Athens – Just as it would be wrong to make too much of one lost recruit or one tepid signing class, it would likewise be wrong to ignore current events. And those are: Coming off its worst season on the field under Mark Richt, the Bulldogs have assembled their lowest-ranked recruiting class, according to Rivals.com, since Richt was so new to the job he hadn’t yet coached a game.
“I don’t expect Bulldog fans to be excited over an 8-5 season,” Richt said Wednesday, briefing the media on a subdued-by-Georgia-standards Signing Day, but that season is done and this recruiting class is essentially complete and the Bulldogs move on. And the question becomes: Is Georgia better suited today to win big than it was 12 months ago?
And the answer is: Yes.
We cannot know how good Da’Rick Rogers will (or will not) be at Tennessee, but we can know this: Georgia was never going to play for another SEC title with Willie Martinez coaching its defense. If firing Martinez and two assistants made for what recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner called “some difficulties,” that’s a trade-off worth making if in fact Todd Grantham, Martinez’s successor, is as clever as advertised.
“That’s why I did what I did,” said Richt, responding to a question about Georgia’s positioning for the future. “That’s the only reason I did what I did.”
As much as Signing Day matters, coaching matters more. Richt’s program had become the place where big-time defensive players came and were left to their own devices. Were recruiting alone the secret to success, Georgia and Richt — eight consecutive Top 10 classes, according to Rivals — would have taken a BCS title by now.
As disappointing as Rogers’ defection was, Georgia fans should nonetheless find reason to believe this February. Because the head coach bears a lean and hungry look. “[Last season] has given me more resolve to get this program where it belongs,” Richt said. And then: “We have everything we need to get that done.”
Last season wasn’t good. (No good seasons lead to Shreveport.) The coaching search took six weeks and included three high-profile turndowns. The recruiting class of 2010 numbered 18 commitments last fall and wound up with 19 signed letters-of-intent. But all that is past now, and what remains is a better defensive staff — couldn’t be worse, could it? — and a rejuvenated Richt. And also this:
“We’ve got some darn good football players,” Richt said. “That’s got me excited about what the future holds.”