Georgia's Recruiting Manifesto for 2011
Israel Crowell
Publisher
Posted Feb 4, 2010


ATHENS – Todd Grantham talked about it in his first meeting with the press.

It was simple really. Grantham explained that if Georgia could sign every player within a certain radius of the school they would be a college football power like few others – better than Southern Cal and Florida.

Todd Grantham is absolutely correct. If Georgia could sign every player in state… or even every player they want in state they probably would lose no more than one game a season – if that.

Here comes the difficult part – you actually have to go out and do it, and Georgia didn’t this recruiting season. Georgia did not get the job done in recruiting this season, and that will have a direct effect on the future of the program. It is a hard pill to swallow, but it is the truth.


Ogletree highlights the 2010 Class
What Happened:

On the last day of the recruiting year a player, Da’ Rick Rogers, who had been committed to Georgia for almost seven months, signed with Tennessee. Two of the top three players in the state signed with the Vols… even though UT went through a messy coaching change weeks before Signing day. Schools with a name other than “Georgia” had more players signed from the Peach State top ten than the Dawgs did (Georgia had three – ONLY THREE – players signed from the top ten in state).

Even though the Dawgs had glaring holes at wide receiver they signed only one player at that spot who will enroll this fall – Michael Bennett. They got into a Signing Day battle with Florida State – a program that is notorious for winning recruiting battles on Signing Day – for Christian Green. To no one’s surprised he picked the Noles. In fact, it got so bad at receiver that Jordan Akins, the ninth-best receiver in the state, picked Central Florida over the Dawgs (and, yes, he had a committable Georgia offer). I was there for that one live and could not believe my eyes.

Ouch! It was a punch to the gut.

But all of this could have been avoided. This was not about coaching changes – it was about a lack of focus in the summer, which had ripple effects months down the road. It happened on a sunny summer day – the day Georgia was having its annual Dawg Night camp.

It was the first time I can remember that Georgia was doing well with players from Carver – one of the most talented high schools in the state. That day Devin Burns, a skilled player, who lined up at quarterback for the Tigers was coming to commit to the Bulldogs. He was going to commit to Georgia, and Corey Crawford was right behind him.


Carver's Devin Burns
But when Burns went to commit, the Dawgs were flat footed. They didn’t take the commitment – because they had pulled the offer off the table – but Burns didn’t know that before he drove up from Columbus with a bus full of his friends and his parents tagging along.

Madness ensued. It was a public relations disaster for Georgia.

Later in the year the Dawgs made another run at Devin Burns, but it was all for not. Georgia then turned to Hutson Mason, who committed to Georgia. That’s when everything started going sideways for Georgia.

If Georgia had taken Burns in the summer, they would have gotten Crawford as well – and Crawford would be a killer in a 3-4. Having taken Burns, they likely would not have taken Mason later in the year. That means Mike Nance and company would have had very little to get angered about with regards to Nash Nance getting passed over in favor of Mason.

Suddenly Da’ Rick Rogers was in play because Nance was upset. Rogers would have never been lured to Tennessee because Nance would have likely ended up at Mississippi State or Vanderbilt – not Tennessee – if Rogers wasn’t on the table.

The dominoes fall in recruiting, and some times they fall fast and hard. Had none of that happened Georgia would have almost certainly kept Rogers and added Crawford. Suddenly the top ten didn’t look so bad because they were not after Markieth Ambles anyway. 56% is better than 33% every day of the week – particularly on Saturdays.

This class, the 2010 class, is not without talent. Alec Ogletree and Garrison Smith are high-end talents. I think T.J. Stripling and Brent Benedict are going to be All-SEC level players at Georgia. Michael Thornton was a much-needed addition to the 3-4. Jakar Hamilton is going to make a huge impact on the 2010 season – huge (I will get to that one later in the month).

My problem with the 2010 class, much like the class of 2007, is that it is more about who Georgia didn’t sign rather than who they did. I already talked about Rogers – who will probably be a high-round draft pick in the NFL. Ja’Wuan James was the prototypical body type for left tackle – the Dawgs tried hard, but it didn’t work. He’s on Rocky Top right now. Georgia lost a fight to Florida for Mack Brown. Jeff Whitaker probably could be traded with Thornton, so no complaints there. Tai-ler Jones would have been a nice addition, but for one reason or another that didn’t work, either. Jones, apparently, would rather go to school in frigid South Bend, Indiana than an hour down the road in Athens.

Recruiting is about making the margin of error as large as possible for the future. But Georgia’s margin of error with this class, just like the 2005 and 2007 classes, is small – they need production from the top of the lineup. Injuries always affect recruiting classes – other forms of attrition do, too. One of the 19 players signed to this class will be gone soon; one may never make it. Hamilton, a junior college transfer, won’t be in Athens in two years. Lonnie Outlaw probably has to get through Georgia Military before he ever gets to Georgia. Benedict missed some of his senior season with an injury – Brandon Burrows missed all of his hurt, too.

That’s not running those players down… that’s reality. The margin of error with this class is razor thin. It is like the classes of 2005 and 2007 rolled up into one – a small class, with the top player in the state going to Tennessee and with the rest of the top ten going to somewhere other than Georgia.

In 2007, Georgia didn’t sign Eric Berry, Allen Bailey, Josh Nesbitt, Jonathan Dwyer, Nick Claytor, D.J. Donley, Antwane Greenlee and Cameron Heyward. Tech signed four players in the top ten – their margin of error was wide. Two of those players are stars – the other two not so much. Georgia, by contrast signed two players in the top ten of 2007: Caleb King and Israel Troupe. Get the picture?


King "Runs This State", but didn't have much help in 2007
The next top players, in order, the Dawgs signed were Rennie Curran, John Knox and Chris Little. None of them will be playing in Athens in the fall – two of them never really played there at all. We are through the top 15 in-state players for the year 2007, and Georgia will have one of those players on the roster in the fall. Now Caleb King is pretty good, but he needs help. It’s a good thing for Georgia the bottom of the recruiting list picked it up in a big way. Non-Top 20 players Clint Boling and Justin Houston have become very good players. I would have loved to see Berry or even Heyward at Georgia.

In 2005, Georgia signed another small class – and a slew of the top recruits never played. Tavares Kearney, Corey Moon, Brandon Sesay, Antavious Coates and Ian Smith never, for one reason or another, made a contribution on the field in Athens. A class of 19 was even smaller.

What Must be Done:

There is hope, but Georgia is going to have to change the way they do a few things in order to take advantage of a banner class in 2011.

They need to fight out-of-state intruders.

They need to be far more aggressive than they already are.

They need to lock down several top-name players… before G-Day, which will create a ripple effect in the state for other top recruits.

They need to reclaim South Georgia – home of what I consider the most passionate Georgia fans (the Dawgs did not sign a player from south of Albany). They need to reclaim South Georgia in a very aggressive and powerful way.

A quick look at the top of the state next year shows a pretty good group to work with.


Ray Drew is a must sign in 2011
Jay Rome should be recruited by Georgia three times harder than Clemson recruits him. Ray Drew is a must sign. Isaiah Crowell is probably the most important sign for the Dawgs in the 2011 – he can do things other players can’t do in Athens – and Crowell would bring Gabe Wright. James Vaughters is not a forgone conclusion to go to Georgia – he’s not going to Athens just because “it’s Georgia”… that attitude will not work with him; if fact, it will not work with any recruit, but Vaughters is going to need to be more impressed than just that. Damian Swann needs to be shown tapes of Branden Smith’s 2009 season and be told that’s what he will be doing in 2011 – a true City of Atlanta kid going off Between the Hedges. Georgia needs to recapture C.J. Uzomah’s attention. Stephon Tuitt is too close to Athens to not be signed. Nick Marshall is a dynamic athlete – the Dawgs need to get him, too. Xzavier Dickson is looking hard at Bama – Georgia needs to get him up for a visit soon, and they need to get Corey Moore and his family to come with him on that trip. A.J. Johnson needs to be committed to Georgia… soon. Watts Dantzler needs to be committed to Georgia soon, too. Don’t take certain in-state kids for granted. They probably were not very impressed with your 8-5 season last year, and you are the only ones that can change that.

Start with that group. Get the commitments now. They grew up watching Georgia win SEC titles and consistently finish with ten or more wins. One recruit I spoke with recently talked about watching David Greene and David Pollack “when he was little.” You have to make sure prospects know that 8-5 is not normal or acceptable at Georgia.


Grady's Damian Swann needs to be shown tapes of Branden Smith’s 2009 season
These players are what they are – don’t worry about missing someone else – you know what these kids can do… don’t wait for the camps to offer – make this summer’s camp about 2012 and 2013. Make the base of the 2011 class as strong as possible as early as possible. Go get any big-fish, out-of-state guys after handling business in Georgia. Recruit hard and fast. Get Mark Richt out in front as much as possible early and often.

2010 is done. It was time to move on yesterday afternoon (the planning to move forward needed to be done in December and January by the non-coaching staff). Recruiting classes like the 2010 class can be overcome… sometimes overcome more easily than expected. The Bulldogs did an outstanding job with the 2009 class. The margin of error there was very, very wide. The 2008 class was impressive as well. One recruiting class does not make or break a program – good or bad. But two sub-par classes in a row can crush a program. The ditch will be too big in the future with two sub-par classes in a row.


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