After some late drama Signing Day 2012 is essentially in the books, and for the Georgia staff it went about like you would expect. We won some, we lost some, we finished with a class ranked among the top 10 nationally. Pretty standard Mark Richt-era stuff. But what's interesting about this class is that while there are stars galore, it's easy to miss out on the really important things that happened today, which we'll discuss in more detail after the jump.
Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich once said that "the real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday." So it is with college football recruiting. Today we managed to start the day with a commitment from the top player in the state of Georgia carried live on national television. We're ending the day with what appears to be a family standoff in Lowndes County between Josh Harvey-Clemons and his kin, or at least some of them, over whether he should instead sign with the University of Florida.
Family business is family business and I can respect that. But today should have been a day for Josh and his family to celebrate together the hard work he's put in to get to where he is, and to look forward to the possibilities in front of him. Instead we have a three ring circus. It's a sad, sad state of affairs no matter how you look at it. I will say that if you know there's a chance your son (or grandson as the case may be) is going to pick a school you don't like on national TV you should iron that out with him beforehand. Don't let him look like a waffler in front of the national media and hordes of fans from rival schools, many of whom are having as irrational a response to this situation as they can muster.
Once the Clemons family soap opera is over, every red and black partisan will fixate over the next few days on how Keith Marshall and John Theus and Josh Harvey-Clemons can help take the Georgia Bulldogs to the next level. In reality, the odds that any of those guys is the starter in Athens on September 1, 2012 when the 'Dawgs take on the Buffalo Bulls is probably 50% or less.
Theus will almost certainly work into the rotation and he might well be a starter at tackle by the time we head to Jacksonville for the Cocktail Party. But he'll have to beat out Austin Long, Watts Dantzler, Zach Debell, and XZavier Ward for a spot. If Keith Marshall is the starter at tailback it will likely indicate something pretty bad about Isaiah Crowell: either he will not have been able to put his injury issues behind him, or he will not have responded as we hoped to the competition. And Josh Harvey-Clemons simply is not going to start ahead of Jarvis Jones or Cornelius Washington. He has a good bit of physical development to do before he sees the field.
But you know who will almost certainly see the field this season? Marshall Morgan, Collin Barber and Quayvon Hicks. Morgan is the kicker out of Florida who may be the best in the country this year at that position. Barber is the punter from Cartersville who will be the heir apparent to Drew Butler. And Hicks is the closest thing to a true I-Formation tailback who we've signed since Shaun Chapas and Fred Munzenmaier. Those guys will be the ones who make this class a success in the short term if it is to be one.
These young men play positions which significantly affect the success of any college football team. They also play positions that the guys at Rivals and Scout really couldn't care less about. How else do you evaluate the fact that Rivals lists Morgan as the #7 player in the nation at his position, yet doesn't even include him among their list of the top 100 players in the state of Florida?
Likewise, had Hicks been ranked as a 4-3 defensive end rather than a fullback, I am certain he would have been a consensus 4 star recruit. Instead he's the #2 player in the nation at his position, a position which is vitally important in Georgia's pro-style offense, and ranked only as the #46 player in the state of Georgia. He's a smart, humble young man who committed to Georgia soon after he was offered because he always wanted to be a Bulldog and hasn't waivered since. He's been one of the best recruiters in this class,even helping bring in guys for 2013. Quayvon Hicks will be one of your favorite 'Dawgs within the next couple of years, you just don't know it yet.
And while we knew going in that we had needs at kicker, punter and fullback, it's funny how the needs ofr this class also changed over time. The Bulldog staff deserves credit for recognizing that and adapting. On Signing Day 2011 many legitimately believed that Georgia needed to sign 3-4 wide receivers for the 2012 class. With the emergence of Malcolm Mitchell , Chris Conley, and Michael Bennett to go along with veterans like Tavarres King, Marlon Brown, Rantavious Wooten, that was no longer the case. So Georgia ends up with Blake Tibbs, who for my money is as good a receiver as you'll find in the state of Georgia. Next season the 'Dawgs will look to sign more players at the position, in what looks to be a deeper year for talent at WR in the state of Georgia and around the southeast.
What we did need were offensive linemen. And we got them. Everyone knows about John Theus. And we already highlighted Mark Beard, a guy who's already on campus. But keep an eye on Greg Pyke. The consensus has been that he'll play guard in Athens but I'm not exactly sure about that. The first video I ever saw of Pyke was him scoring goals for his school's lacrosse team. How many 305 pounders do you think are a true forward threat on the lacrosse team?
Would it have been nice to secure Avery Young, who chose Auburn, or Brandon Greene, who couldn't be flipped from Alabama? Of course. You can never have too many offensive linemen. But I also think the depth issues on our offensive line are somewhat overblown. We don't have a lot of experience, but we certainly have a quorum of bodies. And in the end you can only have so many on the roster at a given time. With today's additions we'll have 13 scholarship offensive linemen and a couple of walk-ons who've actually seen game action as well. Also none of those scholarship offensive linemen will be seniors in 2012. As with receiver, next year's instate offensive line crop is much deeper than this year's. In fact several offers have already gone out (notably to Devondre Seymour, nephew/adopted son of Bulldog great Richard Seymour, and Tri-Cities' Shamire Devine). Georgia is also looking fairly good in the sweepstakes for Florida offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, a strong candidate for the top player in the state of Florida next year. If we wanted to create some class separation and still have a shot at signing those bluechip players next year, we really couldn't take many more big uglies than we did.
Speaking of big uglies, I am excited about a lot of the guys we took in this class. But I don't know that there's any player in this class that I'm more excited about than Jenkins County defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor. Sure there's the fact that he appreciates the finer things in life, like a good raccoon dinner.*
I'm also pretty keen on Thomson's John Atkins, a guy who could play nose tackle, defensive end or offensive guard in Athens. The guy plays tight end and goalie on the soccer team at 305 pounds. Whatever it is, your argument is invalid.
I'll also be intrigued to follow the development of Harris County's Jordan Jenkins and North Carolina speedsters Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Every one of those guys has the potential to be All-SEC. Heck, Gurley could be a standout at tailback or safety.
If there's a theme here, it's that this class is loaded with star power. ESPN ranks it the #5 class in the country. 24/7 Sports pegs it #6. If there's one sliver of discontent that I sense from Georgia fans on this site and others (aside from the obvious frustration of the Harvey-Clemons situation) it's that there weren't enough commitments. But if you look at the nifty scholarship tracker provided by the good folks at Rivals, we had 19 to give and (including Harvey-Clemons) we got 19 commitments. So really, you can say we should have signed 5 more guys. And that's a valid opinion. But to say that I think you also have to grant that doing so would put Mark Richt in real danger of a Saban-esque dilemma in a few months unless there was some natural attrition.
Of course that same tracker indicates that we'll have a mere 14 available next year. But we know there'll be defections and injuries and other unfortunate events. We'll sign more than that. We've already offered, by my estimation, at least 36 scholarships to players for the class of 2013. Roughly half of those players are from the state of Georgia. The thing about recruiting is that it's a year-round sport. There's always another class, and we here at Dawg Sports will be talking about the class of 2013 soon enough. But for now, feel free o share your thoughts on the class of 2012 in the comments below. Until later . . .
*Seriously, if you've never had raccoon stewed with garlic and root vegetables in a cast iron skillet you have lived an incomplete life. I'm not even joking. Plus it's naturally organic and approved for massive defensive linemen.