North Carolina running back Todd Gurley, #1 above with Georgia commit Keith Marshall on an unofficial visit to Athens, headlines a collection of Bulldog targets and commits playing in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.
Man. The years start coming and they don't stop coming. It's already the first week of 2012 and with your Georgia Bulldogs fresh off an Outback Bowl that some of us are just going to pretend didn't happen, it's time to turn our attention to football recruiting. We're now in the stretch run leading up to National Signing Day on February 1, 2012. Georgia has somewhere around 10-12 spots left to fill in the class, and things should be pretty exciting right up until the end, with big name recruits who are considering the 'Dawgs waiting into January to make their decisions.
One of the relatively new phenomena on the college recruiting scene is the national high school all star game. Sure, for many years there have been regional postseason high school games designed to showcase potential recruits who have been toiling away in the far corners, hills and hollows of the high school football universe. The Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas springs to mind as one of the big ones in this class, at which recruits used to burst onto th scene and pick up big time offers. However, as you've probably noticed, the college football recruiting calendar has accelerated significantly, to the point that Coach Richt and company have actually already extended verbal offers to over a dozen prospects who cannot sign on the dotted line until February 2013. And even have a verbal pledge from a very talented young man for the class of 2014. In other words, the idea that a kid in his last semester of high school is going to come out this week and wow college coaches into a scholarship offer are slight. The offers are already out for the most part. The commitments are largely in.
Just as the recruiting calendar has accelerated, the number of people closely following high school football recruiting has exploded. And where there's interest, there's money to be made. And where there's money to be made, there's competition to make it. Thus we have the proliferation of All-Star games pitting bluechip high school football prospects from around the nation. Over the next few days I'll be bringing you up to speed on some of the major games and why you should care about them as a Georgia Bulldog fan.
So what's at stake in these glorified scrimmages? For one, they take place during the "dead period" on the football recruiting calendar, the period in which college coaches cannot legitimately contact recruits. However they're a great place for recruits to get together themselves and pitch to each other. So there's a lot of peer-to-peer recruiting going on, which has the potential to sway uncommitted (and nominally committed) players. These games also provide a way to guage players' abilities against players who will also be playing major college football. It was one thing to see Malcolm Mitchell tearing it up against a very good slate of competition at Valdosta High School. But when he streaked to the endzone for a long touchdown in the Under Armour all star game last January it became really obvious that the guy was going to be pretty good.
The first all star game up this season will be played tonight in Phoenix. The first ever Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl is a creation of longtime recruiting analyst (and Notre Dame homer) Tom Lemming. Lemming made his name putting together the granddaddy of national high school showcases, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which we'll preview later this week. As you can tell from the name Lemming's new project has a tie-in with the Marine Corps, and also has a good bit of talent on display, much of it with Bulldog ties. For example, the East roster includes offensive lineman and longsnapper Joseph Scelfo of North Oconee. Scelfo is the son of former Tulane head coach and Georgia assistant Chris Scelfo. While he doesn't have an offer from Georgia and probably isn't going to get one, Scelfo does have offers from Army, Syracuse, Southern Miss and a host of others.
The East squad also includes Memphis athlete Will Redmond. Redmond is currently a "soft" commitment to Mississippi State, but was in Athens a couple of weeks ago with fellow Memphian Sheldon Dawson for a visit which reportedly went very well. Redmond projects as a cornerback at Georgia, though he could also play safety or wide receiver if necessary.
The West squad is full of Georgia commits and targets. Atlanta/MLK High defensive end/linebacker Kenderius Whitehead has reportedly looked good in practices for the game. The word on the street for some time has been that Whitehead is leaning toward Georgia, though Clemson remains an option for him. Whitehead initially expressed misgivings about playing linebacker in Georgia's 3-4 defense but has come around to the notion and seems to really like Coach Grantham. While the Bulldogs have higher ranked players on their board at his position, Whitehead is a guy with a lot of athleticism and huge upside. I'd compare him to Cornelius Washington among current Bulldogs, though I'm not sure that he has Washington' s off-the-charts raw ability.
Whitehead will team with Georgia commit James Deloach of Jenkins County. Deloach is listed as a defensive tackle for this game, but is one of those guys who projects as more of a defensive end in our system. At 6'3 and 265 pounds he's quick for his size, but has a lot of room to improve regarding technique. Still, Deloach's potential is perhaps best demonstrated by the schools which offered him but didn't get his commitment. That list included Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Michigan and Tennessee. Part of that was Deloach's close connection with his teammate Jonathan Taylor, another Bulldog commitment and a consensus national top 100 recruit. But a lot of that list was built on Deloach's own merit.
Bulldog fans who think Georgia needs help in the kicking game (which is to say, Bulldog fans in general) will also get a look at the help who's on the way. Floridian Marshall Morgan committed to Georgia almost a year ago and hasn't waivered. He'll be expected to start from day one in Athens.
Finally, the East squad will feature Tarboro, NC tailback and Georgia target Todd Gurley. Gurley recently looked outstanding in the Shrine Bowl, and was the runaway choice for AP North Carolina Player of the Year honors after rushing for 2600 yards and leading his team to a state title. Gurley has announced that he is likely to commit either tonight or in the next couple of days. The Tarboro Viking is an unbelievable athlete and a good friend of Georgia commit Keith Marshall. Despite the number of bodies at the position, we are in dire need of production at the tailback spot, and Gurley could be a huge help in that regard. I like Georgia's chances with him, but Clemson has come on really strong, and Larry Fedora of the homestate Tarheels has also been working hard to keep Gurley close to home. If we miss on Gurley look for Georgia to redouble efforts on Stepehenson back Mike Davis or perhaps offer another tailback, like Seminole County star Chris Brown.
The Semper Fi game will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network tonight at 6 p.m. eastern. Until later . . .