Not all recruiting classes in the state of Georgia are created equal. There are only so many years a program like Georgia can put together a so-called “Dream Team”. Sure, the state always has talent, but there are times when it is oozing skill – 2011 was a year like that… so was 2007.
But unlike 2011, Georgia’s recruiting efforts failed miserably in 2007. Most observers didn’t notice it as it was masked by the success of the next two seasons, which included 21 wins. But, like investing for retirement there is a lag in time before you see results.
It’s not that Georgia’s class of 2007 was horrible necessarily – it just wasn’t what it could have been. After all, it was considered the 17th-best recruiting class in the country. And while 17th-best is pretty good for most, it was the worst class Mark Richt had signed up to that point. His program has seemingly paid for it ever since.
Sure, there was some skill signed in the winter of 2007 – Drew Butler has developed himself into one of the top punters in the country – perhaps the best one in Georgia’s history; Justin Houston flourished in Todd Grantham’s 3-4; and Rennie Curran and Clint Boling developed into NFL players from humble high school roots.
Other than that (three impact players still remain on the team – Bruce Figgins and Aron White, both were signed as tight ends, and Justin Anderson) the class of 2007 essentially came and went with little fanfare.
By the 2009 season, when it was this group’s time to shine (without the class of 2006’s Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno to help them), they didn’t produce near the same results as their counterparts from years before.
But the worst part about 2007 was what Georgia left on the table – and if you are keeping score at home it was quite a bit of talent. I have ranted time and again for the last five years: the class of 2007 wasn’t about what Georgia got; it was about what Georgia missed on.
Hindsight shows just how much the unsigned players could have helped at Georgia – particularly over the last two seasons.
Cameron Heyward at defensive end in Todd Grantham’s 3-4? How about Allen Bailey opposite him? I will let others yap about Cam Newton playing tight end at Georgia. How much better a defensive coordinator would Willie Martinez have been at Georgia with Eric Berry patrolling the secondary rather than the SEC's favorite punching bag of the late 2000s Bryan Evans?
Consider that of 2007’s top 15 players in the state only four signed with Georgia (that’s about as bad as it gets in terms of recruiting conversion rates). Unless Israel Troupe pulls off a Festivus miracle only one of those four, Rennie Curran, will have been drafted into the NFL.
That’s pretty bad. Actually that’s really, really, really bad. Signing only four players in the top 15 in the state is bad enough – but getting only one player of the top 15 in the state into the NFL from your program in a given recruiting year is even worse.
Meanwhile top 15ers Eric Berry, Allen Bailey, Jonathan Dwyer, Cameron Heyward and Cam Newton were all drafted. That is compounded by the fact that Berry, Newton and Heyward weren’t just drafted… they went in the first round… and did so coming out of out-of-state schools.
Consider this: The Georgia Bulldogs have not had a homegrown player drafted in the first round since Thomas Davis and David Pollack in 2005. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech (2), Auburn, Alabama, Ohio State, Tennessee and Troy have all had Georgians in the first round since then… that’s poor.
The Bulldogs can only blame themselves for the recruiting follies of 2007 – good thing for them they learned their lesson by 2011.