KISSIMMEE, FLA. — The general consensus among some of the state’s highest-profile college football prospects is that Georgia’s 6-7 record this past season is not necessarily a deal-killer with regard to their recruitment.
Most notably, that is the opinion of Carver-Columbus running back Isaiah Crowell. He is generally considered Georgia’s highest-ranked recruit and is, quite clearly, the Bulldogs’ No. 1 target from the Class of 2011. Crowell is among 10 Georgians participating in practices this week here at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for Wednesday’s Under Armour All-American Game (7 p.m. ESPN).
“Really, I don’t how they’re going to be when I get there,” Crowell said, speaking metaphorically of the possibility of enrolling at UGA before next season. “I try not to think about it like that. One year South Carolina’s down, then Marcus Lattimore went there and the program’s up. So you never know how it will be when you get there. And I feel like I’ll be a difference maker wherever I go.”
Of the 10 representatives here this week, at least eight were targeted in the Bulldogs’ stated goal of landing a “Dream Team” of the state’s best recruits. Crowell, Quan Bray, Xzavier Dickson, Malcom Mitchell, Jay Rome, Justin Scott-Wesley, Gabe Wright and James Vaughters are on that roll. At least two others — Ray Drew and Damian Swann — are practicing in San Antonio this week for Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
But in the midst of this bold ploy, Georgia went out this fall and had it’s first losing season in 14 years. What makes that particularly troublesome for the Bulldogs is it’s going head-to-head with perennial juggernaut Alabama on many of these elite players and national championship contender Auburn for some others.
“It doesn’t turn me off; it doesn’t turn me on,” said Mitchell, who is planning to decide between Georgia and Alabama during a Jan. 13th announcement at Valdosta High. “I just feel like I’m looking at the program itself, not just for football. I mean, that’s why I’m going there, but it’s more about the people there, the coaches there and stuff like that.”
It has come down to the Dogs, Tide and Tigers for Dickson. The AJC Super 11 defensive end from Griffin will actually make his announcement during Wednesday’s Under Armour broadcast.
“I think they’re just going through a rebuilding year,” Dickson said of Georgia. “I don’t really think about 6-7. Everyone loses some games.”
Bray, who will also announce during the game, echoed that sentiment. He also has Alabama, Auburn and Georgia among his finalists.
“It was just an off year for them,” the running back from Troup High of the Bulldogs. “They’re going to rebuild most definitely next year. They should have a better team.”
But the cold reality is it’s not as much as having a bad year or two as it is about who will be coaching the team. With coach Mark Richt logging a 14-12 mark the last two seasons, his job security has come into question, not to mention that of some of his assistants. That has some of the “Dream Team” members already on board wavering.
“I think the Dream Team can come in and help out,” said Scott-Wesley, a UGA commitment since last spring. “Then again, on the other hand, there is a concern with the coaches. I’m really not sure what the future is going to be. But as of right now I’m still committed and I’m planning to come in and help out.”
It’s a decision not exclusive to Georgia recruits. Vaughters, a Tucker linebacker committed to Stanford, is monitoring closely the uncertain future of Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh is rumored to be eying potential openings at Michigan and the NFL.
“When things change in a program, I feel like I’ll have to go through and do another check,” said Vaughters, who had Georgia Tech and Ohio State among his finalists when he picked Stanford this past summer. “It’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about. I’m not really taking anything into consideration right now. It’s just everything’s a maybe.”