It was a year ago today that Carver-Columbus coach Dell McGee was left fuming because of what happened to one of his players at “Dawg Night” in Athens. So mad was McGee that he actually instituted a ban of Georgia’s coaches from recruiting his school’s campus.
A year later, relations could not be better between the two parties. One Carver player has already transferred to UGA and at least four others – including two of the state’s top prospects in 2011 – were back for this year’s Dawg Night elite prospect camp on Friday.
And the ban? As it turned out, it lasted only a few weeks early last fall. The Bulldogs’ coaches have been back inside Carver every time the doors were open and NCAA recruiting calendar allowed.
“Everything’s fine,” McGee told me this morning. “That whole incident that occurred, it wasn’t about me. It was just a lack of communication and about finding a better way of doing things. And I think we’ve done that. A lot of positives came out of it, for our kids and everybody else’s.”
To rehash, last July, Carver quarterback Devin Burns came to Dawg Night last July intent on committing to the Bulldogs, who had offered him earlier in the year. But when Burns and his family got there, they were shocked to learn from a Georgia assistant coach that the Bulldogs had withdrawn the offer.
The Burns family left upset and embarrassed. McGee publicly chastised UGA’s coaches and instituted the ban. Burns would eventually accept a scholarship offer from Maryland. He signed with the Terrapins in February and enrolled this summer (Burns did not return messages seeking comment).
McGee believes the ban, while shortlived, was very effective.
“The good thing about that, since that did occur, is schools that offer our kids now always say things like, ‘this is a real offer; we’re not going to pull it later,’” McGee said. “And that’s not just Georgia, that’s everybody. So some positives came out of it.”
And the relationship between UGA and Carver seems stronger than ever. Since all that happened, former Carver star linebacker Jarvis Jones transferred to Georgia from Southern Cal, thanks in part to the recommendation of McGee. And the Bulldogs are welcoming several Tigers to Dawg Night 2010. Isaiah Crowell, a five-star running back prospect and the Bulldogs’ No. 1 target at tailback, is in town. Gabriel Wright, one of the top few defensive linemen in the state, has been on campus with his mother for two days.
“Oh, yeah, definitely,” McGee said of the notion that either or both could end up inking with the Dogs. “They wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t a possibility.”
He said Georgia is in the top three for both players.
As for Dawg Night and events like them — Auburn is holding a one-day camp on Saturday; Florida has its annual Friday Night Lights camp next week — they’ve become the norm in modern-day recruiting. Georgia expects somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 prospects to be on hand for the one-day event, which serves more as a on-campus visit for top targets than a teaching camp for college football wannabes.
The Bulldogs have a particularly star-studded list of participants this year. In addition to the aforementioned Carver bunch (including 2012 prospect CB Deion Bonner) the list of visitors includes Tampa-Plant running back James Wilder Jr., who ESPN considered the top prospect in America; top-ranked tight end Jay Rome of Valdosta; his blue-chip, defensive back teammate Malcolm Mitchell; Mississippi wideout Tobias Singleton; and many, many others.
Highly-sought-after recruits NOT making the scene include Thomas Country Central defensive end Ray Drew, Griffin defensive end Xzavier Dickson, Grady cornerback Damian Swann, and South Carolina offensive tackle Brandon Shell.
What all that means, make of it what you will.
In any case, McGee sees these late-summer, show-me camps as a necessary evil for today’s hurry-up-and-commit recruiting regimen.
“The biggest thing is they’re trying to get the top guys on their lists on campus to see how interested they are,” McGee said. “If they don’t show up, that gives them an indication of how they might stand with that player.
“And I think the timing is a big thing. After this month is over, college coaches won’t be able to give recruits that one-on-one attention they’d like to. It’s their last chance to make a personal connection with kids before they all get into the grind of their seasons.”
The downside of that is teams have to offer earlier and prospects need to accept earlier. The predictable consequence is mistakes are going to be made on both ends.
“I wish they’d change whole system,” McGee said. “Something needs to be done. It’s just a lot of pressure and phone calls and problems. I think [prospects] should be able to sign in August. But I’m sure it’s not as simple as that.”
No, nothing about this recruiting game is simple.