We all see the potential for next year. Plenty of talent on defense, young skill players and a veteran quarterback with plenty of talent. The obvious worries for next year are on the OL (with Jones and Glenn Leaving) and at RB where we lack depth and maturity. I started to wonder how those areas became ones of potential weakness and I also wanted to compare ourselves to the standard (LSU) so I looked back at our recruiting since 2007 and compared it to LSU's. My analysis is based on the information on Scout.com.
One thing that jumped out is that during that stretch, LSU signed 126 total players to 111 for UGA. That's getting close to an extra recruiting class (our 2010 class was 19 players), which helps explain some of the crazy depth that LSU enjoys. Let's say that for every four recruits you get 1 starter and 1 back-up, with 15 extra signees you get 7-8 starters and back-ups. Imagine our team this year with 4 more starter-caliber players and 4 more strong back-ups. That makes a big difference. The 2009 and 2010 classes will be the foundation of successful 2012 teams, but our two classes combined brought in 39 players compared to 52 for LSU.
At RB (including FB's), LSU has brought in ten players in the 2007-2011 classes. UGA has brought in 9. So there is not much difference in the total number. It was interesting to see that in many years we only bring in one RB (no pressure young man) so there is not much margin for error. Both teams had one year where they went crazy and brought in 4 backs, 2008 for UGA and 2010 for LSU. LSU got the better of this as 2010 produced Blue and Ware for them while 2008 produced Samuel (I love his heart and he's a DGD but he's not a natural RB) and the undersized Thomas. With Ealey and King leaving the program, we are left with Malcolme, Crowell and Samuel. That's enough to work with. I know people are irrationally down on Crowell (and irrationally up on Malcolme) but there's no doubt he's talented enough and there's the potential for him to make a real jump next year. Still there's a clear need at this position and it looks like we may pull a 2008 this year and bring in multiple backs. Based on history, we will have to go back to 1 or at most 2 for the next few years, so this RB class is crucial.
At OL, UGA brought in 21 playes in the 2007-2011 classes. LSU has brought in 19. These numbers are skewed by the 8 UGA signed in 2007 (if you go back and look at these players, the Sturdivant injury really turned this group into a debacle with the exceptions of Boling and, to a much lesser extent, Anderson). A comparison of the last 4 classes shows UGA at 13 and LSU at 15. No one from the 2008 class will play in 2012 (graduation or attrition), so UGA's hopes depend on the 9 OL signed in 2009-11 plus incoming freshmen. Of the existing group, one (Brent Benedict) has already left the program, and another player has had substantial injury problems (Austin Long). OL is definitely a recruiting priority as we already have 3 signed of our first 14 players. The existing 8 players have not shown much so far although 3 of them (Gates, Lee and Burnette) have logged substantial playing time. Hopefully, some of last year's class will be ready to step in and play well. Still, even if Theus is as good as advertised, OL is a huge question mark.
The biggest source of hope when looking at our past 5 years of recruiting is last year's class. It's our largest during that stretch with 26 and there are lots of talented players. Another strong class this year, which is very much up in the air, could be the foundation for a solid run. Also, new restrictions in the SEC on oversigning will help negate some of the advantage LSU and Alabama currently have, although the effect of this will take 2-3 years to begin to show.
After a tough loss like Saturday, we tend to beat up the coaches and players, but when you look at the recruiting you can see some obvious explanations for problems and advantages. It's infinitely easier to perform as a talented true freshman running back (Hilliard) if you are used sparingly as part of a 4 man rotation. It's much harder when you are forced to carry the load from jump street and are banged up. Keep that mind before you beat on Crowell too much.
To beat LSU and Alabama on the field, we need to close the gap on the recruiting trail.