That may be changing.
The Yellow Jackets (9-2) are having their best season under Coach Chan Gailey and are trying to capitalize on it by turning their recruiting sights back to their home state. Georgia Tech is recruiting the state “this year more than any year since we’ve been here,” Bulldog coach Mark Richt said. “I don’t know why, but I know they’re doing an outstanding job.”
Of Georgia Tech’s 18 verbal commitments thus far, 11 hail from Georgia, and that haul includes two four-star running backs (Jonathan Dwyer, Marietta, and Roddy Jones, Chamblee), a four-star quartarback (Josh Nesbitt, Greensboro), a four-star offensive lineman (Nick Claytor, Gainesville), a four-star safety (D.J. Donley, Folkston) and a four-star wide receiver (Willie White, Kingsland).
“In previous classes they were really hitting Texas hard, hitting Florida hard,” said Miller Safrit, Scout.com’s South recruiting analyst. “They were kind of conceding the guys in Georgia to Georgia. Now they’re actually saying, ‘Let’s go head-to-head with these guys.’ I think you’re seeing more talented players (from Georgia) going to Georgia Tech.”
That adds another level of importance to Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. game in Sanford Stadium.
“Could it have an effect? Sure,” Safrit said. “It can give a little more fodder in recruiting to the coaches that win.”
The Bulldogs are 7-4 overall and have lost four games in the Southeastern Conference for the first time under Richt, but the slump doesn’t appear to have hurt their recruiting. Georgia has 19 verbal commitments after last week’s pledge from Norcross running back Caleb King.
King, a breakaway threat who is considered the nation’s third-best running back by Scout.com, chose Georgia over Auburn, which in the past decade has recruited running backs like Ronnie Brown, Kenny Irons and Brad Lester out of the state.
“I think it was big for them on a lot of different levels,” Safrit said. “First, it gives you one of the most dynamic players in Georgia at a position where down the road they’re going to need some players. Then, anytime they can beat out a rival like Auburn that is always coming into the state of Georgia, that says a lot about your team.Those two things together make it a big win for Georgia.”
The Bulldogs can only bring in 25 new players in March, but it’s doubtful they’ll sign even that many due to the number of scholarship athletes they already have, Richt said. If Georgia could handpick its remaining commitments, the first three on the list would be cornerback/wide receiver Eric Berry of Fairburn, defensive end/linebacker Allen Bailey of Darien and defensive tackle Cam Heyward of Suwanne, Safrit said.
“They’ll put the crown on the class if they’re able to pick up those guys,” he said.
Georgia’s midseason swoon hasn’t affected it much on the recruiting trail, and won’t if the Bulldogs bounce back strong, said Safrit, who pointed out that all but two of Georgia’s commitments came prior to the Bulldogs’ first game of the season.
“I think a lot of (this class) was based off the season they had last year,” Safrit said.
Richt’s recent announcement that he will not fire any assistant coaches will have a bigger impact on recruiting than the outcome of this Saturday’s game, Safrit said.
“It means a lot to them that the relationship with the coaches will be there,” he said. “As rough as they had there in the middle of the year they’re still looking really good for a lot of the great players.”
Georgia has verbal commitments from 19 high school football players for the Class of 2007.They are listed below with their hometown and Scout.com rating. (Commitments are not binding. Players can sign a national letter of intent beginning in February.)
OL Justin Anderson Ocilla Four stars
DE Neland Ball Jackson Three stars
OL Clint Boling Alpharetta Three stars
CB Vance Cuff Moultrie Four stars
LB Rennie Curran Snellville Four stars
TE Bruce Figgens Columbus Three stars
DE Clifton Geathers Georgetown, S.C. Four stars
QB Logan Gray Columbia, Mo. Four stars
OL Antwane Greenlee Columbus Four stars
OL Ben Harden Perry Two stars
WR Walter Hill Gainesville Three stars
DE Justin Houston Statesboro Three stars
RB Caleb King Norcross Five stars
S John Knox Statesboro Four stars
OL Tanner Strickland Nashville Three stars
OL Trinton Sturdivant Wadesboro, N.C. Four stars
WR Israel Troupe Tifton Four stars
TE Aron White Columbia, Mo. Four stars
LB Charles White Blythewood, S.C. Three stars