Gil Brandt recently reported this interesting fact:
In the last 10 N.F.L. drafts, 2,521 players from 254 schools have been selected, but only 13 schools have had 39 or more players taken in the draft.
In order, the top 10 are Tennessee (64), Florida State (62), Ohio State (61), Miami (60), Florida (56), Nebraska (54), Georgia (51), Michigan (45), Notre Dame (44), and Southern Cal (40).
Bear in mind that those figures are from the 1996 through 2005 drafts. Over the course of the last decade, the top talent in college football has been taking the field in Knoxville, Tallahassee, Columbus, Coral Gables, Gainesville, Lincoln, Athens, Ann Arbor, South Bend, and Los Angeles.
Now let's look at another measure over that same span, from 1996 through 2005, using those same 10 colleges.
During that period, Tennessee won a national championship in 1998.
Florida State won a national championship in 1999.
Ohio State won a national championship in 2002.
Miami won a national championship in 2001.
Florida won a national championship in 1996.
Nebraska, which was coming off of back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995, won a national championship in 1997.
Michigan also won a national championship in 1997.
Georgia is one of only two schools to have sent more than 40 players to the N.F.L. in the last 10 years without winning a national championship during that span.
The Bulldogs are the only Division I-A squad from which 45 or more players have been drafted in the last decade that has not finished first in one of the recognized polls over the course of the same period.
During those 10 years, of course, the Red and Black have been guided by two different head coaches . . . Jim Donnan for the first five years (1996-2000) and Mark Richt for the last five years (2001-2005). Coach Richt only just brought in his fourth full recruiting class and many of the 'Dawgs drafted in the early part of the 10-year period in question were holdovers from the Ray Goff era.
In other words, Georgia's consistent tendency to underperform largely was a product of the fact that Ray Goff and Jim Donnan suffered from the same malady with which Hugh Durham was afflicted: the inability to coach talent. Obviously, the Bulldogs have turned a corner under Coach Richt, who has posted top 10 finishes in the A.P. poll each January, in addition to pulling in top 10 recruiting classes every February.
Nevertheless, I can't help feeling a bit frustrated over the fact that Georgia is virtually the only program to boast N.F.L.-caliber talent over the course of the last decade that doesn't have a photo op at the White House to show for all those top-tier athletes.
In 2005, Mack Brown finally had his breakthrough season; after hauling in No. 1 recruiting classes year after year at Texas, he at long last put it all together for one spectacular season.
After bringing first-rate athletes to Athens every National Signing Day, Georgia needs to become the next storied program to close the deal following a lengthy drought. The 1980 Bulldogs will always hold a special place in my heart, but I'm ready to stop thinking of them as the national championship team and start thinking of them as a national championship team.
I'm not expecting to see it next fall . . . even though, by the Chinese calendar, 2006 is "The Year of the Dog." Within the next five years, though, I want to see another national championship banner unfurled in Sanford Stadium.
We have the talent . . . and, in Mark Richt, we have the coach . . . to get it done. It's time to finish the drill.