It's been a while coming, but I'm pleased to present to you the latest installment of TMI 2008, where we take a look at the players who will (hopefully, unless things change, which they might . . .) make up the University of Georgia's 2008 football signing class.
If this season has taught us anything, it is that (a) it is tough for guys to go from the high school practice field to gameday in the SEC, and (b) you really can't have enough big play guys. Heck, we've got some players who've been off the high school practice field for three years and still aren't ready for SEC gameday. But that's another post altogether. And there have been times this year (and last) when our fullback seemed like the only legitimate scoring threat on the field.
All of which brings us to Cedar Grove safety/tailback Xavier Avery. Avery is a 3-star prospect and the 16th ranked player in the state of Georgia according to UGASports.com. During his junior year Avery ran for 1100 yards and had 500 yards receiving according to Rivals. I'm assuming these are both estimates, given that the odds of him having round numbers in both categories are roughly equivalent to the odds of Kade Weston making a game-saving open field tackle on Percy Harvin. But I digress. Avery also had 18 tackles and 1 interception on defense.
You can see some highlights of Avery's junior season here. I have to start by saying that every person I've ever heard from who has seen Avery live walked away incredibly impressed with his speed and elusiveness. That's comforting because this highlight tape isn't that impressive. There are very few plays on it, giving the impression that Avery alters the game on approximately 2 snaps a contest. That's not encouraging.
From the tailback slot, Avery has decent moves and better than average speed. He's not jawdropping like Carlton Thomas, reminding me a lot more of Martin Ward, solidly churning out yards, then breaking loose when you give him a decent hole. The highlights lead me to believe that on offense at the collegiate level Avery would be a good change of pace back or even a slot receiver. The only things that really stand out are that he seems to have good hands and gets upfield well on a couple of screens, flashing excellent quickness, if not game-changing straightline speed.
The defensive film is pretty thin. There are a couple of rib-rocking hits, which remind me a little of the film on current redshirting freshman John Knox out of Statesboro. Avery appears willing to stick his nose in the line and take on lead blockers, and also sheds smaller blockers pretty well. He seems to play with a little more speed and intensity on defense, and I anticipate that this is where Avery would find a home in Athens. He'll need to mature physically before he's really ready to contribute.
That said, I doubt he's in Athens in 2008. Avery is another football/baseball player, like Israel Troupe last season. The difference is that while Troupe was a marginal major league prospect with great football potential, Avery is (at this point) a solid to above average football prospect and a potential 1st to 4th round baseball prospect. He wowed scouts at the AFLAC All-American High School Baseball Classic in San Diego back in August (in which he scored the game winning run). He's a legitimate outfield prospect who batted .668 for Cedar Grove as a junior and stole 47 bases (which in a high school season means he was basically unstoppable on the basepaths even when opponents knew he was running).
That said, Avery may be a guy who goes and plays baseball for a couple of years, then comes back a little more mature physically and mentally. 20 year old freshman are universally more prepared than 18 year old freshmen, so that might not be bad. We're really not hurting at safety next season, or the season after that, so if Avery doesn't come we won't be hamstringing ourselves. While I'm not convinced based on the film I've seen that he's the second coming of Thomas Davis, I've seen enough that I'm not second guessing the coaches, either. It's a bit of a flier, but no cause for major head scratching.
I think Avery also fits into the general plan in this recruiting class of stockpiling the best athletes available regardless of position (Toby Jackson, Bacarri Rambo, Richard Samuel, Marcus Dowtin) and figuring out where to play them later. Thankfully, we won't likely be playing as many freshmen in 2008 and 2009 as we have this season. That's why this is the time to go after guys who have all the physical tools but need time to learn technique, since we'll have the luxury of teaching them. Avery definitely fits that blueprint.
I'll be back tomorrow with, of all things, some actual basketball coverage. Until then . . .