I'll be honest. I'm still mourning the SEC Championship Game. Really, coming that close to winning a game like that takes a while to get over. I'm glad that Mark Richt got over it a little quicker than me.
As the AJC noted this morning, Richt and the Georgia coaches hit the road recruiting on Sunday morning, stopping at the Gwinnett County home of offensive line commit Josh Cardiello. Cardiello said that it meant a lot to him that the coaches picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got out on the road. I'm sure most of the other recruits, committed and uncommitted, who got a visit from the red and black would agree.
On the other end of the spectrum, I also saw some interesting discussion of our coaches' recruiting before the championship game. It seems that there are some Bulldog fans out there who think that our coaches should have been back in Athens preparing for the big game. They were wrong, as I think the results of the game bore out. No amount of additional game planning would have decreased C.J. Moseley's vertical leap, which was really the diference at the end. Prior to that we saw the Bulldogs manage to run the ball against the stoutest run defense around. We saw a perfectly conceived and executed fake punt, and a blocked kick returned for a touchdown. We saw Aaron Murray play the best high profile game of his career. There was nothing that happened in the Georgia Dome last weekend that convinced me that the Bulldog coaches fell short in their preparations.
Additionally, recruiting in the lead up to the conference championship game provided the staff, especially this staff, a critically unique pitch. Of all the SEC coaching staffs visiting the top prospects in the Southeast, only two could say that they were taking the time to do so while also preparing for the conference championship game. Nothing says "you can come compete for championships" quite like "matter of fact, we'll be doing it in a couple of days."
Being out on the road also showed how seriously our coaches were taking the recruits they visited, something Goose Creek, South Carolina RB/WR Tramel Terry noted to recruiting analysts after his visit. Recruiting doesn't stop just because coaches have a game to prepare for. I assure you that Clemson was contacting Terry as often as possible last week.
Looking ahead, there's an awful lot of positive momentum out there on the recruiting trail for the Bulldog coaches right now. The SEC Championship Game was a television bonanza, the highest rated college football game of the season. That's a lot of eyeballs, many of them belonging to high school football players who saw Georgia go toe-to-toe with the presumptive national champion and come up just 5 yards short. Lots of coaches tell recruits "we're so close to winning it all. You're the missing piece!" Mark Richt has actually video evidence of how close Georgia is. He also has a seat which is now cool for the foreseeable future after back to back 10 win seasons. I expect he'll have a sweetened contract sometime in early to mid January.
Georgia doesn't have a lot of holes left to fill. They could stand a couple of more big bodies on the offensive and defensive lines, and are still in it for defensive linemen Toby Johnson and Montravius Adams. They're also fighting off the Crimson Tide for premiere offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. Don't be surprised to hear that the 'Dawgs are moving into contention for some other high profile recruits after their showing in the Dome.
With as many as 17 recruits set to enroll in January, the Bulldog coaches will also likely see a big bump in recruiting for the class of 2014. In fact, I would submit that we'll see the biggest recruiting advantage from this past weekend among recruits for the class of 2014 who just finished their junior seasons and are now getting down to the business of figuring out which camps they'll attend this summer and which schools they will begin to include on those always-accurate "top 3" and "top 5" lists. While the 'Dawgs came up a little short, they did get in front of a lot of football recruits who previously might not have given the a second look. That's a huge first step that could reap real long term rewards.
That loss hurt down deep inside, but it didn't hurt our recruiting. I hope that's some kind of comfort. Until later . . .