As I mentioned on Saturday, Mark Richt is again making friends and influencing people. Much has been made of the fact that Coach Richt has been far more hands on with recruiting this year, and it is paying dividends. Recent commitment Marcus Dowtin is the perfect example. Dowtin's father Dwayne noted that one of the things that swayed he and his son toward Georgia was Coach Richt's promise that Dowtin would have a shot to play as a freshman.
Dowtin is a tailback and linebacker from Fork Union (Va.) Military. Those who follow college football already know that Fork Union has a postgraduate prep school program for students who do not qualify under NCAA guidelines (noted alumni include New York Giant Plaxico Burress and Rams linebacker Dexter Coakley). Less familiar to those outside Virginia is that Fork Union has an impressive secondary school program, in which Dowtin is enrolled (and which has produced alumni like Titans tailback Eddie George, and quarterback Vinny Testaverde).
Now, Mark Richt doesn't promise a lot of freshmen the opportunity for immediate playing time. So that alone tells you Dowtin is not your average prep star. His offer list confirms it. Dowtin chose Georgia over Michigan, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Clemson and West Virginia. All except Maryland recruited Dowtin at linebacker, which makes sense given his 6'2, 215 pound frame that should only get bigger. Ultimately, Dowtin appears to have room to grow, and will probably end up in the 235 pound range. His speed makes him an excellent candidate for the will linebacker spot, but he could move to the mike or sam 'backer spots if he grows into a Brandon Miller sized guy.
Dowtin did everything but fix the pregame meal and drive the bus for the Fork Union Blue Devils in 2006. On offense he rushed for 1132 yards on only 132 carries (an 8.3 yard average) and 15 touchdowns. On defense he tallied 92 tackles from his outide linebacker slot. His signature game came in a playoff performance against Flint Hill, where he went off for 213 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns on only 13 carries, while tallying 8 tackles on defense.
You can see Dowtin in this video from Rivals. He's a big back, and doesn't seem to have the moves to play tailback in the SEC. What's really more interesting from his offensive video is the speed he flashes. He doesn't have the shifty moves and vision to "get skinny" and pop through nearly nonexistent holes or to make two or three guys just plain whiff on the tackle. But when Dowtin gets into the open field, the game is over. He's just faster than his competition.
At the linebacker spot, Dowtin just has a nose for the football. He gets to the ball in a hurry. He will need some coaching, however. Dowtin takes some bad angles to the ball and doesn't wrap up particularly well. But those things can be taught. Dowtin's combination of size and speed can't. In this respect, Dowtin is a lot like Bacarri Rambo in that he's an athlete and a competitor. He'll be made into a linebacker with time.
Dowtin will likely stay a 3-star prospect through the recruiting season unless he has a real breakout senior season. Assuming he sticks with his commitment, he's not going to be one of those guys who "makes" the recruiting class on signing day.
However, you'll never see me complaining about a prospect whose best football is clearly ahead of him, and that's the case with Marcus Dowtin. He's a solid pickup who could turn out to be a pleasant surprise if his football skills catch up to his physical talents. I also like his military school background, which probably will preclude him from, for example, whining about having to get up and lift weights in the morning. Mental toughness is never overrated in my book, and Dowtin should have cultivated some through his career at Fork Union. I also like the fact that he has a 3.0 GPA, which should make it all but impossible for him not to qualify.
All in all, Dowtin is a guy who plays a position where we need football players, has solid intangibles, and possesses a great upside. A solid pickup who may surprise some people down the road.