Kevin C. Cox
There's a lot to like about the recruiting class the Bulldog coaches are putting the finishing touches on right now. Perhaps chief among those is the fact that it includes some 13 scholar-athletes who are already on campus in Athens. They're learning their way around the most beautiful campus in America, getting acclimated to college coursework, and getting a head start on major college football.
Among the young men currently undergoing this initiation process is Ryne Rankin, an inside linebacker out of Orlando's East River High. Rankin's offer list is solid, if not spectacular. He turned down the chance to play at Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Penn State, N.C. State, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Arizona among others in order to come to Athens. He's listed as a 3 star prospect by the major recruiting services, for what that's worth.
Rankin is listed at 6'1, 230 pounds by most of those recruiting services, which looks pretty legitimate. He's not particularly filled out yet, and will probably put on some weight as he gets a little older. I'd say Ryne could handle 245 pounds without slowing down too much, which is about the right size for the Mike and Mo 'backers in the Georgia 3-4.
An intangible I really like about Rankin is that he is a coach's kid. He played in high school for his dad Marc, who played linebacker at Cincinnati, and for his grandfather, who served as a volunteer coach at East River. Let's look at some tangible evidence of his abilities, the highlight tape from his junior season:
The thing about Rankin, the thing that's most evident in this film, is that he's a tackler. He tackles things. Quarterbacks. Tailbacks. I'm fairly certain that if you ran a horse out on the field during practice he'd try to tackle that too. Maybe he'll major in physics and tackle the task of proving string theory.
Rankin was a tackling machine at East River, leading the state with 189 stops as a junior on the way to earning first team 8A all state honors. Believe me, when you earn that kind of recognition in the biggest classification in perhaps the most talent-rich state in the country as a junior, you've accomplished something.
I also like his read/react skills. You'll notice on several plays here that Rankin is not just finding himself in the right place at the right time and making tackles. He's seeing the play develop and then getting there to make the stop. He's coming through the right gaps. He's aware when he'll have to deal with lead blockers (which he also does fairly well). Those are football IQ things that you can teach, but it's better if you don't have to.
If I have one criticism of Rankin, it's that I don't think he's an elite athlete like an Alec Ogletree or Josh Harvey-Clemons. He's not going to be able to cover two-thirds of the field for you because he just doesn't have the speed. But he'll be perfectly fine for handling two interior gaps and turning six yard gains through those gaps into two yarders. Given the state of the Bulldog run defense in 2012, I'd welcome that.
Other things you should know about Ryne Rankin include the following:
He really likes to hunt. Especially hogs.
He was a devoted member of the Future Farmers of America and used to show cattle, including a prize steer named Gucci.
At one time he was dating Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel's former girlfriend. That's all I'm saying about that one.
Welcome to Bulldog Nation, Ryne. Until later . . .