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Junior Defensive Back AJ Gray (#5) returning the first of his two interceptions with Junior Linebacker Brant Mitchell (#51) leading the way.

ATLANTA, GA – Fresh off of one of their finest defensive performances in years last weekend against the Pittsburgh Panthers, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-1, 2-0) intended to prove that was no fluke.

Consider that mission a success.

Viewers of today’s tilt against the North Carolina Tar Heels (1-4, 0-3) at Bobby Dodd Stadium saw a salty Yellow Jackets’ defense that turned in a comparable, if not better, performance against their second consecutive Coastal division foe. One game after yielding 10 points to the Panthers, the Tech defense outdid itself by surrendering just 7 points to the Tar Heels.

“I thought that for the most part our defense played really well again,” said head coach Paul Johnson.

Junior safety A.J. Gray was the star of stars for the Jackets. Facing his sister’s alma mater, Gray snagged two interceptions against the Tar Heels’ to cement a Georgia Tech victory, 33-7. Gray’s two interceptions were his first in over two years when he hauled in his first career takeaway (September 26, 2015 @ Duke).

His performance led Tech to its first win over North Carolina since 2013.

“I told somebody walking in, I thought A.J. probably played as well as he has played,” said Johnson. “Some of their run-pass stuff he was right on cue with it. He stepped underneath the slants and got a couple picks and it was good to see him make plays because he has got a lot of ability. Plus he made a couple nice plays in open field on tackles. I’m proud of A.J., I thought he played well.”

Gray, oft-understated and a man of few words, was again quietly humble. “It was definitely a step up,” said Gray. “It just happened. Now I have to build off of it and get better every game.”

Senior defensive end Antonio Simmons and senior cornerback Step Durham added one sack apiece. For Simmons, it was his 3rd sack in two games. For Durham, it was the first of his career and came at a crucial juncture with the Tar Heels driving late in the first half.

Offensively the Jackets were held to their second lowest rushing output of the year… of 403 yards. That is an impressive number to say the least. Junior quarterback TaQuon Marshall and redshirt sophomore KirVonte Benson led Tech’s ground game again with 137 and 130 yards, respectively. It was the third time in four games that they broke the 100-yard mark together.

And in true Georgia Tech fashion, neither was completely satisfied and both recognized their performance can get better. Each lost a fumble at moments when the Jackets could have seemingly put the game away.

Asked about his performance relative to the prior week, Marshall graded his play today as “average”. Continuing he said, “I turned the ball over. Missed some throws early. It was a step up from last week, but still not where I want to be.”

Even the Jackets’ defense believes there is room to improve. “I don’t feel like we played our bests,” said Simmons. “We can get better in a lot of ways. We’re still letting them drive the ball. They missed two field goals but we still gave up enough yards that we can play way better than we did.”

Senior cornerback Lance Austin agreed. “That’s one thing about our defense. We’re never satisfied and we’re not going to get complacent. We’re always looking for a way to get better.”

Complacent, these Jackets are not. For a team that has nearly doubled up each of its four opponents in yardage this year, those comments suggest that “good” will not be good enough.

Following next week’s bye, competition ratchets up quickly. Coming in to the weekend, the Jackets’ final seven opponents on the schedule were a combined 25-1. Their stiffest test to-date comes next with a visit to #14 Miami.

For the third consecutive contest the Jackets will be looking to snap a losing streak to a Coastal division foe, having lost the last two to the Hurricanes. For a Tech team unwilling to settle for less than its best, the table is set to prove exactly what its best can achieve.

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Photo credit to Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

For media and fans alike, Georgia Tech's annual football media day provides the first opportunity to meet the newest version of the Yellow Jackets. GTSwarm was fortunate to attend for our fourth year running. In honor of our fourth year, we asked all 9 student-athletes the same four questions, and the following are the results of the poll.

In the eyes many, we saved the most critical question for last.

What are the team's expectations and goals for the 2017 season?

We always want to win, but you have to take it one week at a time. -Redshirt junior quarterback Matthew Jordan

We have a saying: "start at the dome, finish at the dome." Obviously, we start against Tennessee in the Mercedes-Benz stadium, and the National Championship this year is also at Mercedes-Benz stadium, so our sights are set on that National Championship Game. -Senior defensive end KeShun Freeman

We don't have any set goals, but of course you always want to get to the ACC Championship. As a team, you always want to win, but I would say winning our division and getting back to the ACC Championship. -Senior cornerback Lance Austin

Double digit wins, and just getting better overall. Getting better as a team is always our goal. -Junior quarterback TaQuon Marshall

I would say just winning a championship. We want to end up in Charlotte, and ultimately in the College Football Playoff. That's our team goal. -Junior linebacker Brant Mitchell

Building off of what we did last year. 9-4 is an OK season, but of course you want to be better. We want to make the playoff and the National Championship. -Redshirt junior A-Back Qua Searcy

I know we have the athletes and capabilities to go to the ACC Championship and the National Championship. You just have to have that willingness and belief. -Redshirt senior safety Corey Griffin

Win the ACC and the National Championship. -Redshirt senior wide receiver Ricky Jeune

Win the Coastal division, and keep it rolling. -Senior offensive tackle Andrew Marshall

Poll result: Just win, baby.

Which players have emerged as leaders of this year's team?

Definitely J.J. Green, Clinton Lynch, Qua Searcy. Andrew Marshall has taken leadership of the line and I'd say Will Bryan too. A lot of guys are stepping up, especially those who have been here for a while. -Matthew Jordan

Corey Griffin, Ricky Jeune, and Antonio Simmons are guys the team looks to as leaders. -KeShun Freeman

I'd definitely say Lawrence Austin came up as a leader, Corey Griffin, and Antonio Simmons for the defensive line. They've been asking everyone for their all, and they've been giving it their all too. -Lance Austin

The Austin twins, and Antonio Simmons on the defense. J.J. Green has been pretty vocal and a leader on the offense. -TaQuon Marshall

Vocally, I think myself this offseason. Leading by example is Corey Griffin and Lawrence Austin. -Brant Mitchell

I definitely feel like TaQuon Marshall did. He showed a lot of leadership. I would say myself, but I'm not a selfish guy. Also KeShun Freeman, he definitely picks everybody up and shows a lot of leadership. -Qua Searcy

In high school, I was more of a vocal leader than I am now. I came in and I took on watching people and we didn't really have any vocal leaders. I came in, and I saw that was what we really needed. Me, Lawrence Austin, Ricky Jeune, and Antonio Simmons, we took on that role to be more vocal because the team really needed that aspect and I'm comfortable with it. The team seems to cope well with it, and I appreciate them for it. -Corey Griffin

Myself, Corey Griffin, Lawrence Austin, KeShun Freeman, Antonio Simmons; all the seniors, really. -Ricky Jeune

We'll really identify it in camp. Corey Griffin, Ricky Jeune, and some different people are all trying to step up, and it'll sort itself out. -Andrew Marshall

Poll result: Corey Griffin (6), Antonio Simmons (5), Lawrence Austin (5), Ricky Jeune (4), Qua Searcy (DQ'd).

Which team/game are you most looking forward to playing?

Definitely Tennessee. Jacksonville State is another one; I've got high school teammates playing over there, so it'll be fun. -Matthew Jordan

There's the obvious rivalry we have with the University of Georgia, so I'm probably looking to that one the most. We haven't won at home yet, and this is my last year so I really want to win in Atlanta. -KeShun Freeman

Tennessee. You have to go game by game, and take it one week at a time. -Lance Austin

Besides Tennessee, I'd say UGA. -TaQuon Marshall

Tennessee. Being from there for me makes it special, but our eyes are focused on the game ahead of us, not looking down the road. -Brant Mitchell

I would say Tennessee because it's the first game. -Qua Searcy

Tennessee. -Corey Griffin

Tennessee. I don't like to jump ahead. -Ricky Jeune

We have to take each game in stride, so Tennessee; that's what we're focused on and then we have to keep on rolling from there. -Andrew Marshall

Poll result: Tennessee (8), Georgia (2), Jacksonville State (1). To end at the dome, we need that first one in the dome.

Which uniform supplier do you prefer?

Honestly, I like Adidas right now. -Matthew Jordan

I don't have a preference. -KeShun Freeman

I don't care. I'm not gonna wear it anyway. -Lance Austin

I don't really have one, but if I had to choose I guess it'd be between Under Armour or Adidas. -TaQuon Marshall

I'll say Nike. -Brant Mitchell

If I had to choose, I think I would pick Adidas. -Qua Searcy

Nike. -Corey Griffin

Nike, but I also like Adidas. -Ricky Jeune

Nike. -Andrew Marshall

Poll result: Nike (4), Adidas (3), Abstain (2), Under Armor (1). Oh, and Russell Athletic (0).

Multiple staff members contributed to this article.

This year's Media Day schedule began with a 30 minute press conference with Coach Paul Johnson who is beginning his 10th season on The Flats.

Following Coach Johnson's press conference was a round robin of 9 individual player interviews. Representing the Jackets were three waves of three players at a time in the Edge Center trophy room, positioned at their own tables.

Hear what they had to say here.

Head Coach Paul Johnson (28 min)

CB Lance Austin (8 min)

QB Matthew Jordan (10 min)

DE KeShun Freeman (3 min)

AB Qua Searcy (8 min)

LB Brant Mitchell (9 min)

S Corey Griffin (7 min)

WR Ricky Jeune (5 min)

OT Andrew Marshall (6 min)

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2018 Georgia Tech Defensive End Commit Luke Johns

Last Friday, Georgia Tech picked up a solid piece of its 2018 recruiting class in weakside defensive end Luke Johns out of Southeast Whitfield High School in Dalton, Georgia. The Florida native visited on Thursday, July 27th, received an offer the day after, and committed that same day. "I knew it was where I wanted to go. Georgia Tech was my first choice, even when you take football out of the equation," Johns explains. "Cannot ask for better in my opinion." Named to the 4A Preseason All-State Team by Recruit Georgia, the 6'5" 240 lb. defensive end chose Georgia Tech over offers from Rutgers and Washington State (along with numerous other "Group of 5" FBS schools) and reported interest from Vanderbilt and Georgia.

The versatile athlete moved to Georgia around 4 years ago from the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area and became a track star, specifically excelling in the high jump where he ranked second nationally, jumping 6'6" as a freshman and 6'10" as a sophomore before shifting his focus entirely on football. "I weighed 175 a year and a half ago, and am working hard to get into the 245-265 range. I've worked really hard to become a good football player, and I'm working as hard as I can to be the best I can be." Johns recently weighed in at around 240, all of it good weight. That work ethic paired with his natural athletic prowess is part of what makes him a special player. When asked what one thing we would want Georgia Tech fans to know about him, Johns responded "I'm going to work as hard as I can and I want them to see that. I'm going to put everything I have in every day." Johns currently works out as much as possible, trying to train at least once a day. He says he plans on staying at defensive end, likely as a weakside pass rusher, where Tech coaches want him.

It wasn't easy to get an offer in the first place, and it wasn't Luke's first visit to GT, either. In fact, he had attended the early summer camp at GT about 6 weeks prior. While he enjoyed the visit, he said it was nothing compared to his most recent visit, which was much more individually-focused. "Ron West was my primary recruiter, and he was an integral part in my recruitment process. He helped me get the offer in the first place. I know that Coach West was trying his hardest to get me an offer, but I expected that I would actually receive the offer after my first game. But then Coach Johnson called the next morning, and he told me he had been up all night thinking about it, and that he wanted to offer me. So I told him right away that I was committing."

Johns also remarked on how taken aback he was with the Tech campus. "I was shocked. It's a beautiful campus inside Atlanta. You feel safe on the campus, and it's really that nice. I was surprised, because even though I've lived here I had no clue that it was this amazing. My advice to every recruit is that you have to see the campus." When asked about what stuck out to him the most during his visit, Johns cited 2 factors: coaches and facilities. "The facilities were a lot nicer than I thought; in fact, they were amazing. I loved their facilities. So I'm a big fan of the facilities, and I'm a big fan of the coaches. When I talked to the coaches, they were clear that they really wanted me, and they were truly looking out for me. I loved how they talked with me and they talked about my strength in the classroom and didn't want to wait until the season to extend me an offer."

Strength in the classroom is no joke. Johns posts a 3.6 GPA and took AP Literature last year, and is taking AP Statistics this coming year. His biggest factor in his decision was the education and the academics Georgia Tech has to offer its student-athletes. Education has always been #1, and it shows. "Education should be the number one priority. Every guy's goal is to be the best at football, but you have to have a plan if it doesn't work out. I want to push myself academically, and their education is top of the line." Tech's academic focus was the biggest part of Luke's choice, and he already has a major in mind. "I want to get into computer engineering. I've done coding since I was a kid, and I love coding. If that doesn't work out though, I want to get into business."

Johns and the Southeast Whitfield High School football team have moderate hopes for the upcoming season. "This year we have a lot more talent and better leaders. I wouldn't put a number on it, but we're hoping to pick up from last year and do even better this year." The Raiders went 5-5 last year, and 2-4 in Region 6. Luke is also looking forward to the step up from his current level of competition in AAAA Georgia high school football to the ACC, a factor he said made Georgia Tech all the more desirable. "I want to play the big-time programs, and you can't get any better than the ACC."

While Johns hasn't gotten in contact with the current recruiting class yet, he's started following them on Twitter. "I'm relieved that the process is over. I've been to several schools, even up in New York and New Jersey, and it can get stressful at times." When asked to rate his excitement of committing between 1 and 10, Johns affirmed that he's a "100. I'm super enthusiastic, and my parents are very excited. This is a dream come true, and I'm 100% committed to Georgia Tech."

Multiple staff members contributed to this article.

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2018 Wide Receiver Recruit Shedrick Jackson

Just like his uncle Bo, Shedrick Jackson could very well be a household name when its all said and done. The 6-foot-2, 198-pound wide receiver put up some impressive numbers during his "The Opening" evaluations: a 4.55-second 40-yard dash, a 4.21-second 20-yard shuttle, a 33.5-foot power throw, and a 38.5-inch vertical jump, good for a SPARQ rating of 109.23, which is third among all receivers at the Atlanta regional and only behind standouts Kearis Jackson & Alontae Taylor. A 4.55-second 40-yard dash time puts him among the upper echelon of athletes, but the rising senior claims he's even faster than that.

“As a wide receiver, I’m definitely explosive,” Jackson told Gridiron Now. “People see me and think, ‘He’s a big guy, so he might not be able to run too fast.’ But when I’m on the field I’m faster than anybody out there. I have speed and I play physical. I would definitely say that I am versatile as a wide receiver.”

That versatility will serve him well in an offense like Georgia Tech's which thrives on individual matchups. "With that option, it creates a lot of one-on-one (matchups) on the outside," Jackson told AL.com. "That's how you make plays."

But beyond that, Jackson really has taken significant interest in Georgia Tech's history of producing terrific NFL-caliber receivers. When prompted about Georgia Tech and his interest in them, Shedrick told GTSwarm.com, "I have interest in them because of the way they work and because they have a history of great receivers. Some of my favorite receivers played there. Calvin Johnson is my favorite wide receiver of all-time and I think he has been the best for a while. As of right now I feel like Julio Jones is the best in the NFL, but Demaryius Thomas is another of my favorite wide receivers."

Jackson caught 43 passes for 661 yards and three touchdowns last season and had four receptions for Hoover High School in the AHSAA Class 7A state championship win over McGill-Toolen in December. Regarded as one of the top 20 overall prospects in Alabama for 2018, Jackson recently narrowed down his list to 5: Georgia Tech, Auburn, Mississippi State, Missouri, and Memphis. Out of those schools, the only one he hasn't visited is Missouri, and has made it out several times to the others, including Tech.

"I've been on campus 2 times, and I plan to come for some games this season and possible visits this summer." Jackson attended 1 spring practice in April where he earned an offer and came back out to the Flats for the spring game. "The fans there are incredible. I went to the scrimmage and they talked to me in the stands telling me how it's a great place to be and encouraging me to come there."

He hasn't had 'best visit' up to this point, and has had a great time at each school he's visited. There also isn't much separation in his mind as to any school recruiting harder than others: "they are all recruiting me pretty hard at this point and I have at least one coach from each school that keeps up with me, about 2 or 3 days each week." For Georgia Tech, that means texting and talking with wide receivers Coach Buzz Preston on a regular basis. He also didn't think that there was any one pitch that Georgia Tech coaches were selling him on most, rather that he knows they have a history for producing receivers and the way that they are committed to work on and off the field, which he finds interesting.

Shedrick likes to get into different subjects, and if he couldn't play football, he'd probably be somewhere trying to start a business of his own or traveling the world to see different things. As far as business and academics goes, he's not too worried. "All the schools I'm looking at now have a great business school, so I'm not so much worried about that or location. It'll just come down to whichever one I feel I can go and max out my potential at." He also told AL.com about what else he is looking for in a school, mainly about the chemistry the program has. "Trying to build a chemistry, the way their coaches and players (conduct themselves) and if it's a family atmosphere because here at Hoover, that's what we have," Jackson said. "It's a lot of love. I know all these guys and love them."

As far as a decision, it will come at some point further down the road. When asked about it, Shedrick said "no specific date; it'll just happen whenever I feel it is right." However, he does plan to be an early enrollee and graduate from high school in December, which means his decision could come sometime later in the summer. If he turns out to be as anywhere close to as dominant as his uncle once was for Auburn, then he'll be one of the better grabs for whoever ends up landing his commitment.

Multiple staff members contributed to this article.

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2018 Defensive Back Recruit Kenneth Dicks III

When talking about recruits flying under the radar, defensive back Kenneth Dicks III out of Lambert High School (Suwanee, Georgia) is a prototypical example. Despite posting 38 tackles, 9 pass-breakups, and 5 interceptions in 11 games last year, the rising senior didn't start getting notable recognition until after his appearance at Nike's "The Opening" regional in Charlotte, where he posted the highest SPARQ rating (a scoring system designed to measure sport-specific athleticism) at the event and the second-highest SPARQ rating in the entire country. Since then, the 6-foot 200-pound athletic phenom has received 5 offers in less than 4 days, including ones from ACC competitors Wake Forest and Louisville.

Another school Dicks has been receiving a lot of attention from is Georgia Tech. He receives a good amount of mail from the staff, and visited the campus to watch them scrimmage during the spring. By all accounts, he enjoyed the visit. "My visit was great. I loved the energy in the scrimmage and how the coaches don't just focus on the football side but also help with academics as well. They makes sure the athlete gets the best chance to become a productive citizen outside of football."

That last part is a notable sentiment from Dicks, who gets his business done on and off the field, posting a 3.5 GPA with an 1150 on the SAT, with plans to get it over 1200. While Dicks is still keeping his options open and feeling out what major factors will influence his decision (such as location or program prestige), one thing is certain: he'll be looking for a school with good academics in addition to good football. "My recruiting process really just started for me, so right now I'm discussing my options with my parents and they would like me to keep all my options open. But academics is extremely important to me and attending a college with a strong academic program is very high on my list."

Ranked as the #10 safety in GA according to Recruit Georgia, and consistently ranked in the top 100 players in North Georgia, Dicks felt that he had a good outing at "The Opening", and overall thought highly of the event. "Excellent experience, I had a great time. There were many great athletes there, lots of talent and I just wish them all the best in their recruiting process." When asked about upcoming camps and college visits, Kenneth noted that it was still in the works. "I'm going to discuss the camp options with my parents in the next few weeks."

Dicks is also a versatile defensive back, able to play any of the defensive back positions, from safety to nickleback to cornerback. "Some schools like me at corner, some schools at safety. And some want me to play both." Although he's now fielding interest from several different schools, don't look for a decision anytime soon. Dicks didn't feel like there was a clear leader for his recruitment yet, but did tell Recruit Georgia before his "The Opening" showcase that he while he's interested in everyone at this time, he would like to hear from more ACC and SEC schools, and that Air Force and Georgia Southern have been recruiting him hardest to this point.

Multiple staff members contributed to this article.

[Editor's note: In the time since this interview was first conducted, Dicks has received several more offers, including one from Georgia Tech after attending their football day camp the weekend of June 3rd & 4th.]