Fan talk: Is sixth-best recruiting class in SEC good enough for UGA? (UPDATED)

Landing Lorenzo Carter, the state's top prospect, was big for UGA. (Associated Press)

Landing Lorenzo Carter, the state's top prospect, was big for UGA. (Associated Press)

I’ll be off the next few days, so let’s take an early dip into some Junkyard Mail, starting out with a fan who not surprisingly wants to talk about how national signing day went for UGA. …

Grady Bowers writes: Bill, I know that Mark Richt said he was “excited” about the recruiting class he just signed, and I gather from what I read online that most fans agree with him. I hate to be the yeah-but guy and yet I can’t get past the fact that while Georgia once again landed a consensus Top 10 recruiting class, it was only the sixth best in the Southeastern Conference. Are we really losing ground to the likes of Tennessee? If you can make me feel better about this situation, Bill, I’d be most grateful.

Well first, Grady, as I wrote in Wednesday’s Blawg, I tend to think the ranking of recruiting classes is an artificial and superfluous competition that doesn’t actually win you anything. Yes, I realize the class rankings are (loosely) based on the star ratings various recruiting services assign to the prospects, which are in themselves pretty much a subjective guess at which players are mostly likely to be the best. That said, whether you are thrilled that Georgia overcame a complete replacement of its defensive coaching staff to still land a Top 10 class that included the No. 1 ranked prospect in the state in Lorenzo Carter, or are dismayed that Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn and Tennessee’s classes were ranked higher, probably falls into is-the-glass-half-full-or-half-empty territory. Let’s face it, SEC schools are ridiculously good at recruiting and even if you accept the premise that five conference schools got better classes than Georgia, the Dogs still were perceived as having the eighth best class in the country.

To me, the more important question is whether Mark Richt and his staff (including national recruiter of the year Bryan McClendon) got what they needed. I think at running back, the answer is a resounding yes since they brought in two five-star recruits to back up the likes of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. As we’ve learned the hard way, you can never have too many great running backs in the SEC. Said Richt of signees Sony Michel and Nick Chubb: “We will absolutely give those guys a chance to show what they can do, and if they can be productive, we’ll get them in the game.”

Getting a return specialist in Isaiah McKenzie filled a dire need for the Dogs. (Special)

Getting a return specialist in Isaiah McKenzie filled a dire need for the Dogs. (Special)

Georgia also restocked pretty nicely at tight end with Jeb Blazevich and surprise signing Hunter Atkinson. And I was thrilled they added a potential game-breaking kick returner in Isaiah McKenzie. That was a dire need that had to be addressed. “His No. 1 job is going to try to be that kickoff-return, punt-return guy for us,” Mike Bobo said Wednesday of McKenzie. “That could be the difference in a ballgame for us.”

Adding five-star Carter to the pass rush is big, too.

Yeah, I would have liked to see a five-star player signed for the offensive line, a perennial problem area for Richt teams, but the four players they got there are pretty solid three- or four-star choices. I’d also have liked to see a five-star signee in the defensive backfield, but four-star cornerback Malkom Parrish does look likely to be able to help out fairly early.

Overall, it’s a pretty balanced signing class, and keep in mind that the Dogs return an awful lot of starters from last year’s team.

Ted Sellers writes: Bill, I thought your National Signing Day “heartbreak” piece was one of the best summations I’ve ever read of how ridiculous the recruiting game has gotten. And I say that as a reformed recruitnik. I used to get all caught up in following those kids all year long, but when it got to the point where people were anguishing over what some 17-year-old tweeted, well, I decided I needed to step back and just wait until the class is signed before getting all wound up or let down. Thanks for putting that into words for me in a really nice piece of writing.

Glad you enjoyed it, Ted. I love that college football fans are passionate all through the year, and not just during the season, but I’d rather focus more on the players we have than fret about which way some potential future players are leaning.

Theron Altman writes: Bill; what is the latest news on the last hire for the defense? I heard an internet rumor about Freddie Roach from South Alabama??? As you know he is an ex-Bama player and a very good defensive LB. Give me your thoughts! Thanks

We may find out who’s filling that position before the day is out, Theron. Citing an unnamed source, CoachingSearch.com is reporting that the most frequently mentioned name in connection with that vacancy, former Southern Cal linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, is going to get the job. It’s notable that he has some special teams experience, too, though Richt is waiting until the staff is complete before announcing exactly who’ll be doing what.

UPDATE: UGA made it official this morning. This is from the athletic department release:

Mike Ekeler, linebackers coach at Southern Cal in 2013, has been named Inside Linebackers Coach at the University of Georgia according to an announcement Thursday by UGA head coach Mark Richt. Ekeler had previously served as linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator at Indiana (2011-12).  A native of David City, Neb., he had served as linebackers coach at Nebraska for three seasons (2008-10) under head coach Bo Pelini.  During his three years in Lincoln, the Cornhuskers won or shared the Big 12 Conference North Division title all three seasons. “I was extremely impressed with his knowledge and energy during the interview process,” Richt said.  “He was highly recommended by many coaches and administrators with whom I talked and we’re very excited that he’ll be joining our staff.” The move completes the Georgia defensive staff which includes Jeremy Pruitt (Defensive Coordinator/Secondary), Kevin Sherrer (Sam Linebacker and the Star position or nickel back), and Tracy Rocker (Defensive Line and Will Linebacker).  Special Teams responsibilities among the staff are still to be determined according to Richt.

Hutson Mason's arm strength has been questioned. (AJC file)

Hutson Mason's arm strength has been questioned. (AJC file)

Patrick writes: Bill, Enjoy the read, especially in the off season. It’s a nice combination of scoop, football knowledge and logic. Thoughts on [Hutson] Mason’s arm after watching him in the last two games? His pass reminds me of Pascual Perez’s infamous eephus pitch — it has no velocity and appears to be almost pushed. Let’s hope he knows his way around Atlanta better than the late-Pascual.

From what we’ve seen so far, I think on short to medium passes, Mason throws a very catchable ball, and I like the way he surveys the field before turning it loose. However, I think it’s also obvious he doesn’t have the arm strength of Aaron Murray, so we might not see as many long throws downfield. I’d love for him to prove us wrong on that, though.

TD Dawg writes: I enjoy your columns, and appreciate your hopeful enthusiasm for our beloved Dawgs. I must admit ever since I stepped foot on campus in the Fall of 1982, I have been a loyal supporter of our Dawgs. Got spoiled with Dooley, then had to suffer through Goff and Donnan. Reckon that’s what makes me appreciate Richt so much, although my frustration level has grown greatly over the past few years with not being able to get over the hump of winning the SEC or national championship. However, it does my heart and soul good to travel long distances to see them play and enjoy the fellowship of meeting other Dawg fans who have made the trek, too. For instance, a few years ago at Arizona State. My wife and I left early that week, enjoyed Vegas, then the Grand Canyon where we met up with at least 50 or so Dawg fans. It was interesting to see the looks on other tourist’s faces at all these rabid football fans. So do you think we will get back to having some good road games scheduled in other parts of the country? Or will the long conference schedule make that hard to do?

I think those long trips to other parts of the country are pretty much a thing of the past, TD. Greg McGarity made it clear from the onset that he wasn’t a fan of that sort of trip (hence getting out of the contract with Oregon). And I do remember that the coaches said the long trip back from Arizona might have been a factor in the team not looking very good against Alabama the next week. McGarity has said that with Georgia Tech on the schedule every year, he’s not going to want to add another major nonconference opponent most seasons, though he’s already shown a willingness to agree to a Chick-fil-A Kickoff game. I’d love to see Clemson come back on the schedule for a home-and-home (though preferably not as the opening game of the season, considering our tendency to have starters suspended then). Basically, though, the key factor will be whether the conference goes to a nine-game schedule. If that happens, I think the nonconference schedule is mainly going to be cupcakes.

Go Dogs!

Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at  junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

305 comments Add your comment

browndog

February 6th, 2014
2:41 pm

This class looks good to me as far as filling needs. Not concerned about where the class is ranked. Take a look a t South Carolina and Michigan State and their class rankings yet where did both end up in the final polls? South Carolina has won eleven games each of the last three years with recruiting classes ranked below UGA if I am not mistaken.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

February 6th, 2014
2:47 pm

if Im not mistaken South Carolina has one of the best coaches in the nation too ;)

UGA Insider

February 6th, 2014
2:59 pm

PLEASE do not get your hopes up too high this offseason Dawg fans…

The first two games are going to be tough. The defense has miles to go before they are legit in this league. Mizzou will still be favored to win it all in the East followed by USCe. UT will be tough next season as well.

So please don’t get too excited. UGA is pretty much in rebuilding mode.

GHWB

February 6th, 2014
2:59 pm

Sixth best would be an improvement over seventh best, I suppose.

1 Alabama (SEC)

2 LSU (SEC)

3 Florida State

4 Texas A&M (SEC)

5 Tennessee (SEC)

6 Florida (SEC)

7 Ohio State

8 Auburn (SEC)

9 Georgia (SEC)

10 Miami

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

February 6th, 2014
3:06 pm

So I shouldnt get my hopes up for national title run even though Malzon did it in a rebuilding year?

dawgfan

February 6th, 2014
3:10 pm

brown dog, that’s because they have a better coach than we do. I’d be perfectly fine with our recruiting class if we had a coach that lives, breaths and drinks championship football 24/7/365. Other schools have that. We don’t.

The Kool Aiders are tired of me saying the same things over and over again. Well, I’m tired of them saying the same things over and over again. I’m tired of all the delusion and wishful thinking. I’m tired of losing 2 or more games every freaking seasons while other teams in our conference play for and win championships. I’m tired Gator Bowls and Outback Bowls. I’m tired of hearing about “next year.” More than anything though, I’m tired of Mark Richt.

Time or some new blood. You’ll get there soon enough Kool Aiders.

old dog

February 6th, 2014
3:11 pm

If we do not get serious about o-linemen, then all the skill players on the planet will give us a winning record, but thats about it………….

BMDPD

February 6th, 2014
3:13 pm

What was our “star” average in recruiting? It was 90.97 according to 247Sports. This give is the 5th best class in the Nation.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

February 6th, 2014
3:19 pm

You dont need a good O-line; you just need good skill players

GHWB

February 6th, 2014
3:19 pm

I heard that Uncle Bubba’s© recruiting rankings has UGA at #4.

dawgfan

February 6th, 2014
3:28 pm

How many times have we been absolutely bludgeoned to death by teams that are bigger, stronger and more physical than us but Richt still thinks its all about the flashy skill guys? We strike fear in no one. Sure, opponents know we could pop some big plays here and there and win any ball game, but they also know that if it comes down to beating the guy in front of you, as football games often do, we’re toast.

It’s embarassing how soft we are.

dawgdean

February 6th, 2014
3:33 pm

I am happy with this class. carter should be awesome , along wih chubb and Michel. I am pleased. good job especially with the coaching turnover. we should be really good next year.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

February 6th, 2014
3:40 pm

A good skill player makes the game more exciting

A good O-line is way overrated

bulldog born & bred

February 6th, 2014
3:44 pm

Hey fellow bulldog fans we are still losing the recruiting battle in our home state we didn’t get the number 1 quarterback the number 1 or number 2 linebacker or the number 1 defensive back . till CMR can recruit his home state he will never win anything.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

February 6th, 2014
3:50 pm

Start winning championships and you will get more in-state recruits

maconexpress

February 6th, 2014
3:55 pm

Dawg nation are going to like Mike Ekeler as the new linebacker coach. The guy is energetic, has an inspiring personality and has good credentials. I’m ok with him.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

February 6th, 2014
3:57 pm

Good to hear Ekeler is going to help with special teams

Skokie Dog

February 6th, 2014
3:59 pm

Bill King: I’m neither “thrilled” nor “dismayed” by this signing class. It appears that talented players in areas of need were signed, along with other players where there is little need. For instance, do we actually need two more tight ends? And I hope that Mr. McKenzie is a reliable return man, but one player will not solve the problems on special teams. And we need lots of help on the OL if anyone expects improvement on offense, especially if ball control is a goal.
I am however confused by one of your statements: “…keep in mind that the Dogs return an awful lot of starters from last year’s team.” That’s supposed to be a good thing, right? Did you forget that last year’s team finished with a record of 8-5? Did you forget that the “loaded” defense of the 2012 season returned lots of starters who became pro players last year but didn’t exactly wow most of us fans during that 2012 campaign?

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

February 6th, 2014
4:04 pm

The #1 WR recruit for next year lives in Georgia and is committed to Tennessee

Skokie Dog

February 6th, 2014
4:06 pm

Flat: Butch Jones works hard, but I’m not sure about his skill set on the diving board. On a TV show about his life at UTenn, there were no scenes of diving competitions, but they seem to spend lots of time on the practice field, using some interesting approaches to preparing their players. I expect that team to continue getting better while he’s there.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

February 6th, 2014
4:09 pm

TXDawg

February 6th, 2014
4:51 pm

Can’t sign m all in state but……..we loose so many great players to Auburn…look at last year and this year roster.

Look at how may outstanding lineman we have lost to AU and Bama the last seven years.

Top athletes in Florida and Alabama and Louisiana stay in state…… We seem to focus on Fla a lot more in the last five years for recruits……..

I would like us at least the half of the top 10 to stay in state….. maybe if we win couple SEC and NC we can keep more in State……..

Seems to me that we don’t do as well as say Bama-LSU ect…of keeping the top guys in state?

7576DAWG

February 6th, 2014
5:16 pm

Sixth is the SEC meant 8TH or 9TH in the Nation. Is that okay? I would say so.
When Georgia signs only 21 and others are signing anywhere from 24 to 32 , yes I would say we had a very successful Recruiting class. For example if we had flipped one five star Georgia would have ended up around 3RD or 4TH in the Nation.

dawgfan

February 6th, 2014
5:44 pm

Why are we battling it out with Louisville for so many recruits? Are we joining the ACC? Richt is more than welcome to make the move to the ACC if he’d like, but Georgia is staying put in the SEC.

He’s fit in well there.

dawgfan

February 6th, 2014
5:49 pm

Well unfortunately 7576Dawg we aren’t going to be playing Oregon State, Maryland, Central Michigan, etc. for SEC titles. We’re going to be playing all those teams that the experts say have better players than us.

Sorry to be so neghead but that’s what we call reality.

LHardingDawg

February 6th, 2014
6:06 pm

Dang, 35 and df really must have a sad existence. Hating every day on every blog every thing Georgia.

dawgfan

February 6th, 2014
6:09 pm

I love Georgia. Just want a new coach.

RED DOG 77

February 6th, 2014
6:13 pm

Just got home to read all the bellyaching…………….goooood gussie people!……..I’m off to a business mtg………….Will give my humble opinion in a while………….RED

fred russo

February 6th, 2014
6:26 pm

You can get all the great recruits you want but, they still must be coached up!

Castle pine canine

February 6th, 2014
6:32 pm

Recruiting. I think we have some Damn good dogs coming in! Florida out recruits us every year! So does everyone else! Look at the NFL rosters, why would a recruit come to UGA? They are going to go to the pros if they are good! Who is the best coach in the SEC? I think it is Spurrier does more with less every year! Even when he was at UF he rerelease had the top recruiting class. He coached them up. There is enough raw talent in Ga and Fla to feed most of the surrounding schools!

dawgfan

February 6th, 2014
8:04 pm

I would invite any Kool Aider to go take a look at Bama’s recruiting class. They hauled in some monsters. You’re dreaming if you think we’re going to be able to compete with that.

Or maybe you just don’t care. That’s probably more accurate.

BOB

February 6th, 2014
8:29 pm

Georgia offensive tackle Mark Beard, who would have been a senior in eligibility next season, has decided to transfer after graduating from UGA this summer, the Bulldogs announced

Beard will take advantage of the NCAA rule that permits such a move without having to sit out a year if graduation requirments are meant before transferring.

“We appreciate Mark’s contributions to our program the last two years and wish him the very best for his final year of eligibility,” Richt said in UGA’s news release.

RVS3

February 6th, 2014
10:50 pm

Dawgfan, you suck, plain and simple.

Macclenny_dawg

February 6th, 2014
11:53 pm

Another linemen gone. Amazing a couple days after signing day and we lose a linemen. Regardless of whether we sign the best linemen at least sign more than we do. Richt the cutting edge requires linemen.

7576DAWG

February 7th, 2014
12:16 am

I guess Theus is moving to Left Tackle and some of the other players are developing into starters moving Beard down the Depth cart. I know that Brandon Kublanow will start at one of the Guard positions.

RED DOG 77

February 7th, 2014
12:26 am

Dawgfan…………..No didn’t look at Alabama’s class, but I understand they signed what 5 five star players to our three?…………wow now that’s a major whuppin’ considering practically all but a few of the rest of our kids are four star………….whooa you should go to work for one of these recruiting services dude…………..I’m waiting for your 2014 predictions about now………….you are one smart fella Df……………….RED

Bama Fan #2

February 7th, 2014
5:29 am

Georgia and Alabama have 2 things in common!!
Great talent at RB and Hate for the Cow College.
Saban teams win on the O=line and D=line and
Georgia has problems against good teams with
good lines. Georgia does have a great man Mark
Richt as coach and Bama has a Dearth Vapor
for a coach!! I respect Saban but he is NO BEAR
BRYANT!! RTR

NoAxeToGrind

February 7th, 2014
5:35 am

No matter the quality or the quantity: Richt is still the head coach.

BIG MIKE

February 7th, 2014
7:17 am

You guys need to check yourselves. Offense is not and has not been our problem. If we had had an effective defense over the last 5-6 years we would have a few SEC Championship’s and a couple of NC’s. Defense is key in this league and when you have to score 35-40…50 points just to stay in the game or give up late TD’s to lose (i.e., BAMA vs UGA SEC Championship ‘12), well….offense is not the issue. I think we upgraded the defense this year by a couple of notches.
I don’t know why Grantham couldn’t get the defense to work for him, but I am glad he decided to make the move. I get the vibe that Richt and McGarity are too. Time will tell.

dawgfan

February 7th, 2014
7:24 am

I may suck but our record against top teams the past 8 years sucks even more. That should concern you a lot more than some stranger on the Internet criticizing your dreamboy Mark Richt. That’s if you’re a real fan at least.

Priorities Kool Aiders. Priorities.

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
8:56 am

Good win by the UGA basketball team……we still can’t win on the road though.

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
8:59 am

Our biggest weakness this year will be

O-line
Qb play…..
Also the secondary will be a work in progress…..JHC might not even be on the team when the season starts.

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
9:03 am

I hoping our OL and DL will be stronger……I feel like we have to hold teams to an average of 100 rushing yards a game to win the sec this year. I just don’t think we will be able to do that. Anybody know when the last time we held opponents to an average of 100 yards rushing a game? I don’t!

I-DOG

February 7th, 2014
9:05 am

Bennie, Bennie, Bennie,

There is plenty to be concerned about with Georgia football. Pruitt’s recruiting and Mason’s INT’s are not among them… yet.

Pruitt did a great job of helping to keep the guys that were already committed He got the Georgia job at the very end of the recruiting season and that included the dead period where he was not allowed to contact players. Georgia also signed the top defender in the state, a 5 star player, AFTER Pruitt was hired (I’m not saying he deserves ALL the credit for that, but it did happen on his watch.)

If Mason throws one (and only one) interception in each game this season… I’d be fine with that. We will be in the game and as long as he doesn’t fumble the ball on top of that and we run the ball effectively and he can convert some third downs… Georgia will be just fine on offense with Mason if we do the right things around him.

I’m much more worried about the offensive line than I am Mason.

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
9:12 am

I just heard on 960 the ref…..that JHC might be leaving UGA…..we all better hope not! He is a good player!

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
9:15 am

I-dog

Why did you take the time to post that to Bennie?? He is a tech troll! He posts the same stats post every time.

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
9:15 am

Wake up people! Bennie is a tech troll…..who has a obsession with numbers!!

Real Problem

February 7th, 2014
9:18 am

Flat Tire and Dawgman….good posts, but when the Kool-Aid drinkers get excited over our 6th best class in the SEC there is NOTHING YOU CAN SAY OR DO.
My guess is that we got maybe 8 really excellent prospects. Shame is that 2 of the 8 are RB’s. Do we really ever look at Alabama….they target needs and are always getting big OL and DL……. we are very good at skill guys, not much else. Pruitt is a great hire, but look who is captain of the ship……SCARY.

JB

February 7th, 2014
10:02 am

Harvey Clemmons GONE. I’m sure he’ll end up at Auburn as an All American. Auburn enjoys free spirits and let boys be boys

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 7th, 2014
10:06 am

DawgPooP in Delusionville – Glad you realize you suck! As for the #1 receiver committing to the Vowels – it’s a long time to signing day and the Vowels are going to suck AGAIN in 2014. UGA has a commitment from the #4 & #10 CB’s in the nation – #10 is from Tennessee. Just remember that you suck and everything will be fine.