Georgia recruiting: Now Richt must turn stars into wins

Mark Richt is hoping his "5-star" recruits pan out more like Aaron Murray than Caleb King. (Brant Sanderlin)

Mark Richt hopes his "5-star" recruits pan out more like Aaron Murray than Caleb King.

(Update III after Isaiah Crowell’s announcement, 2:30 p.m..)

ATHENS – The plan was to build an invisible fence along state borders. Mark Richt did that. He kept the best players that carry a Georgia postmark. He created a highlight for the program. He made folks forget, even if for a day, what has happened on the field in the last two seasons and, worst of all, what happened Dec. 31 against a Conference USA team.

There’s really only issue left unanswered: What does it mean?

College football teams don’t win games in February. If that were true, the Bulldogs would regularly play in BCS bowls. Think of national letter of intent day as a trip to the grocery store. A great cook can spend $40 and create a wonderful meal. A bad cook can spend $100 and hand you something south of Chef Boyardee.

Ingredients haven’t been the problem at Georgia. According to Scout.com, one of the major recruiting services, Richt’s classes since 2002 have ranked 9, 11, 6, 4, 4, 17, 5, 4, 21. Another service, Rivals, has had the Dogs 3, 6, 6, 10, 4, 9, 7, 6, 15.

In the last two seasons, this is what it got Georgia: 14-12 overall, 7-9 in the SEC and bowl trips that are the culinary equivalent of SpaghettiOs: Independence and Liberty — words we hold close to our heart at all times except bowl season.

Richt won in recruiting. He landed one of the top classes in the nation, punctuated by the best running back around: Isaiah Crowell. That means a lot today. But it won’t mean bupkis at kickoff against Boise State in seven months unless Richt can turn them into a winners.

This recruiting class raises the expectation level. It’s unfortunate that much pressure and onus has been placed on one class, but Richt somewhat created that when he labeled the potential group of Georgia state all-stars his, “Dream Team.” There’s nothing wrong with sound bites and catch phrases to get fans and recruits excited. But the downside to labels like “Dream Team” is it puts a glare on 17- and 18-year-old kids who’ve never even had a spring practice, let alone played in a college game. The term “Dream Team” was created in 1992 for an Olympic basketball team that was comprised of grown men — mostly future Hall of Famers.

In announcing his decision to go to Georgia over Alabama, Crowell said, “I’m gonna be a Dog.” He wasn’t alone in the state. Nineteen of Georgia’s 25 players are from Georgia, including four of the top five in the state and 15 of the top 41 (according to AJC rankings). Nationally, Georgia’s class is a consensus top six. It’s Richt’s perceived best class since at least 2006 (Knowshon Moreno, Matthew Stafford, et. al.), although Richt feels it could be the best of all.

“We all know our season wasn’t the best, and there have been a lot of things we have had to battle — maybe a little bit more than other years when it comes to recruiting,” he said. “But I really believe this class will end up being the most talented and best bunch in the 11 years now.”

There is hope.

There also is a possible trapdoor.

Have you ever tried to predict what an 18-year-old will do any day of the week? How about any hour? Some consider NFL drafts a guessing game. Recruiting makes NFL drafts look like an exact science.

From 2001 to 2010, Georgia recruited 21 “5-star” athletes, according to Scout. For every Stafford, A.J. Green and Leonard Pope that you show me, I’ll show you a Caleb King, an Akeem Hebron and a Darius Dewberry.

The “stars” mean nothing if players don’t develop physically, mentally and emotionally. We’ve seen the trapdoor in Athens.

Here are some more numbers for you: 63, 73, 73, 114, 54, 63. Those were the rankings of TCU’s last six recruiting classes. The Horned Frogs went 36-3 in the last three seasons, including two BCS bowls.

Boise State’s last eight recruiting classes ranked 73, 72, 73, 78, 57, 64, 60, 97. The Broncos’ record in the last five years: 61-5 with two BCS bowls.

I know. TCU and Boise State don’t play in the SEC. But it doesn’t change the point: Those schools are doing more with less. Georgia has been doing less with more.

Richt got people excited Wednesday, not an easy feat these days. But if the resumes of this recruiting class don’t translate into victories, grades and rankings quickly will be forgotten. What happens next is what matters most.

By Jeff Schultz

The early scene in the Butts-Mehre building at Georgia.

The early scene in the Butts-Mehre building at Georgia.

Bulldog fans gather by the video screens, where signees are announced.

Bulldog fans gather by the video screens, where signees are announced.

Butts-Mehre fills up, awaiting coach Mark Richt's arrival.

Butts-Mehre fills up, awaiting coach Mark Richt's arrival.

While addressing fans, Richt received a text message and announced, "Malcolm Mitchell is a Dog!"

While addressing fans, Richt received text message, then announced, "Malcolm Mitchell is a Dog!"

Recruiting posts

–  Isaiah Crowell: From recruit to key to Georgia’s season?

Georgia recruiting: Waiting on Isaiah Crowell (and normalcy)

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

949 comments Add your comment

Phil

February 2nd, 2011
8:07 am

First. Let’s do this!

Greg

February 2nd, 2011
8:07 am

Greg

February 2nd, 2011
8:09 am

Bummer…here’s to grown men obseesing over high schoolers

Spike

February 2nd, 2011
8:09 am

I won’t even say I’m first! You are exactly right, Shulzie!!

Spike

February 2nd, 2011
8:09 am

Darn it! Fourth.

Dumb idea

February 2nd, 2011
8:09 am

So what are Georgia’s SEC ranks in those years? That’s what I’m curious about. TCU and Boise probably recruited near the top of their league, hence their dominance. Georgia was middle-of-the-pack a lot of these seasons (4th to 8th). No wonder they struggle when Florida outrecruits them and Tennessee and South Carolina are consistently nearby.

82Dawg

February 2nd, 2011
8:11 am

Good article Jeff…BUT when the Boise State’s and TCU’s of the world plays outside of the weak conference they lose 75% of the time. But you are correct on the content of your article. It is time to get the UGA ship turned around. I think Richt will do it…

UGAKev

February 2nd, 2011
8:17 am

dumb idea, Great point!….GO DAWGS

Sam Robards, Dawg Fan

February 2nd, 2011
8:18 am

I’m relieved to see that we’ve done so well this year recruiting (after a 6-7 year and a rather lackluster signing day last year, there was cause to be worried). Though Crowell, Pagan, Richardson and Jenkins are still undecided, we still have a heckuva class.

As for Boise and TCU, though, I’m afraid that the fact they were in the WAC and MWC (pre-realignment) does count toward the point. If anyone had the talent they had (and they do have talent, no one denies that) and DIDN’T go undefeated every other year, they’d be a laughing stock. On the other hand, while we don’t know what Boise or TCU’s record would be in the SEC, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that they wouldn’t be winning like they are now.

Simply put: while who you have on your team matters, the guys on the OTHER side of the field matter just as much, if not more.

Ted Striker

February 2nd, 2011
8:21 am

Where’s my chick-fil-A biscuit?

JB

February 2nd, 2011
8:23 am

Mark has got to change his whole approach. Dawgs at times seem flat, uncoached ( not a word, but you get it)and not as strong as other elite teams. The big thing this year, as far as a better record, will be the Defense. We have got to stop giving up 400-500 yards and 35-40 points to nave a chance to beat ANY ranked team and win more than 6 or 7 points.

Big Dawg

February 2nd, 2011
8:24 am

Great article as always Jeff. It’s exciting to bring home the bacon each year, but unless you know what to do with it………..

Gen Neyland

February 2nd, 2011
8:26 am

Hyper Bowl Wednesday. Today, I wish all the kids well and hope they make the right choices for their futures. There will be some diamonds in the rough and some rough diamonds that only time will weed out. To the recruits everywhere I also want to say, ‘Hit the books. Grades are important. Hit the weights and stay off the streets and out of trouble. Good luck.’

jbeggs

February 2nd, 2011
8:26 am

LOL! This article was supposed to have been posted on Thursday. What a bunch of mo-rons!! I thought it read awkwardly and then I got to the last paragraph. LOL!!!!!!!!!!

Snake Doc

February 2nd, 2011
8:27 am

Well, we will get to see what Boise State is made of, won’t we…

CEO lovers are always counting the chickens of next year before the rooster has even come home to roost….

UGA recruits all this great talent, then what happens to it? Some coach said something akin to this, unfortunately for the CEO and his followers, they still don’t get it!

German Dawgs Fan

February 2nd, 2011
8:27 am

Alright, Dawgs fan from Germany here, it’s almost three in the afternoon, just finished some self made gnocchi and now it’s time to follow the action!

If Crowell and Jenkins commit, everything is fine… anything else is a bonus!

bill

February 2nd, 2011
8:28 am

You said it,Jeff. Will be interesting to see if we get the usual coach-speak from Richt today at his presser, or if he gives specifics on his plans for playing time next season. He’s got one year to make his system fit his players, or these guys will be a great welcoming present to our next coach…

Terrible Truth

February 2nd, 2011
8:33 am

Seven months till kickoff? I’m going back to bed.

KeepDreaming

February 2nd, 2011
8:33 am

NO JEFF, Boise and TCU not playing in the SEC HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH IT!!!!

45-42 still stings I know

February 2nd, 2011
8:34 am

Tre Jackson will regret it 5 years from now

dawgfan

February 2nd, 2011
8:36 am

As a Dawg you have to be excited today, but Jeff makes very valid points. If we can’t coach these kids up and devleop them into great college players then they will remain high-star HIGH SCHOOL recruits. All of these kids have things to learn and adjust to in the college game. It is the job of the coaches to make that happen. Unfortunately, CMR and the rest of the coaching staff don’t have a great record the past couple of years. Is it just a downturn and better days are ahead? I don’t think the great recruiting class we’re having will answer that. I think we already have a lot of talent on the team but they have NOT produced. It’s a lot more about coaching than it is about just talent. Boise State and TCU have good coaching and far less talent if you believe the recruitniks. If those schools were in the SEC they would be competing against both great coaches and great talent and their record would reflect that. The problem is UGA has great talent but the coaching is suspect now. With all of the talent that we’ve consistently had the results point to inferior coaching and player development. If CMR was wise he would put a lot of this recruiting class on the field this year. With another poor year of results he will have run out of excuses and time to correct it. Let’s hope Richt is right and the pundits are wrong. Go Dawgs!

HAHAHAHAHA

February 2nd, 2011
8:37 am

BobDawg

February 2nd, 2011
8:37 am

Dawgs want to win in all phases this year starting with recruitin, then S & C, then no off season problems, win the summer workouts which will translate into winning in the fall….I like the potential leaders in this class like Ray Drew and how about the Ward kid who goes 6′7″ and only at 295 right now… He will max out at about 6′9″ and 350 in a couple of years…

SOGADOG

February 2nd, 2011
8:37 am

“Boise State and TCU do not play in the SEC”, it DOES change the point. Richt and Co. have had two down seasons, but it would be foolish at this point to fire the man given all the success he has brought to UGA. Granted there is work to be done, and I am sick of players being arrested, but CMR has proven he can get the job done in the past. Lets give him at least two more seasons to fix it. A lot of reporters, and so called fans who have criticized CMR may be eating their words three years from now. Time will tell.

Cuz

February 2nd, 2011
8:37 am

Well aint you a little drop of sunshine Jeff.

Old Gold

February 2nd, 2011
8:37 am

Nobody wants to play for Paul Johnson if there are other offers!

Jeff, your wrong.

February 2nd, 2011
8:37 am

Yes we may have been recruiting top 10 but 4th and 5th in the SEC. That does not get it. You must recruit 1 or 2 in the SEC. PERIOD

kb

February 2nd, 2011
8:38 am

Jeff, The TCU and Boise argument doesn’t hold much water. They play 1 maybe 2 tough games per year.Doing more against lesser competition.

Joey

February 2nd, 2011
8:40 am

JB, we lost to three ranked teams while giving up 12, 24, and 10 points. with the offense scoring 6, 12, and 6 respectively.

It’s not just the D that needs to get better.

Maybe now that our coach has decided to “study football,” things will get fixed . . .

johnny too good

February 2nd, 2011
8:40 am

thats right! lets see what uga can do with this wonderful recruiting class

http://www.youtube.com/thatsjohnanderson

The Grinch

February 2nd, 2011
8:42 am

I am genuinely impressed the recruiting has been this good so far after last season, and I hope Richt’s able to turn it around on the field. It’s time for the Dawgs to get back into the hunt.

MARK,MARK---TheHairLipDog

February 2nd, 2011
8:43 am

Coaches, pundits, et al, have been saying the same thing for years. It is nothing new for dog fans. And will not produce the results you expect in 4 years.

Al Beeski

February 2nd, 2011
8:44 am

I can’t believe you get paid to write this! Sorry, Jeff but TCU & Boise St. don’t have to have top ten recruiting classes because they play in very subpar conferences. Those 75th ranked recruiting classes are coached up to win 1-2 big nonconference games a year and journalists like you fawn all over them.

Gene

February 2nd, 2011
8:44 am

Richt has not learned that gimmicks do not win football games. Red out, black outs, Soulja Boy dances, pool frolicks and “dream teams.” This sounds like a Connie Francis’ beach movie.

Sloan

February 2nd, 2011
8:44 am

todd

February 2nd, 2011
8:46 am

true, that tcu and boise don’t play in elite conferences. however, they DO win about 95% of the games they are suppose to win. how many times over the past few years has uga lost to teams they had no business losing too? teams with far less talent than uga? that reflects on coaching.

Ray Goff

February 2nd, 2011
8:48 am

He is just like me; great recruiter but too conservative. His 4th and 6 inches decision is the evidence that he will never live down. Oh well, this years class will be put to good use by Chris Petersen or Dan Mullins.

Larry

February 2nd, 2011
8:49 am

OK, this makes blog number 826 the past 5 weeks that Richt needs to have a better upcoming season.

I think we get it, Jeff!

New subject matter, please!

Mike

February 2nd, 2011
8:50 am

Coach Mark Richt

February 2nd, 2011
8:51 am

You pot-bellied UGA rednecks worry about these 18 year old players while I have much more important stuff to do. I am getting my remaining hair dyed this afternoon then I am going for a 1 hour bake in the tanning booth. After that I am shooting a Ford Tough commercial followed by a meeting with my financial adviser on how to invest the millions I am getting from UGA this year . Whew….gonna be a long day

jim

February 2nd, 2011
8:52 am

Jeff,
You’re wrong – the fact that TCU & Boise play in weak conferences significantly changes the point. A better comparison is to look at their recruiting classes relative the the other schools in their conference & see how they are performing. Often, an SEC school may have a national ranking of 15 in their recruiting, but only have the 8th best in the SEC. If you’re drawing conclusions from “data” they need to apples to apples.

Jeff Schultz

February 2nd, 2011
8:53 am

Thanks, Spike.

Jeff Schultz

February 2nd, 2011
8:55 am

Thanks, 82Dawg. … Rose Bowl: TCU 21, Wisconsin 19.

Jeff Schultz

February 2nd, 2011
8:56 am

Big Dawg– Thanks.

Paul in RDU

February 2nd, 2011
8:56 am

I agree with Jeff – you need to recruit good players but coaching and development is more important.
If the reason UGA has a poor record in the last couple of years despite highly ranked recruiting classes is because it’s so tough to compete in the SEC because other schools have higher ranked classes what is the reason for the losses to OK State, Colorado and UCF?

True Dawg

February 2nd, 2011
8:56 am

Boise Sta and TCU Jeff Schultz you idiot!! There schedules are cake compared to UGA-The stars mean alot-Look at what BAMA, FL, LSU-had last ten years alot of 5 stars-give credit where credit is due!

RussDawg

February 2nd, 2011
8:57 am

“Dream Team” tag is gonna bite CMR in the bupkis if we do not beat Spurrier, UT and Auburn.
a win over UF will go a long way towards the healing process.
Tech? well that is a given, or should be.

Jeff Schultz

February 2nd, 2011
8:58 am

Bill — Thanks. I doubt very much Mark will get into specifics. I’ll talk about each kid a little bit and says he’s excited and looking to get started. It will be the usual stuff. Probably won’t expound much on things until the spring after he has had a chance to see some of these players on the field.

Jeff Schultz

February 2nd, 2011
8:59 am

Thanks Sloan.

GURU

February 2nd, 2011
9:01 am

UGA is done and Mark will be done soon there after…………I love when people put a lot of emphasis on recruiting, assume their record will reflect their stars, and forget what wins games. Mark Right is a good man and he does the right thing…………Wrong plan……….stop recruiting all these paper boys and start recruiting football players that will thrive in YOUR system. If you people think the success Boise and TCU are having isn’t that impressive because of the conference that they play in…………..we’ll see vey soon!