Georgia Tech made big news in the recruiting world this week when quarterback Justin Thomas, who had been committed to Alabama for a year, switched to the Yellow Jackets.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder is from Alabama’s Prattville High School, and is ranked as a 4-star prospect and the No. 19 all-purpose athlete in the country by Rivals.com. Thomas and Central Gwinnett defensive end Francis Kallon are the highest-ranked members of Georgia Tech’s 14-member recruiting class, which will expand to 17-20 players by February’s national signing day.
Thomas is one of the Southeast’s fastest athletes, and has been consistently clocked in the 40-yard dash at around 4.3 seconds. He guided his high school team to Alabama’s Class AAAAAA state championship, winning MVP honors after registering more than 300 all-purpose yards in the game. For the season, Thomas finished with 1,652 passing yards, 896 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns.
Thomas talked with the AJC’s Michael Carvell:
Q. Why did you switch your commitment from Alabama to Georgia Tech? “We talked to Alabama, and they decided that they wanted to go another way with me. 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.”
Q. When you committed to Alabama last year, and then many times since then, you’ve said Alabama promised they would give you a chance at QB first. When did things change with them? “A couple of weeks ago.”
Q. What was Nick Saban’s reaction when you de-committed from Alabama? “He wasn’t mad or anything like that. I guess it was because we had been telling Coach Saban since Day One that I wanted to play quarterback. There wasn’t any miscommunication about that, and he understood where I was coming from. Coach Saban said he still wanted me to come to Alabama but he just didn’t want me at the position that I wanted to play. He knew I loved QB. His reaction was basically that I had to make the best decision for myself and my future.”
Q. How did Georgia Tech get involved with you? “I’ve been talking to them for a little while. I kept a connection with them, and we’d talk every now and then. When I decided to go to another school that would give me a shot at quarterback, Georgia Tech was one of the first places I thought about.
Q. Why did you pick Georgia Tech? “The coaches told me they’ve been looking for a QB and that I happen to be that guy. They said my skillset is a perfect fit for their offense. After hearing all of that, I felt like I couldn’t go wrong with Georgia Tech. There are other reasons than football. It’s close to the house, and the campus will be a nice place to be for the next four years. Even if I don’t go to the next level in football [the NFL], Atlanta seems like a nice place to live and find job opportunities. It was a win-win situation for me.”
Q. Your father said the Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson “sealed the deal” with you committing to the Yellow Jackets? “Coach Johnson came to my house last week and sat down with my family. They really liked what he had to say. He’s a good guy, easy to talk to, and easy to understand. He’s honest and tells you the truth. He’s really upfront with you about everything.”
Q. Georgia Tech already has one commitment at QB, Dennis Andrews of Tallahasssee. How did that affect your consideration of the Yellow Jackets? “Wherever you go to college, there’s going to be competition. You’ve got to work hard and beat other people if you want to play. Nothing is guaranteed. As long as I go in there and do what I’m supposed to do, I expect to play.”
Q. Why would you commit to Georgia Tech without ever taking an official visit there? Why not wait? “It was the sooner the better for me. I had gone up to Georgia Tech before, seen the school, and visited with the coaches. I kind of already knew what was up there and what to expect. I kept in touch with the coaches, so I had more of a relationship with them than with the other schools. I just always felt like Georgia Tech was a good place for me if things didn’t work out at Alabama.
Q. Since de-committing from Alabama, you’ve caught a lot of criticism on various message boards from fans of the Crimson Tide. What do you think about that? “Most people I’ve talked to are like ‘Is it really true that you de-committed and are going to Georgia Tech?’ They don’t seem upset. They were more shocked. As more time has passed, they seem to be more accepting. Now it’s like ‘OK, as long as you didn’t go to that other school’ – meaning Auburn.”
Q. Florida State hasn’t given up recruiting you, and showed up at your school this week. LSU and Oregon, among others, are keeping in contact. Will you visit schools other an Georgia Tech over the next six weeks? “I’ve always liked Florida State, and they’ve been one of my top choices. But the answer is ‘no.’ Once I made my next decision to go somewhere else, I was planning on staying with it. I’m not planning on visiting anywhere else. I’m going to Georgia Tech on Jan. 14 and that’s it. I’m a 100-percent committed to Georgia Tech.”
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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