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Johnson's first signing class at Georgia Tech includes three RBs

ATLANTA - Paul Johnson went out of state for 12 of his first 20 signees at Georgia Tech on Wednesday.

The out-of-state signees include three running backs who will add depth to Johnson's option offense.

Johnson, who was hired by Georgia Tech on Dec. 7 to succeed Chan Gailey, was known for his option-based running attacks as the head coach at Navy and Georgia Southern.

Johnson signed running backs Embry Peeples of Orlando, Richard Watson of Tallahassee and speedster Marcus Wright, a Parade magazine All-American from San Antonio.

Watson (6-1, 225) is rated as the nation's No. 3 fullback by Rivals and No. 4 by Scout.com.

'He's got enough wiggle to be a big tailback,' said Scout.com's director of scouting Scott Kennedy.

'Then they got a smaller, quicker guy in Wright.'

Wright (5-8, 175) originally committed to Tulsa.

Johnson's in-state signees include two highly rated offensive linemen.

Omoregie Uzzi (6-3, 291) of Chamblee is rated as the No. 9 offensive guard in the nation by Scout.com. Nick McRae (6-4, 290) of Dubin is the No. 18 center in the nation, according to Rivals, and No. 8 in the nation by Scout.com.

Johnson also signed two quarterbacks - Jaybo Shaw of Flowery Branch and Tevin Washington of Wetumpka, Ala. - and two wide receivers.

Shaw had success running and passing at Flowery Branch, and Kennedy says there's no reason to think Johnson's Georgia Tech attack will ignore the pass.

'I'm just not sold that he's a pure triple option guy,' Kennedy said. 'He's a football coach and a very successful football coach.'

One of the receivers who signed with Johnson, Daniel McKayhan of Martin Luther King Jr. High in Decatur, was first recruited by Johnson at Navy.

Johnson also signed receiver Quentin Sims, who also played running back and quarterback at Colerain High in Cincinnati.

After leaving Navy to become Tech's coach Dec. 7, Johnson said he'd fit his offense with the Yellow Jackets' talent, but he said he'd remain true to the option as the foundation of his offense.

Johnson said his first class addressed needs at Tech.

'I am very pleased with this class,' Johnson said. 'We feel like this is a group of kids who will work hard and who are extremely excited about coming to Georgia Tech.

'I think we were able to recruit quality kids while filling some needs at every position group. I think we have some good fits for what we want to do on offense and defense. My staff worked very hard to produce solid results in a short amount of time.'

The class was rated only No. 37 in the nation by Scout.com, but Kennedy said a new coach's recruiting skills should not be judged by his first class on the job.

'I think he ran into some challenges that every coach does in the first recruiting period with a new job,' Kennedy said. 'It's not a good year, the transition year. The good year comes the year after, his second year as coach.'

One of Tech's most intriguing signees is defensive end Antonio Wilson of Decatur's Columbia High. Wilson (6-6, 220) was better known as a basketball player. He played football for the first time as a senior, and played in only four games due to an injury suffered in an automobile accident. But he had 25 tackles and 11 sacks in those four games.

Johnson lost at least two players who had said they would sign with previous Tech coach Chan Gailey. Quarterback Sean Renfree signed with Duke, and fullback-linebacker T.J. Pridemore of Buford signed with Florida.

Tech's list of 20 signees does not include receiver Tyler Melton of Houston. Melton, a 2007 signee, enrolled at Tech last month and will be a freshman in 2008.

SideBar: Bennett plans transfer

ATLANTA - Taylor Bennett won't be returning for his senior season at Georgia Tech.

Bennett, Tech's starting quarterback in 2007, plans to transfer though he hasn't told new coach Paul Johnson if he has picked a new school.

'I signed a release for him for whatever school he wants to transfer to,' Johnson said Wednesday.

'I haven't seen him since the bowl game, so it would be pretty safe to say he won't be back.'

Bennett's decision was not unexpected, as he is a drop-back quarterback and Johnson is bringing an option offense better suited for a running quarterback.

Bennett completed 162 of 327 passes for 2,136 yards with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2007.

Josh Nesbitt, who played behind Bennett as a freshman, and Calvin Booker will enter spring drills bracketed together atop Tech's depth chart at quarterback.

Johnson was hired as Tech's head coach on Dec. 7. Bennett was one of several Tech players who attended the press conference, and immediately after Johnson's introduction Bennett acknowledged there were questions about his future at Tech.

'I'll be honest with you, I don't know anything about that offense,' Bennett said of Johnson's scheme. 'I don't know what duties he would ask of a quarterback like myself.'

- The Associated Press