Georgia coach Mark Richt and Florida coach Urban Meyer have been asked a lot about the impact of this week’s game on recruiting. I, for one, am not sure the outcome has much of a bearing on that.
How else can you explain Georgia’s recent success in the Sunshine State? The Bulldogs have infamously lost 16 of the last 19 in the series with Florida, including 49-10 last year. Yet they were able to pluck a pair of five-star recruits (according to Scout.com) in quarterback Aaron Murray and tight end Orson Charles and a four-star recruit in wide receiver Rantavious Wooten, right out from under the Gators’ noses. Florida offered each of them, so it’s not like they were simply unwanted by the defending national champions.
Same thing this year. Georgia currently has commitments from seven players out of Florida: OT Brent Benedict, Jacksonville; LB Demetre Baker, Orange Park; DE B.J. Butler, Kissimmee; DB Marc Deas, Kissimmee; DB Derek Owens, Jacksonville; DB Nickell Robey, Frostproof; LB Deon Rogers, Port Saint Lucie. The Gators themselves have only 12.
A few of those prospects might have been passed over by Florida, which has seen its recruiting base go truly national by winning BCS titles in two of the last three years. But four of the Bulldogs’ south-of-border commitments are four-star rated prospects that the Gators continue to pursue.
You’ll also note that three of those players are from the greater Jacksonville area. Meyer did.
“We lost a few prospects in this early period that has made people jump,” said Meyer, who recruited Benedict, Baker and Owens. “We love Jacksonville and it has been good to the Gators.”
Located less than an hour from the state line, Jacksonville has also been good to the Bulldogs. Starters Shaun Chapas (fullback) and Bryan Evans (safety) are both from the area.
Then again, Jacksonville has been good to any team that could get players out of there. The city produced 20 BCS signees in the Class of 2008, according to ESPN recruiting expert JC Shurburtt, including Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker, Florida State running back Jermaine Thomas and Boston College running back Montel Harris. It also produced the guy who currently plays quarterback for the Gators.
“The talent base is outstanding,” Richt said. “The bottom line is we’re gonna recruit the state of Georgia and every state that touches our state.”
Of course, it works both ways. The Gators have benefited greatly from their recruitment of the state of Georgia. Right now their defensive line is chocked full of Peach State talent. Defensive tackles Lawrence Marsh (Augusta) and Omar Hunter (Buford), and defensive end Jermaine Cunningham (Stone Mountain) are all starters who went to high school within two hours of Athens.
In all, Florida has eight Georgians on its roster, seven of whom will definitely play on Saturday. As many as five might start. Conversely, Georgia has 11 Floridians, five of whom will likely start Saturday and at least nine of whom will play.
“It is very intense,” Meyer said of the recruiting rivalry with Georgia. “They get their share, we get our share.”
Here’s the bottom line: Georgia and Florida are going to go head-to-head on the best players in their respective states. Where those players end up has as much to do with opportunity and circumstance as it does where they were born and raised.
It would appear it has very little to do with who wins this game.
Georgia’s Floridians (11)
DT Geno Atkins, Pembroke Pines
FB Shaun Chapas, St. Augustine
TE Orson Charles, Tampa
FS Bryan Evans, Jacksonville
DE Jeremy Longo, Ft. Lauderdale
WR Michael Moore, Ft. Lauderdale
QB Aaron Murray, Tampa
DT Jeff Owens, Sunrise
RB Carlton Thomas, Frostproof
PK Blair Walsh, Boca Raton
WR Rantavious Wooten, Belle Glades
Florida’s Georgians (8)
DE Jermaine Cunningham, Stone Mountain
P Chas Henry, Dallas
OG Maurice Hurt, Milledgeville
DT Omar Hunter, Buford
DT Lawrence Marsh, Augusta
TE Josh Postell, Atlanta
FB T.J. Pridemore, Gainesville
WR Justin Williams, Folkston