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

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 7th, 2014
10:07 am

JHC – Most likely destination is LSU, Bama or S.C. where pot smoking is pretty much ignored.

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
10:21 am

Flo ri duh

JHC is not gone yet……but I agree those other teams do sweep pot violations under the rug. They also over sign which is a NCAA violation….but some how they’re getting away with it….our only hope since Richt won’t over sign is that the NCAA puts a CAP on how many teams can sign.

JB

February 7th, 2014
10:26 am

OT Beard transferring. Glad we’re loaded on the OL……………………….NOT

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 7th, 2014
10:28 am

BS35 (aka Milk Dud) – JHC isn’t going anywhere this year- his grandaddy made that clear.

You will be happy to hear that Mark Beard has told Richt he made a mistake and wants to return to the team and Richt has accepted.

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 7th, 2014
10:31 am

JB – Sorry to rain on your parade but Mark Beard is back with the Dawgs – changed his mind.

JB

February 7th, 2014
10:33 am

No rain. Good news

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 7th, 2014
10:33 am

247 sports.com is my source…. Mark Beard is a Dawg.

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 7th, 2014
10:40 am

Florida Reptiles starting Safety Cody Riggs has announced he is transferring.

old dog

February 7th, 2014
10:42 am

Somebody said o-line was not a problem and justified it by how many points we put up. However, once a few injuries showed up (as well as teams with good d-lines) we saw what happened. Our skill players were good enough to overcome a few obstacles, for sure. But, in the end our o-line was overpowered (again) and the lesson Michigan State taught us a couple of years back was to remain unlearned. We do pretty well, but we must get in higher quality o-linemen. We will never cross the great divide until we do.

BigDawg

February 7th, 2014
10:46 am

Well said Bama Fan#2- Offense was and probably will remain a problem because we can not sustain drives that eat clock in crucial parts of games or get off of the ground and come back on teams to snare victory from a sure loss under Coach Richt. Part of that is his stubborness to adjust his philosophy in coaching. He refuses to understand that the SEC is a defense dominated league, next that to win championships you have to be able to run and run the football consistently, also you have to pay attention to details such as special teams and while being over emotional is bad but so is being totally oblivious to what is happening as well. When I watch Alabama the thing I notice about Coach Saban is the samething that Coach Bear Bryant and to a lesser extent Coach Dooley would do on the sidelines such as while they for most part would maintain their composure they still were actively involved in the game on the field. This is something that Coach Richt has not been consistent at as most of the games when you see him on the sidelines he is not actively coaching his players and seems dead to me and oblivious to the action on the field. Anyways these are my observations.

Go Dawgs

JB

February 7th, 2014
10:58 am

Yep. Richt coach’s like he’s waiting for his car at the car wash.

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
11:04 am

My opinion on the only way UGA wins a national title

1. Richts stops allowing our players to transfer to other SEC teams.

2. Richt starts over signing….or the NCAA puts a CAP on how many guys a team can sign.

3. The OL and DL recruiting starts getting better immediately!!! We start signing 7 OL and 7 DL a year. Some of them won’t pan out anyways….so you need more numbers at these positions.

4. Fire will friend if this years OL falls flat on their face.

5. Sign an elite 5 star WR in the next couple of years…preferably next year!

6. If none of 1-5 happens…..then fire Richt in the next few years! Thanks folks!

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
11:06 am

Flo ri duh

Well I’m glad beard is coming back….but really he won’t even see the field much this year but great have depth though!

Skokie Dog

February 7th, 2014
11:21 am

@JB at 10:58 a.m.: That’s a perceptive observation about our team’s coach. Thanks.

dawgfan

February 7th, 2014
11:29 am

Since when is getting a few 5 star prospects such a big deal? This should be routine. I thought it was routine. We’re desperate and grabbing at straws. Auburn, Bama, A&M, LSU and Auburn are all better programs than we are. Sure, we may knock one or two of them off here and there but they are putting together better seasons than we are. We’re falling behind. South Carolina is at least our equal, if not better. Tennessee is nipping at our heels. Florida won’t stay down forever.

I see no sense of urgency out of Richt whatsoever. No passion. No fire. The guy isn’t a competitor. He can’t cut it in today’s rough and rumble SEC with his laissez faire approach and mediocre work ethic.

One day the Kool Aiders will be apologizing to me for simply pointing out what is staring us all straight in the face.

dawgfanstupid

February 7th, 2014
11:38 am

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
11:57 am

The sec is a rough conference….I just don’t think Richt is cut out for it anymore. I mean Texas a&m comes in here and starts out recruiting us……maybe Richt should do a dream team III. Maybe he should just resign. Whatever comes first.

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
11:59 am

I think my post at 11:04 made some very valid points! You Disney foe’s better recognize that most of our problems are self inflicted!

GHWB

February 7th, 2014
12:13 pm

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.

__________

Yeah, Tennessee sucks. Georgia pounded that low-life team in 2013… 34-31 in Overtime.

GHWB

February 7th, 2014
12:15 pm

We just won’t even mention Vandy. They’re irrelevant.

WDE

February 7th, 2014
12:21 pm

Hey GHWB what’s your point when we come close to going to the NC by almost beating Bama we are told they killed us and a loss is a loss. We beat UT in O.T and you poo poo it??

GHWB

February 7th, 2014
12:27 pm

No. It was a great victory.

Celebrate!!!

BIG MIKE

February 7th, 2014
12:43 pm

What’s the big deal? There is very little seperation between #1 and #10. If you are in the top 20 classes, you’re doing pretty good.

Just to put it in perspective, in 2010 Florida was ranked #1 with 4–5 STAR, 15–4 STAR and 7–3 STAR players….what happened to them?

In 2011 FSU was ranked #1 with only 1–5 STAR and 17–4 STAR players…they won a championship. FYI, UGA had 2–5 STAR and 15–4 STAR commits that year and wound up with a number 6 rating. It means nothing.

The key to UGA’s success is in the Coaches quarters and I think they are stronger there now, than ever. They’ve always had the players. Very disappointed in Grantham. What a waste.

WDE

February 7th, 2014
12:46 pm

GHWB we do any victory of the Vols is a thing of beauty ! Just like victories over Tech,,LSU, SC and the hated Gators…..

DawginColorado

February 7th, 2014
1:13 pm

Soft? You people have very selective memories. I present 3 pieces of evidence to absolutely blow the crap out of your brain dead assertions.

1) the last 8 1/2 minutes of the South Carolina game.
2) The last 8 1/2 minutes of the Florida game.
3) defensively we played the run much better this year..LSU was not able to run the ball and they tried to. No one stopped Auburn so don’t go there.

There were times where our O-line didn’t get it done. That holds true for just about every O-line in college football.

You do not dominate major college football programs, both of which are known for good defense, with a soft team. We blew SC and UF off the ball and ran out the clock in both games. We didn’t hold on to it for several minutes only to give it to them with no time remaining, we rammed the football down their throats and they could not stop us.

But since those instances don’t fit your agenda so you just conveniently leave them out. That is called lying. You lie when you purposefully do not include information. This is why everyone that comes to this blog needs to have it posted in neon letters that your credibility is non existent.

Refute the facts honestly and I’ll listen. You don’t.

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
1:21 pm

Richt is just becoming a bum! A bum I tell ya! We have to stop coming in at 6th in the sec in recruiting!

WDE

February 7th, 2014
1:24 pm

DawginColorado well said ! In the Auburn game we were down 20 in the 3rd and our D stopped them and we ran rough shod over them to take the lead and lost on a hail Mary pass the receiver had given up on …unlike Bama that could not stop them in the 4th and lost the game on a rarely seen but well designed play that Auburn executed to perfection.That being said we still couldn’t stop Mizzou in the 4th and I we screwed the pooch the whole game vs Vandy.

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
1:24 pm

Dear NCAA

Please put a CAP on how many players a team can sign…..please because we need some help against saban and he just keeps on over signing! It’s just not fare!!! Richt will never over sign so please NCAA step it up!

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
1:26 pm

Wde

Who cares what we did against anybody this past season….we were only 6th in the sec in recruiting! That’s not going to win us any championships moving forward.

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
1:27 pm

My 11:04 post is still the best one of the day! So many valid points that you Disney’s choose to ignore! Oh well I just consider the source!

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 7th, 2014
1:28 pm

BS35 (aka Milk Dud) in Delusionville – Look who’s calling someone a bum…. you live in a glass house.

Flo-Ri-Duh

February 7th, 2014
1:30 pm

GHWB- Another TROLL in sheep’s clothing. Why you here TROLL? Another stick in the mud.

Dog4Life

February 7th, 2014
1:52 pm

Well said Dawg in Col. We absolutely shut the barn down in the 3rd and 4th qtr–beat on a fluke play. Bama got run all over by the barn and Okie. All aspects of the game cannot be perfect all the time–i am wanting us to play well enugh that when the special time of the game requires that stop defense or score offense we are able to put it together–It looks as though we are finally well-balanced on the player side and the coaching side for the first time in a while. People for get that having to score a lot of points to win puts pressure also on the offense, because every drive becomes critical–pressure on the defense because they know they need to step it up–so her’s hoping 2014 will prove to be much better balanced on both sides of the ball.

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
2:00 pm

Flo ri duh

Glass house huh? Dude move out the horse barn and wake up and smell what the rock is cooking bro! UGA is moving backwards…and it all starts with the head man! We cannot recruit well anymore! We wasn’t even top ten last year….this year we are barely even in the top ten….seems to me that Richt has rested all of his laurels on the dream team!!!

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
2:03 pm

I said it a long time ago….once we stopped having consistent recruiting classes in the top ten then Richt would be out the door! Hey it won’t be much longer now….Tennessee and Florida are coming back!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WDE

February 7th, 2014
2:04 pm

Bulldawg35 nope we got the recruits we needed and with a 21 man class. The only reason the Vols are ranked higher is that they signed something like 85 guys…..the teams that were ranked higher are mostly signing 30 guys up…we one thing we do need for the 2015 class is to go OL heavy !

Skokie Dog

February 7th, 2014
2:17 pm

@WDE: According to the Rivals rankings posted at cnn.sportsillustrated site, of the teams ranked ahead of UGa in this round of signings, only UTenn signed more than 30 players (31).

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
2:24 pm

WDE

That’s why are only for success is for Richt to over sign or the NCAA put a CAP on it! I mean how many times do I have to post this to get my point across??

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
2:24 pm

Bulldawg35

February 7th, 2014
2:27 pm

From 2011-2014 recruiting number show that we are the 4th most talented team in the sec behing Bama Lsu and Florida…UGA can over come that but it will take some superb coaching from our staff…I surely hope so!

WDE

February 7th, 2014
2:33 pm

Skokie Dog I was attempting to make a joke of course UT didn’t sign 85 guys, but I did think they were in the mid 30’s .However my point was that all of the teams ranked higher in the SEC had more commits than UGA thus “out scoring” them..UF 24,LSU 23 AU,23 Bama 26 etc.

WDE

February 7th, 2014
2:36 pm

Bulldawg35 lets see cheat or change the rules only one of those is in CMR’s power to do and he is not cheating…after 14 years he has had plenty of time to do so if he was going I for one am glad he doesn’t. Now if the powers that be change the rules….

BIG MIKE

February 7th, 2014
2:49 pm

Excuse me, but what did Florida do with their superior talent over the last few years? These grades mean nothing. Whose to say UGA didn’t get it right with their player evaluations. #3 in recruiting….#8 in recruiting….#15 in recruiting… not a helluva lot of difference. South Carolina finished no higher than 15th over the last decade and look how they are finishing in the SEC. You kids are putting way too much value on the talent evaluations of RIVALS, etal.. They only look at the ones with the most publicity early in their career, that’s why you see some unknown athletes spike in the All American games, and garner DIV 1 scholarships when previously offered UFC, Memphis State and the like. They don’t necessarily evaluate the thousands of HS football players available each year. DIV 1 coaches have networks that feed them tips on talent. And you can bet they don’t share this information with RIVALS or ESPN. Why help the competition. UGA got some great players in this round…they can’t get ‘em all..

Skokie Dog

February 7th, 2014
2:50 pm

@ WDE at 2:33 p.m.: Yeah, I knew that you knew that 85 was a slight exaggeration of UTenn’s number of recruits. As for “out scoring,” another measure in those Rivals rankings is average stars of the recruits. Using that measure, among SEC teams, UGa is at 3.6, just a shade higher than UF at 3.58. Other higher rated SEC classes included UTenn at 3.65 (same as Auburn, whose class was ranked overall just below UGa’s), TxA&M at 3.71, LSU at 3.74, and Alabama at 3.92.
If we look at those numbers like we would grade point averages, everyone did well. Comparatively, UGa did a little less well both in number of recruits and in average star ratings, but that latter measure is a subjective judgment created by Rivals.

BIG MIKE

February 7th, 2014
3:08 pm

Richt and Mcgarity started looking at character traits and GPA as GO/NO-GO attributes and this eliminated quite a few of the 5-STAR athletes available. They (some of the 5-STAR players) might be excellent on the field in a High School. environment with the coddling from their coaches, teachers and communities; however, that doesn’t necessarily translate to a successful college career and I think McGarity brought that to the evaluation equation when he arrived at UGA. You don’t hear about kids getting the boot for sexual assault or carrrying a concealed weapon anymore, do you. They have much better leadership in the locker room now, than they did a few years ago…or year before last for that matter. They still had some minor discipline problems last year….from Josh Harvey Clemons to be exact. If he had put the weed down and knocked the ball down against Auburn instead of trying to pad his INT stats, it would have been a little better. I believe Grantham was part of the discipline problem. Just a hunch from some of the things Jarvis Jones said a couple of years ago.

WDE

February 7th, 2014
3:17 pm

Skokie Dog one thing I really liked on NSD was the lack of drama from the commits, most were signed sealed and delivered by 1pm with the only real drama was with Carter and he wasn’t a commit. I think it speaks volumes for the future recruiting that the new coaches could keep this class together. Overall I think we got a talented group that I hope we can now coach up to be top tier SEC players.

GHWB

February 7th, 2014
3:23 pm

Okay. I feel better after sipping on this Kool-Aid.

Dawgs will be #1 in 2014!

GATA!!!

old dog

February 7th, 2014
4:23 pm

Big Mike,
Remember that also it was Jarvis who told the folks at at Pittsburgh that this D was a helluva lot easier to learn than the one they tried to teach at UGA……..glad CTG is gone. His “system” may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it did not work for us.

BIG MIKE

February 7th, 2014
4:29 pm

I agree. it takes 2 or 3 years of playing it everyday to get the hang of it. By then, an elite player is eyeing the PROs. It’s not a college defense.

DawginColorado

February 7th, 2014
4:29 pm

If Mark Richt is such a bad coach then tell me why Jeremy Pruitt wanted to work for him? Jeremy Pruitt who was on Nick Saban’s staff and Jimbo Fisher’s staff. He won National Championships at both places. Why, if Mark Richt is so terrible would he want to work for him? Don’t you think the man knows what a good head coach looks like by now? Do you think that he would gamble with his future by hitching his wagon to a crappy program?

See this is simple logic and it flies in the face of your never ending rants about how Mark Richt is the problem.

No head coach is perfect and Mark Richt will be the first to tell you about the mistakes he has made. But don’t you think a man who has aspirations of being a head coach some day soon would stay at FSU and ride the bandwagon if he had even the slightest doubt about the “quality” of coach that Mark Richt is?

Keep in mind you don’t need to trot out your statistics to answer the question. This is about thinking about the issue from a different perspective. When you focus in too closely on any single area of a painting you can find all sorts of flaws but if you pull back and get a different perspective you can see the whole.

I’ll hang up and listen.