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How did the Georgia Bulldogs fare in recruiting on National Signing Day? MaconDawg offers an unvarnished initial assessment of Mark Richt's 2013 college football signing class.
In honor of this site's founder and fearless leader, who's been known to go just a little bipolar in his reaction to Georgia Bulldog football news, I'm splitting this Signing Day review into two parts. First . . .
Manic MaconDawg Says:
The Georgia staff definitely filled its important needs with this class. They needed secondary help at both corner ans safety. They got Tray Matthews, a hard hitting, physically ready safety out of Newnan. They got Shaq Fluker, an even harder hitting JUCO safety who will almost certainly get snaps in game one against Clemson. Shaq Wiggins and Reggie Wilkerson are both cornerbacks with great ball skills who play bigger than their size. Kell High teammates Quincy Mauger and Brendan Langley could end up at either safety or corner. I thought Langley was one of the most athletic players in the state of Georgia. If he decides he wants to be great, and he's willing to put n the work to get there, he could be a fixture in the Bulldog secondary.
With the loss of Alec Ogletree, Christian Robinson, and Mike Gilliard the coaches needed to land some inside linebacker help. They more than delivered. Johnny O'Neal, Ryne Rankin, and Tim Kimbrough are all versatile, quick linebackers with great tackling fundamentals. Shaun McGee and Reggie Carter are guys who remind me a little of Akeem Dent coming out of high school. Not as athletic sideline to sideline, but built perfectly to play inside linebacker in the 3-4.
In A.J. Turman and Brendan Douglas they signed a tailback and a fullback who will provide needed immediate depth. Douglas I've personally seen run the hell over people. He's a tough kid, who runs well behind his pads and is a lot faster than you'd think. He proved this this summer when he ran a 4.47 forty at the Mark Richt Football Camp. It's entirely possible that the last fullback we signed who was this athletic was Brannen Southerland. I liked Brannen Southerland, and I bet you did too.
It would have been nice to sign another tailback. But with either half of the Gurshall duo perfectly capable of carrying the load if the other goes down, those two guys will do fine unless we undergo a total disaster. Recruits J.J. Green and Paris Bostick also played a good bit of tailback in high school and could move over if necessary. It's also important to remember that Georgia currently leads for 2014 Cedartown tailback Nick Chubb, who may be my favorite big tailback in the south for next year. They also are in the thick of it for Florida speedster Sony Michel and Thomas County Central back Adam Choice. All three of those guys are likely national top 100 players next season. So, in the long run, we're good there.
It hurt to miss on Toby Johnson, Montravius Adams, Carl Lawson, Kelsey Griffin and Jay Woods, all of whom would have been a good fit on the defensive line. That being said, John Atkins, Moose Johnson, and Chris Mayes are all big guys who could play either nose or end. There have also been some rumors than 275 pound rising sophomore fullback Quayvon Hicks will move over to defense, the position at which many recruiting analysts thought he was best to begin with. Several quality defensive linemen said they didn't click with Rodney Garner and dropped Georgia as a result. New defensive line coach Chris Wilson is a proven recruiter, a dynamic young coach who won't be outworked. I think that's a huge upgrade for us.
It's hard to have too many offensive linemen, and the Bulldogs kept the cupboard stocked there as well. DeVondre Seymour has the size and athleticism to become a bookend left tackle. He may still have some academic work to do, but we didn't really need a freshman to start at tackle in 2013. Instead we needed guys like Aulden Bynum, Josh Cardiello, and Brandon Kublanow, all of whom may not be needed until 2014 at the earliest. Remember, Georgia returns every starter from its 2012 line, and 13 scholarship offensive linemen overall. Laremy Tunsil would have been a great pickup, but he was always a luxury. Remember John Theus was the top tackle prospect in the country last season, and that didn't stop him from false starting his way around the Gator Bowl for the better part of a quarter. Even talented freshmen don't generally win you national titles. At least not until they become talented juniors.
Tommy Tuberville once said that if he got 15 players who could play every game in any class, it had been a good one. This class will likely include the nucleus of Georgia teams through the 2015 season, based on sheer size alone. 13 of them are already on campus, and had 5:15 mat drills this morning if my twitter feed is to be believed. Let the other schools' recruits celebrate with lobster tonight. Ours spent today getting ready to win football games. If championships were won on Signing Day then Lane Kiffin would be Bear Bryant.
I mean really, there is absolutely nothing to be mad about in this class, unless you want a bunch of late signing prima donnas. "Reuben Foster" may actually just be Tray Blackmon lying about his age. And Laremy Tunsil won't change Ole Miss's fortunes any more than Mike Oher, Jerrell Powe, and the other 5 star recruits they've gotten did. As Alabama has proven, it doesn't matter who your 5 best players are. It matters who your 40 best players are. Hugh Freeze doesn't have enough profligate boosters to bring in the type of classes he needs to finish better than third in the SEC West. Again I ask, what kind of jackleg complains about a class like this? Oh, that guy.
Depressive MaconDawg says:
Georgia signed 32 players, most of them from the Peach State, which this year was home to 4 of the 30 best prospects in the country. And they didn't sign a damned one of them.
According to most recruiting rankings, Georgia signed no better than the 6th best class in the SEC. Think about that. With a defensive coordinator who has become one of the hottest names in the coaching ranks, coming off an appearance in the SEC Championship Game in which they proved that they're almost on par with Alabama when you put the two teams on the field, the Bulldog coaches got outrecruited by Auburn. Let that one sink in for a sec, people. Of 247Sports' top 15 players in Georgia, two are actually going to Georgia. There are people who are arguing that Mark Fox should be fired for less craptacular instate recruiting than that. Will some of those guys flame out? Never really contribute where they're going? Sure, some will. But so will some of the guys we ended up signing.
I'll spot you that Robert Nkemdiche was not coming to Georgia. Why? Because his brother is at Ole Miss. And why is that? Because even though he wanted to come to Georgia and just finished an All-SEC season in Oxford, we passed on him right up until it became insulting to stop. And even though Nkemdiche apparently thinks he'll be attending something called "The University of Ole Miss", he would have looked really good in red and black. He's a consensus top player in the nation, something that Georgia has never had since such a thing even existed. He attended school 40 miles from Athens, and we were literally never seriously in the discussion. That's just not acceptable.
Auburn jumped on Dooly County's Montravius Adams early and often. Georgia, led by defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner, closed ground on him, all while fighting off Clemson (which many thought to be the front runner right up until the weekend before Signing Day). That Rodney Garner really dug in and built a relationship with the young man. Which is great, because it was a lot of what helped deliver Adams to Garner's current employer, Auburn. Great job team!
JUCO defensive lineman Toby Johnson will also be at Auburn, after Georgia apparently backed off within two weeks of Signing Day because of academic issues. That's like backing out of your nose dive because you notice a mountainside a couple of miles ahead. But what's really galling is that Georgia had already turned down a commitment from Mill Creek standout Kelsey Griffin, one of the top 10 players in the state, to pursue Adams and Johnson. That falls squarely on Garner, whose best recruiting job was leaving so Davin Bellamy felt comfortable not having to be in the same place as him. Milton's Carl Lawson, by the way, expressed similar ill will toward Garner, but signed with Auburn anyway. Apparently Rodney Garner only repelled talented defenive linemen while he was in Athens.
Georgia has already jumped on top instate players for 2014. I think that has a lot to do with a new recruiting philosophy that doesn't involve Garner setting up campus visits for recruits when there aren't any coaches on campus. Which should be something of an improvement. Speaking of coaches, while nobody is saying it, Todd Grantham could have also done us a solid by stepping infront of a microphone and saying "I'll be in Athens next season." But he won't even on Signing Day when asked by a fan about the subject he said his family loves Athens, and he really likes it too. That's not "yes." Has he told recruits privately that he'll be back? A couple of recruits have said yes. But that's not quite the same as putting the rumors to bed.
Did Georgia fill its needs with this class? Sure.
But the Bulldogs signed 32 players in this class, none of whom was rated 5 stars by any major recruiting service. It's important to fill needs. You can't have a successful recruiting class if you don't. But with 32 slots to play with, and probably the deepest year for instate talent in memory, filling needs should never have been the goal. Knocking it out of the freaking park should have been. And that didn't happen. Every year we see that close games are won by transcendent players. By Jarvis Jones knocking the ball loose on the way to the end zone. By Eddie Lacy refusing to be brought down. By Vince Young willing his team down the field and Tim Tebow getting 3 yards every time the Gators really needed it. I don't see transcendence in the Bulldogs 2013 class. Let's hope the transcendence from 2012 and 2014 makes up for that.
Do I believe the Georgia coaches tried their best to bring in the best class possible? For the most part (see Garner comments above). But Yoda was right. Do or do not. There are no crystal footballs for trying. That's mean, and insensitive, and probably unfair. It's also life. And the thing I like most about sports is that it's a microcosm of life.
What Mark Richt and his staff did this cycle in recruiting is the equivalent of having $200,000 budgeted for a home renovation, finishing, and saying "It was a success! We didn't burn the place down, and there's almost no chance anyone will die from carbon monoxide poisoning!" Over time this class may grow on me. But for now it looks like a lot of guys who we're just going to have to trust the coaches on. Some of those 3 star recruits will become All-SEC talents. But there is no Jarvis Jones or Alec Ogletree in this class. Those guys were obvious 5 star talents.
A lot of people like to throw out names like David Greene and Thomas Davis and David Pollack and yell "See!?! Two stars become your best players!" Those folks uniformly forget that David Greene was the top ranked quarterback in the state of Georgia, and it was a fight to get him away from Auburn. He was an unknown recruit in the same way I am a Victoria's Secret model. They also forget that the days of guys going unnoticed are essentially over. Rivals, ESPN, Scout, and 247Sports all have teams of guys who have actually worked on collegiate scouting staffs combing the nation for prospects. Players can post their own film on YouTube and Hudl. The days of finding unknown Thomas Davis jumping out of a gym in Shellman are over.
I'm going to pull for the guys we got no matter what. In the end, I want guys who want to come to Athens and will be happy here. Because being a college football player is hard work. It's not a lot of fun sometimes. If you don't like where you are, it becomes highly unlikely that you'll put in the effort. But make no mistake, this is not a class full of can't miss prospects. It's a class full of guys who wanted to come to Georgia and are doing so without the fanfare of guys who wanted to go to Auburn, Tuscaloosa, Gainesville, College Station and even Oxford. It's the 7th ranked recruiting class in a conference that we haven't won since the guys who signed today were in the fifth grade. We did not get closer to overtaking Alabama and LSU today. We did not best Florida, or Auburn, or Texas A&M. Nick Saban's won in January in no small part because he wins in February. As Bear Bryant once said, recruiting matters because you can't make chicken salad out of chicken crap.
And it's not going to get better. With the early enrollees and today's signees, Georgia currently has 87 scholarship football players. That includes some guys like Brandon Harton and Blake Sailors who may not have their one year grants renewed to get us down to the NCAA-mandated 85. But with only 14 seniors on the roster and almost zero candidates among the juniors to leave early, next year's class may be the smallest of the Mark Richt era. If the guys in this class don't pan out, we are in deep, deep trouble. Because it will be two years before we can start trying to make up for any mistakes.
I'm excited about a lot of the ones we got. But I'd be a heck of a lot more excited about the ones we inexcusably missed on. Don't listen to that guy with the grin on his face. He's a homer, and an optimist, and he probably didn't even get excited when we signed 5 star tailbacks Jasper Sanks and Isaiah Crowell. Really, he doesn't know what he's talking about.
Stable MaconDawg says:
Thanks, guys. So what do you think? Did Georgia stock the cupboard with guys who'll contend for a national title? Did we get the rest of the SEC's leftovers? Let's hear your thoughts in the comments. Until later . . .