Tech ups its profile in Gwinnett with signing of Green, Perkins

Grayson's Shawn Green and Collins Hill's Charles Perkins are the first Gwinnett players to sign with Georgia Tech since 2004.

Grayson's Shawn Green and Collins Hill's Charles Perkins are the first Gwinnett players to sign with Georgia Tech since 2004.

ATLANTA -- Geographically speaking, Gwinnett County is almost perfectly equidistant from Georgia Tech's midtown Atlanta campus and the University of Georgia's campus in Athens.

In terms of recruiting for the two in-state rivals' football teams, Gwinnett's top high schools seniors have been much more likely to take the trip east on Ga. Highway 316 during the decade of the 2000s.

However, in his third recruiting class, Tech coach Paul Johnson has begun to get more of the county's top senior players to look to the South and West toward The Flats.

With Collins Hill's Charles Perkins and Grayson's Shawn Green officially signing their national letters of intent to join the Yellow Jackets on Wednesday's National Signing Day, they became the first Gwinnett players to sign scholarships with Tech out of high school since Buford quarterback Kyle Manley in 2004.

While Georgia has found Gwinnett to be recruiting gold, having signed at least one Gwinnett player in 15 of the last 18 recruiting classes -- a total of 26 players, including Buford offensive lineman Kolton Houston on Wednesday -- Tech is hoping to mine the county's talent, as well.

Tech coach Paul Johnson has made no secret about his desire to increase the Jackets' profile throughout Georgia, especially metro Atlanta, since being named coach in December 2007.

"We want to be (recruiting) throughout the state," Johnson said during a press conference Wednesday night at the Georgian Terrace Hotel. "There are enough good players in the state of Georgia (that) if we can get the best players, we can be successful. If we can get the best players in Atlanta, we'll be pretty good."

It's not as if Tech hasn't tried to recruit Gwinnett County in the past.

Perkins, the Daily Post's reigning Offensive Player of the Year, said the Jackets have been recruiting him hard since even before Johnson took over as head coach.

"(Former Tech and now Buffalo Bills) Coach (Chan) Gailey actually started recruiting me my sophomore year," said the 6-foot, 205-pound running back, who entered school early and is in his first semester at Tech after leading the county in yards per game as a senior. "Then when Coach Johnson came in and saw my junior highlight tape, that's when it got serious, and he made an offer.

"I'd never had a favorite between Georgia and Georgia Tech (growing up), but when Coach (Johnson) came out and showed that (Tech) was a program on the rise, it made my decision easier."

Mickey Conn, who coached Green at Grayson the last three seasons, agrees that while Tech has always been around, Johnson and his staff seem to have been more aggressive in gaining a presence in Gwinnett.

"(Former Tech assistant and new Georgia Southern coach) Jeff Monken was they guy who came in and recruited our area," said Conn, who has coached the Rams since the school opened in 2000.

"But, you know, last week, Coach Johnson, (new Tech defensive coordinator Al) Groh and (offensive line) Coach (Todd) Spencer all came in to kind of shore everything up, meet the (Grayson) staff and talk to Shawn a little bit."

Not that Green ever wavered in his commitment, even with Tech having a different defensive coordinator (Groh) and defensive line coach (still to be named) from the ones that recruited him.

Still, the 6-0, 270-pound defensive tackle appreciated the attention he got from the Tech staff in making sure he was still comfortable.

"I liked (former defensive line) Coach (Giff) Smith a lot, ... and I was excited for him to be my coach," said Green, the Daily Post's Defensive Player of the Year last fall. "I know they'll get a good D-line coach, and I know I'll get a good education at Tech. And I like Coach Groh, too. Plus, he runs a 3-4 like I played in high school."

Both Green and Perkins hope they are the beginning of a new wave of Gwinnett players wearing the white and gold.

"Gwinnett's always produced great players," Perkins said. "Hopefully, me and Shawn will be guys to look up to and maybe make people want to come to Tech. It's a program on the rise."

Conn believes such an effort could pay off handsomely for any program, but especially those with the academic requirements Tech has.

"I think it's a gold mine for them," Conn said. "There are great football players out here, but not only that, Gwinnett schools -- academics are so important. These kids, not only can they play football, they're also smart kids.

"I think it's going to help them. I think it would help any school to come into Gwinnett County. It's good football out here in Gwinnett."