin Smith to score on a 77-yard run. Coach Paul Johnson greeted Greene with a hug after the score.
“I said, ‘That’s your touchdown, because you’re the guy who just rolled the corner,’” Johnson said after the game. “I mean, he rolled him, too. He almost had him out of bounds.”
After both played limited roles as true freshmen last season, the teammates on the Starr’s Mill 2010 Class AAAA state finalist team have seized opportunities to get on the field and appear to have entrenched themselves as regulars, if not starters.
“I knew it was going to be difficult, but I kind of came in with the mindset that I’m not going to let somebody beat me out,” Laskey said.
Swift and tall, Greene fit the Yellow Jackets’ wide receiver mold. Preston was steadfast in his pursuit. Since arriving, Greene’s challenge has been learning practice habits and playing with effort on each snap.
Greene’s break arrived with the graduation of Tyler Melton and Stephen Hill’s early departure to the NFL after last season. With his work in spring practice and fall camp, he earned a spot in a three-man rotation. He will start Saturday, his first start since the opener against Virginia Tech.
The starting spot “is because he’s picked up that level in practice and in the game that you have to have,” Preston said. “And as long as he’s doing that, then he’s going to be able to reach his true potential of what he can do.”
To Preston, Greene has shown more attention to things like firing off the line on every play, run or pass, taking the proper pre-snap stance and pushing off with the correct foot.
“It’s just pretty much, every time I go out there, come out there with the same mentality of trying to get better,” Greene said. “Don’t just go through the motions. Just go out there and go 100 percent.”
For Laskey, trying wasn’t the hard part. Getting noticed was. On a five-star scale, he was a two-star player, according to Rivals recruiting service. Besides Tech, his only other FBS scholarship offers that he received were from Navy and Air Force.
After playing special teams and defensive back last season, Laskey was moved back to B-back in the spring. Injuries to David Sims and Charles Perkins in the preseason opened up practice time for Laskey, who showed himself to be hard to tackle, quick-footed and easily coached.
“When you tell him something, you can tell he takes it and tries to do it,” quarterback and B-backs coach Brian Bohannon said.
He has started the past two games and is averaging 62.3 yards per game and 6.7 yards per attempt.
“I was a two star,” Laskey said. “I kind of felt that I was a little bit better than that. So I kind of play with a chip on my shoulder and kind of want to show everybody that I can play.”
In case you missed it…
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog