Georgia is coming off a weekend on which several significant football prospects for the class of 2011 were on campus and we now have only 10 days left until National Signing Day, so it seems like a great time to take stock of where things stand in Georgia football recruiting. Obviously the past week was a bountiful one with the commitments of Quintavious Harrown and Valdosta's dynamic duo of Malcolm Mitchell and Jay Rome. We'll try to keep things going this week with potential announcements from a lot of talented young football players who are considering becoming Bulldogs. There's a lot to cover, so let's get to it.
- Currently Georgia has a total of 19 players committed for the class of 2011 according to my calculations. Steve Patterson of Ugasports.com recently noted that it's hard to say exactly how many players can be signed, if for no other reason than because the rules on which year a given scholarship will count toward have a little leeway in them. Incoming freshmen Christian Conley and Christian Lemay are already enrolled in classes and may (I believe will) count toward 2010. My best estimate based on recent attrition (Tanner Strickland, Nick Williams, Marcus Dowtin, Justin Houston) is that Georgia could sign 24 new players on February 2nd. That does not mean that we will sign 24. At least 1 of our current commits still has academic work to do and may not be in Athens this season and we may be looking to sign 1 who will certainly go the JUCO route (more on that shortly).
- Holy crap, Zach Mettenberger went to junior college and now looks like a flippin' werewolf. (H/T, Rivals.com and EDSBS). This of course has little or nothing to do with Georgia Bulldog football recruiting, but I simply could not let it pass unmentioned because, gee whiz, we here at Dawg Sports love awalking, talking Teen Wolf impersonators almost as much as a line dropped from Lonesome Dove. One can only assume that Mett's now headed to Baton Rouge so that he'll be close at hand to fight New Orleans' rampant vampire population or to appear on the upcoming season of Trueblood. Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post, already in progress.
- Georgia had a couple of interesting visitors over the weekend: Lauderdale Lakes, Florida linebacker Kent Turene and Memphis offensive tackle Antonio Richardson. Rumors were fairly rampant Saturday night that Turene, a Southern Cal verbal commit, has now switched his allegiances to Georgia. However, no formal announcement to that effect has been made. Obviously Athens is a long way from Lauderdale Lakes. But not as far as L.A., which could end up playing some part in Turene's decision. The young man is a 6'3, 230 pound tackling machine who could play either inside or outside linebacker for the Bulldogs and would be an excellent pickup. Stay tuned for an update on his recruiting shortly. I for one am waiting for Lane Kiffin to remind him that not going to USC will subject him to a lifetime of work as a menial petroleum product dispensing technician.
- Richardson had nice things to say about his visit to Athens, but it's really hard to imagine that Georgia would be a serious player for one of the top 10 offensive tackles in the country, Rivals' top rated player in the state of Tennessee, when we don't actually have an offensive line coach in place. Stranger things have happened in recruiting, and will happen again over the next 10 days. But that just seems impossible. I fear it's too late in the game to get to Richardson. It has been fun watching Volunteer fans experience a bit of anguish over the visit though.
- Speaking of offensive line coaching, there's been no hint of a coaching search coming out of Athens since Coach Searels left for Austin. My impression is that the 4 offensive line recruits already verbally committed to come to Athens fully intend to be there and trust Coach Richt to bring in a position coach they can believe in. Having locked up those guys, my impression is that Coach Richt will focus on recruiting for 2011 while he still can and that an announcement will come in the days following National Signing Day. Of course, any collegiate coach we'd be interested in is unlikely to change jobs this close to Signing Day, and it's hard to imagine any head coach in the collegiate ranks allowing us to interview one of his assistants until after Signing Day. An NFL hire would have difficulty getting to town and passing the NCAA's mandatory exam required of coaches before they can begin recruiting in time to help us in 2011. Bottomline, I'll be very surprised if we add any other offensive linemen before Signing Day, and likewise surprised if we add an offensive line coach. And that's fine. Let's take our time and do that right.
- There were a handful of visitors in Athens this weekend who, unlike Turene and Richardson, everyone expected to be there. They included recent commit Quintavious "Cootie" Harrow of Carver-Columbus, his good friend and teammate Isaiah Crowell (perhaps you've heard of him, I hear he's pretty good . . .) and JUCO defensive tackle John Jenkins. Jenkins and Crowell both brought their families, and attended Saturday's basketball game, at which the crowd seperately started chanting Jenkins' and Crowell's names. I've also heard that there was a faint "Dream Team" chant as well. We'll know more about how those visits went late tonight or tomorrow. Jenkins said recently that he would be bringing his family to Athens to find out if they would "see what he saw" there. I like that kind of language.
- Harrow's offer raised some eyebrows, as Georgia was his first(and so far only) significant offer. The thinking was that Georgia is offering Harrow in a transparent attempt to sway his friend Crowell, not unlike the way Tennessee extended a late offer to Calhoun quarterback Nash Nance last year in hopes of landing his friend and star receiver Da'Rick Rogers. Personally, I think it's a very different situation. For one, Harrow has already been to the Dawg Night camp and had been watched closely by Georgia's coaches throughout the season. However, it only recently became clear that he would qualify academically, and that is likely what triggered the offer. Second, I have watched Harrow play, and I watched Nash Nance play. I feel comfortable saying Nance will never play significant minutes at Tennessee. He's just not that good, and there are only so many snaps for quarterbacks. Harrow however has excellent speed, is a good tackler, and could contribute everywhere from linebacker to safety to cornerback and will certainly play on special teams. Plus he attends a school that is annually loaded with SEC-caliber talent, so that having him on the roster (along with former Carver star Jarvis Jones) can't hurt for 2012 and beyond. Finally, he was ready to commit as soon as he got the offer and has made no secret of the fact that he's long wanted to be a Bulldog. That last part's worth something in and of itself.
- Thomas County Central standout Ray Drew now plans to announce his college choice on Friday. I'm guessing that he picks Georgia for a variety of reasons. If he does not I will be truly dejected. Every year there are a handful of guys who, to this untrained observer, appear ticketed for NFL Sundays. In this class Ray Drew is one of those guys. Anyone who saw him team with future Bulldog Sterling Bailey to terrorize the quarterbacks in the recent Army All-American Game couldn't help but see it. Be aware that if Ray Drew does in fact commit to Georgia this week, Kyle will likely have to drive to Macon to peel me off the ceiling.
- Georgia is also still recruiting Asheville defensive end Jeffery Pagan. Pagan committed to Clemson last week but the Georgia coaches won't give up on him easily. I don't know that he flips his commitment, but I would be thrilled to get him. Pagan reminds me a little of a slightly more athletic Abry Jones coming out of high school: great motor, frame to play either strongside or weakside end in the 3-4. He would be a great catch.
- The 'Dawgs might also make a late run at East Paulding offensive tackle and Miami commit Taylor Gadbois. Gadbois has called Miami his "dream school", but distance can sometimes be an issue for high school kids, and the hire of Al Golden just does not seem to have gotten Miami a lot of positive momentum (which is a shame because, egad, back-to-back bowl eligible seasons at Temple. Temple!). Georgia has extended an offer and is trying to schedule an inhome visit for this week. I always like our chances once we get Mark Richt into a recruit's living room. Also keep an eye out for Coffee County offensive tackle Xzavier Ward. Ward may end up being the guy in this year's class (and there's always at least one) who waits too long to accept an offer and ends up left out in the cold. Ward was being recruited hard early by both Georgia and Alabama, but both had moved on and/or filled up their allotment of offensive linemen until recently. Ward may now be a candidate to grayshirt in Athens. He might also end up at Georgia Tech or Mississippi State, and has an official visit to Auburn next weekend (though they might not have room for him either). Ward is not a guy who could play early for us, but is pretty athletic for his size and has a frame to add good weight after a redshirt season. He could be a Signing Day surprise.
- Finally, Georgia looks set to add Williston-Elko (S.C.) linebacker Dexter Staley as a "sign and place" player who would commit to Georgia then head directly to Georgia Military College for a year. Staley had been long considered a lock for the South Carolina Gamecocks, but Coach Spurrier's crew appears to have run out of room at linebacker. Staley allegedly had offers from the likes of Florida, LSU, North Carolina and Michigan State in addition to Georgia. And while you never want to have to rely on JUCO players as a mainstay in the recruiting strategy, on occasion guys like Staley are a fairly low risk proposition. If he gets his academic house in order in Milledgeville he can arrive in Athens ready to contribute. If not, his scholarship does not ever count against our total roster number. Given the excellent track record we've had with Coach Williams' former GMC Bulldogs in recent years I expect Staley will be one to watch. That should be enough recruiting information, rumor and speculation to hold you for a while. Until later . . .