This class will not end up with the same marquee names as last year's so-called Dream Team . . . because last year's class was about injecting talent back into a program coming off a 6-7 season. This year is about filling needs.
Seth Emerson (January 26, 2012)
2011:Dream Team 2012:Ring team? Hutson Mason (January 30, 2012)
Despite the fact that modern recruiting coverage traces its roots back to Georgia’s courtship of Herschel Walker, I have always considered covering recruiting a somewhat odd endeavor, chiefly due to the fact that any enterprise wholly dependent upon the decisionmaking of American teenage males is bound to be fraught with chaos, frustration, and unpredictability to a degree I am certain to find disconcerting. My central nervous system instinctively rebels at the notion of fretting over football in February; I am orderly enough to compartmentalize my angst, and the cubbyholes arranged throughout my brain assign football-related fretting to the period from Labor Day weekend through New Year’s Day, while reserving February for anguish over the University of Georgia’s baseball, men’s basketball, and women’s gymnastics teams.
Nevertheless, incoming freshmen are essential to the future of any group comprised of collegians, so it matters a great deal that the Georgia Bulldogs are one of nine major-conference teams to have earned an overall five-star rating, based on Rivals.com’s recruiting class rankings from 2008 to 2011. It was the latter class, of course, that brought home the "Dream Team" that validated Mark Richt’s regime, which will remain in place on Labor Day 2012, contrary to what we believed on Labor Day 2011.
Once the final list of Georgia’s 2012 signees had been completed, the Bulldogs had landed such five-star prep standouts as Josh Harvey-Clemons and John Theus, as well as such four-star players as Josh Dawson, Leonard Floyd, Todd Gurley, Jordan Jenkins, Keith Marshall, and Jonathan Taylor. (Note: I’m using Rivals rankings, for no particularly good reason; Scout and ESPN rankings may vary, but everyone agrees this was a good class, which the Worldwide Leader has touted all day as one of the five finest groups of recruits in the country.)
Coach Richt missed out on a couple of wide receiver prospects in Cordarrelle Patterson and JaQuay Williams, but he nabbed both Joshes and both Dawsons. In the end, the ‘Dawgs kept all of their commitments in the fold and snagged a couple of eleventh-hour flips, so the Red and Black met their needs by landing four defensive linemen, two linebackers, one hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker, a couple of tailbacks, a fullback, a tight end, a wide receiver, a pair of “athletes,” a punter, a placekicker, and, yes, despite the disappointing loss of Avery Young to the archrival Auburn Tigers, a trio of offensive linemen.
As Seth Emerson noted, this class is geographically diverse, which represents a significant shift from last year’s focus on corralling local talent. It is not, however, a departure from past practices, and, at the end of the day, we didn’t always get who we wanted, but we tried sometimes, and I think we’ll find we got what we needed. Where, then, does that leave us?
Go back to that link to Dr. Saturday’s breakdown of college football’s recruiting powerhouses. Nine teams earned Rivals.com’s highest rating over the last four years, those being the Alabama Crimson Tide, Florida Gators, Florida St. Seminoles, Georgia Bulldogs, LSU Tigers, Ohio St. Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Texas Longhorns, and USC Trojans, none of whom were newcomers to that distinction, as all of them have attracted top talent for years.
Since the debut of the Bowl Championship Series at the end of the 1998 college football season, the designated BCS national championship game has paired what ostensibly are the sport’s top two teams 14 times, extending invitations to a total of 28 contestants. The eight recruiting behemoths not located in Athens, Ga., received 21 of those 28 bids and won 11 of those 14 titles. In the last ten seasons, only once has the national champion not been one of those eight elite talent aggregators; heck, only once in the last nine seasons has either national championship game participant been drawn from outside those eight programs.
Of the nine universities invariably in the upper echelon on signing day, eight have won at least one national championship in the last 14 seasons; Georgia is the ninth. Of those nine clubs, eight have appeared in at least two designated BCS title tilts in the last 14 seasons; Georgia is the ninth. Modern recruiting coverage emerged from the publicity surrounding the pursuit of Herschel Walker, who delivered two national championship game appearances and one No. 1 final ranking during his three-year collegiate career, but the Bulldogs, alone among present-day elite recruiting powers, have failed to replicate that feat in recent seasons. The very highly touted have not earned rankings at the ends of their careers commensurate with those given them in the beginning.
Next autumn, there arguably will be more talented athletes wearing silver britches in Sanford Stadium than at any previous point in the Red and Black’s storied history. It is time for Georgia’s success at the highest level in early February to translate to success at the highest level in early January. 2002 produced the Bulldogs’ first SEC championship in two decades; 2012 should produce the Classic City Canines’ first national title in nearly a third of a century.
Welcome to Bulldog Nation, gentlemen. Now go win it all.