Kelton Dawson became the 17th commitment of Georgia Tech’s 2017 recruiting class on the morning of January 22nd, on the tail end of an official visit weekend, and kicking off a trio of commitments throughout the day. Dawson actually announced his commitment by posting a tweet with a really neat video that captures the moment he pledged to Coach Johnson and the staff. He’s listed at 6’3”, weighs in at 242 pounds, and comes to the Flats from Stockbridge High School in Stockbridge, GA. He committed to Georgia Tech over offers from West Virginia, UCF, Kentucky, and other offers, as well as interest from several Power-5 programs. He’s rated a three-star prospect by Rivals (5.5) and the 247Sports Composite (0.8359).
Dawson’s highlights are very interesting. A majority of his plays show him lined up at defensive tackle, but his size and play style are a much better fit for defensive end at the next level. While he doesn’t show a noticeable amount of power by consistently pushing opposing offensive linemen back (as you’d expect from a Power-5 level defensive tackle), he shows length, athleticism, and vision that make for a very intriguing defensive end prospect. He shows a great sense of awareness of how the play is unfolding around him, putting himself in position to make plays without over-pursuing and creating cutback opportunities. He also uses his hands and length extremely well, in a way that will definitely translate to the college game.
The biggest concern I have about Dawson, based on his highlights, is a lack of evidence of him using strength or leverage to overpower his high school competition. His play style within his highlights does not seem to translate to strong pass-rushing ability at the next level, but there’s more to being an effective defensive end in college than being a good pass-rusher. Still, even ability to stop the run will require better use of leverage and some more strength than is shown in the video above.
What to Expect
Dawson probably fits best in college as a strong-side defensive end, where his primary function will be to support the run rather than create pressure in passing situations. His highlights seem to indicate that his technical abilities are pretty well-refined coming out of high school, although his athleticism may not necessarily be at an elite level just yet. Although there’s plenty of depth at defensive end already in place for Georgia Tech, Dawson may be able to use that technical ability to see situational playing time as a true freshman. His vision, ability to use his hands, and knack for navigation through traffic could make him useful right out of the gate.
Dawson’s long-term potential on the Flats seems like it really could vary. With his vision and skill where it is right now, I have to think that Dawson’s career floor is as a role-player for the Yellow Jackets. With some continued development in college though, Dawson has an extremely high ceiling with his body type and knack for the game, and could have NFL-level potential. It’s also possible that Dawson could add considerable weight and grow into more of a defensive tackle type, which would be very intriguing if he can do so while retaining his nimble play style. Dawson’s physical development will be very intriguing to watch, and key to the trajectory of his career at Georgia Tech.