What if a Georgia HS led nation in D1 football recruits and none signed with UGA or Georgia Tech?

Stephenson High School's Class of 2012 is a candidate to lead the nation for the number of seniors that will sign major-college football scholarships (AJC photo by Michael Carvell)

Stephenson High School's Class of 2012 is a candidate to lead the nation for the number of seniors that will sign major-college football scholarships (AJC photo by Michael Carvell)

What if a Georgia high school led the nation in major-college football recruits and none of them signed with UGA or Georgia Tech?

This could very well happen at Stephenson High School.

The Stone Mountain projects to have between 14-16 seniors sign D1 football scholarships in February. A dozen Stephenson stars have already pledged to colleges, including seven to SEC schools. But none to UGA. And none to Georgia Tech either.

With so much talent at a Georgia high school and none of it headed to UGA or Georgia Tech, it’s only natural to ask: What’s going on?

“We don’t steer our kids one way or the other to any schools,” said Stephenson’s Ron Gartrell, one of the state’s most well-respected football coaches. “Our coaches work hard to give the kids plenty of options, and then each young man makes whatever decision is best for him and his family.”

That’s the simple answer, but not enough to satisfy some UGA and Georgia Tech fans. They’ve come up with all kinds of conspiracy theories that would make JFK jealous on why the Stephenson pipeline does not exist this year.

Ron Gartrell (left) is the only head football coach in Stephenson history and had his son TJ play football at UGA. That's Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis behind him in the Gator warmups (AJC photo by Michael Carvell)

Ron Gartrell (left) is the only head football coach in Stephenson history and had his son TJ play football at UGA. That's Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis behind him in the Gator warmups (AJC photo by Michael Carvell)

We’ll start with UGA.

“Somebody came to me and mentioned that there may be some issues between Mark Richt and myself,” Gartrell said. “I can set the record straight there. Coach Richt and I are very good friends. My son played at Georgia. I’ve been a Georgia fan just about all my life. I grew up 30 miles east of Athens.

“We try to stress to our kids ‘You need to go through the recruiting process. Even that school that you may dream about going to at an early age, it may not be the school you want to go after you make your visits.’ My thing is that I’m against early commitments and that kind of thing because you have kids committing at 16 years old — and they don’t even have driver’s licenses yet. We’ve got all these guys committed early, and I’m against it unless the NCAA creates an early signing period, because what is happening is that colleges are putting a lot of pressure on these kids to commit early. Now I don’t know if Georgia is doing that, and that might be why they are not getting as many kids as they probably should. Georgia does a great job of evaluating guys and when they make an offer, it’s a serious offer. They stand by it.

“You’ve got some other people making offers and after they make an offer, they will come back and say to a linebacker, ‘OK, we’ve offered you but we’ve offered four total. We’re only going to take two, and one of them has already committed to us. So if you really want to come to our place, you’ve got to commit before this other guy.’ It’s a game that colleges play with these kids that I’m not a fan of. Recruiters know I don’t like them playing those kinds of games with my kids. When you offer them, you need to let them know up front if you have someone else in mind. Recruiting is what it is. It makes or breaks colleges coaches, lots of them moving around [to different jobs] … so who knows?”

Back to UGA: The assistant in charge of recruiting Stephenson is none other than Rodney Garner, Georgia’s recruiting coordinator. The Bulldogs extended scholarship offers to two Stephenson players. One was defensive tackle Jafar Mann, who said this after committing to the Florida Gators:

“Georgia, I feel like Georgia waited too late. They offered me two weeks after Florida, so I didn’t feel like they were as interested. Tech actually offered me before Florida, but I wanted to get out of Georgia. They’re both good teams but I really wanted to go out of state.”

The other UGA target at Stephenson was linebacker Raphael Kirby, who committed to Miami. Kirby said UGA was in his initial Top 5 but dropped because “they didn’t recruit me as hard as other schools.”

DE Jarontay Jones is considered by some to be Stephenson's No. 1 overall prospect. He's committed to Virginia Tech (AJC photo by Michael Carvell)

DE Jarontay Jones is considered by some to be Stephenson's No. 1 overall prospect. He's committed to Virginia Tech (AJC photo by Michael Carvell)

The Stephenson player that UGA probably had the best chance at landing was defensive end Jarontay Jones, who is considered by some to be the team’s No. 1 prospect. Jones was a lifelong Georgia fan and — along with Mann — had been attending UGA football camps since he was a ninth-grader. Jones said UGA showed some interest but wanted him to attend camp again before discussing a possible offer. “At that time, I had 28 offers,” Jones said. “No disrespect to Georgia, but I had too many good options by then. I wanted to use my time getting to know the coaches better and visiting the colleges where I knew I had offers.”

What about Georgia Tech? Stephenson hasn’t had any of its players sign with Georgia Tech since Reggie Ball played QB for the Yellow Jackets. There’s speculation that a rift was created between Stephenson and Tech after the rocky finish to Ball’s college career. Reggie’s father is a longtime Stephenson assistant.

Gartrell addressed that, too. “Reggie played for Chan Gailey. Chan is now gone and my relationship with Chan was never disturbed. What kids go through after they leave us a lot of times don’t have anything to do with us. If Reggie or another kid has issues at any college, those are issues that they need to work out. I can’t go into a college coach’s office and say ‘I don’t like the way you’re treating this kid.’ No, he’s not mine anymore. I never had any problems with Georgia Tech. I think Reggie’s situation at Georgia Tech was that he didn’t walk to talk to the media and I think that disturbed some people. Reggie has ironed all that out now.

“When [current Tech coach] Paul Johnson was at Georgia Southern, in our first year at Stephenson we took our kids to his camp at Georgia Southern. We don’t have any problems with Paul Johnson. I don’t know him that well. I don’t know why our kids don’t go to Georgia Tech. We’ve got a lot of kids with really, really good grades this year. I would’ve thought Georgia Tech would’ve been after more of them. I don’t if it should be ‘Are we upset with Georgia Tech?’ Maybe it should be ‘Is Georgia Tech upset with us?’”

DT Jafar Mann was the only Stephenson player offered by both UGA and Georgia Tech. He committed to Florida (AJC photo by Michael Carvell)

DT Jafar Mann was the only Stephenson player offered by both UGA and Georgia Tech. He committed to Florida (AJC photo by Michael Carvell)

Tech offered three Stephenson seniors: Mann, Jones and tailback Mike Davis (signed with Florida), the younger brother of former Clemson tailback James Davis. The younger Davis said, “Georgia Tech came at all of us very hard. I went over there a couple of times to visit and really liked it. I just wanted go off somewhere for college.”

Back to our question: What if a Georgia high school led the nation in major-college football recruits and none of them signed with UGA or Georgia Tech? No doubt, it’s a little unusual but it’s not the end of the world. No one is saying that. The state of Georgia is plentiful with football talent, producing nearly 200 D1 recruits on an annual basis, giving UGA and Georgia Tech more than enough to consider. And you can bet that both UGA and Georgia Tech will be back at Stephenson recruiting again very soon. Who knows? None of the seniors have signed the dotted line yet. Anything can happen in recruiting. Also, Stephenson’s 2013 class looks promising, as the DeKalb school will likely continue to be a hotbed for college football prospects for many, many years to come.

Stephenson Class of 2012:

UF-bound Mike Davis

UF-bound Mike Davis

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236 comments Add your comment

Gator Power

August 3rd, 2011
5:32 am

1st! Welcome to Gator Country Jafar and Mikey!!! FWIW Dawg fans, quit with the Charlie Weis jokes because he looks like a starving supermodel compared to the recent photos I’ve seen of Rodney Garner. I’m just saying …

NC Dawg

August 3rd, 2011
5:37 am

February is a long way away. I think CMR can flip Jafar and/or Jarontay before then. We’ve got to at least split two the first two games. That’s our whole season. If we don’t, this year’s recruiting is a complete wash. I’m thinking 2-0, all the top dogs will want to flip to the Dawgs and it’s Dream Team II baby

Why did I even bother?

August 3rd, 2011
5:38 am

“It is what it is”. What if it happens? Well it just happens. Not really a story IMO… and BTW, the school is always bigger than the recruit. I hate when ppl make it seem like the school deserves all types of criticism when a kid decides to go elsewhere. No one play or even a group of players from one school is bigger than the university/institute.

Best Wishes

August 3rd, 2011
6:13 am

Best of luck to the Stephenson kids. I wish they were more patient with the Dawgs, and didn’t commit so early to an OOS school. Our staff has a process that works, and will not rush into offers.

SickandTired

August 3rd, 2011
6:27 am

Well best wishes. Best wishes to Mark Richt in his next job. The problem is Rodney Garner. Georgia is usually slow to the dance And off on the evaluation when they do offer.

ToeMeetsLeather

August 3rd, 2011
6:27 am

It appears that three of these kids had the test scores and grades, or the potential to achieve the test scores, required to qualify at TECH. That is probably the real story here and should be part of the article if you want a thorough look at this situation. Was that a question you asked Carvell?

Dash Fan

August 3rd, 2011
6:34 am

Georgia has been basically kicked out of Stevenson High recruiting since they wrongly kicked Michael Grant off the team 8 years ago. BIGGEST mistake in the Mark Richt tenure.

Paddy

August 3rd, 2011
6:39 am

Jafar Mann’s comments must be read a few times. Tough to make sense out of what he wants to convey. But he is just a kid and will learn. Good luck at UF.

Paddy

August 3rd, 2011
6:43 am

Dash Fan…..if that is the case about being denied access at Stephenson for UGA recruiters; a massive lawsuit should be arriving any day now. What a “crock” Dash Fan. No one believes that crap!

swampjacket

August 3rd, 2011
6:52 am

The real story is how does Stephenson ever lose with all that talent?

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

gamecock

August 3rd, 2011
7:01 am

Some kids want to go out of state, to play ftballl and get an education. I could be wrong but if you grew up in a state and you feel the best way for you to make it is to leave the state why not do it. Come on ppl you don’t have to amend your home state university.

Jacket Man

August 3rd, 2011
7:01 am

Never really answered the questions quite head on, now did he? Nothing like a direct answer – yes or no is there? Let me try to help out here; no and yes; simple, right?

If milk doesn’t quite smell right, then its best not to drink it lest it’s gotten spoiled overnight. If somebody says something that doesn’t sound convincing, then its not worth believing lest history has proven otherwise.

gamecock

August 3rd, 2011
7:02 am

Attend sorry not amend these so called smartphone

gamecock

August 3rd, 2011
7:06 am

If you read the story you will see what most of the kids said, they want to leave the area.

MLK Parent

August 3rd, 2011
7:08 am

True @ Swampjacket

O-Line Dad

August 3rd, 2011
7:12 am

I understand why players don’t want to play for UGA. GA Tech isn’t an option for every player but if a player has the academic skill set then GA Tech could be a great choice.

UGA: losing record, multiple discipline issues, players academically ineligible, multiple arrest, Coach Staff change on the horizon, etc… Why would any parent in their right mind send a player to UGA at this time?

MLK Parent

August 3rd, 2011
7:13 am

@ Dashfan. Michael Grant never was allowed to enroll at Georgia, so Mark Richt called Houston Nutt for him. But he was never kicked off of the team. And UGA signed a DT from Stephenson last year.

Jag Tag

August 3rd, 2011
7:14 am

@ MLK Parent. What was that odor lingering around your school?

JB

August 3rd, 2011
7:17 am

Tech’s Johnson: ” we’ve got bigger fish to fry”
Georgia’s Richt: ” We are very selective, and we usually wait till most in state players have committed elsewhere and then take a look at them”.
Bama’s Saban: ” Hell, offer them all”.
Tennessee’s Dooley: ” The state of Georgia is really all we got”. I’m on the way”
Auburn’s Chisik: ” what they asking?”

Dawg Fan

August 3rd, 2011
7:19 am

Good article. We appreciaate your reporting. However, omething is wrong some where. The two most influencial people in the life of the recruit as to where a recruit will attend are the parents and the high school coach. People all over the state complain about Coach Richt. Yet I see no support for the UGA program at the AJC and only sporatic support for the coaches. I want to say is there no loyalty from the AJC and from the High School coaches to the state in which you live. Coach Richt may not be perfect, but I would much rather he would coach my son rather than the likes of Spurrier, Saban and the other SEC coaches.

JB

August 3rd, 2011
7:21 am

Please tell us O Line Dad from post @7:12 why players don’t want to go to Georgia and play? The same Georgia team that ESPN rated the #2 school in recruiting rankings the last ten years.

NC Dawg

August 3rd, 2011
7:25 am

Georgia kids that go to school at Florida should have their arse kicked.

chillywilly

August 3rd, 2011
7:31 am

Please help me understand why all of these “Black Athletes” continue to walk into this white college trap? If these athletes are serious about getting an education, why not attend an institution that is serious about educating them (Howard University, FAMU, Morehouse, Hampton, etc)? Stop going to these Div. 1 colleges that are going to exploit you for financial gains & wins. Lord, PLEASE let my people go!!

name

August 3rd, 2011
7:32 am

I would only let my son play for Richt if I didn’t want to have to bother with having to go to the SEC championship game or a quality bowl game

Wally My Butts

August 3rd, 2011
7:34 am

Doesn’t sound like a conspiracy to me. If you look at the recruiting web sites, you will find the Alabama schools, along with Notre Dame, LSU and USC have offered almost everyone in sight. I guess if you throw enough offers out, you should be able to land a bunch of good athletes.

If my job depended on enticing a bunch of 16 year old kids that I was recruiting them “really hard” while the in-state schools are taking their time to evaluate the talent pool along with assessing their own needs, I might be tempted to recruit everyone in sight to protect my $3-4 million a year salary.

I think that this is an issue for the NCAA to set rules around the process. God knows, they have a rule for everything else. I am sorta surprised that they don’t have a rule for this as well.

Of course, it’s the NCAA and they are much more concerned with tattos and jersey sales (ok if they make a bunch of money selling them but you can’t). What a joke of an institution.

Wally My Butts

August 3rd, 2011
7:41 am

I am not worried about UGA recruiting. Some of the kids in this article stated that they wanted to go out of state and some were dazzled by the “bright lights and big city” pitches from OOS recruiters. So what. There are plenty of good athletes to go around and who knows if these kids will change their minds before signing day. And, further more, who knows if they are as good as the AJC and the recruiting web sites say they are anyway. A lot can happen to a kid from 16 to 23.

JB

August 3rd, 2011
7:43 am

Wally… you are correct……..Saban has the rep as a great coach and has done a good job at Bama. It also gives him a big net to throw lot’s of offers out and then start culling them as the staff starts their evaluations. Richt doesn’t play that game. He loses out on some, but he targets someone he wants and offers. If he did work that way, he would have offers out to 25-30 OL. He doesn’t.

Dawginit

August 3rd, 2011
7:43 am

What if the AJC didn’t always write negative articles about UGA abd Tech?

gamecock

August 3rd, 2011
7:44 am

Chilywillie that’s wrong I’m blk and if there was a d I scholarship trust me I will golfer that most schools educate us. It’s up to the players to do the coursework. You shouldn’t say that but then again you have the right to. Freedom of speech

tide roll

August 3rd, 2011
7:45 am

Richt/Booboo’s treatment of Kregg Lumpkin needs to be addressed.

A.J.

August 3rd, 2011
7:46 am

It’s Stephenson. Who cares? Yes they have a lot of talent at the high school talent, but they’re poorly coached. Last person of note that played for UGA from Stephenson was Kregg Lumpkin, and that didn’t go too well.

Ed F

August 3rd, 2011
7:46 am

Well just be like Alabama. Offer everybody then either kick someone off the team or tell your recruit you waited too late and we ran out of scholarships.

Wally My Butts

August 3rd, 2011
7:50 am

AJ – I don’t think that you can say that they are poorly coached. If they had that rep then all of the schools listed that these kids committed to would shy away from Stephenson, which doesn’t seem to be happening.

A.J.

August 3rd, 2011
7:53 am

Wally – if they’re as GREAT as everyone says they are then why can’t Stephenson EVER make it past the 2nd round of the playoffs? The fact is they show off playing against other schools not as good as Region 8 and Region 1, then get smoked by better coached TEAMS in the playoffs.

Cmon man

August 3rd, 2011
7:54 am

Whats wrong ajc you guys dont have anymore stories to steal from the pay sites? Who cares if none of these guys decide to stay in state and play football its THEIR choice and its THEIR life. Uga or tech arent required to sign a certain number of players from instate they go after the best players for their program. give it a rest quit trying to spark controversy. All u guys want to do is start a pissing contest between each fan base. Ajc is like a tabloid now

bjohnDawg

August 3rd, 2011
7:58 am

Georgia seems every year to get their fair share

as for Stephenson players, based on their performance in the state playoffs every year…why worry.
Looks like UGA nor Tech for that matter need them.

I will take kids from Valdosta, Lowndes, Thomasville,Warner Robins,Camden County,Americus any day, and let the Stephenson kids go to Jhorts land.

tide roll

August 3rd, 2011
8:01 am

Also, how about taking a look at all the in-state offensive lineman that weren’t seriously recruited by UGA, They’ve all signed or will sign with other teams and are either kicking UGA’s butt, or helping their teams win National Titles. None attended the same schools, but all are from Georgia. (1) JAMES CARPENTER, Hepzibah, 6′6″ 330lb. OT, Two year starter at Alabama. Led team to National Title! NFL 1st round draft pick. (2) CHANCE WARMACK Atlanta Westlake,6′4″ 330 lb. OG, Three year starter at Alabama. Pre-season All-SEC.Played beside CARPENTER on Alabama’s National Championship team. (3) A. J. HAWKINS, Atlanta MLK, 6′4″ 330 lb. Center, Two year starter at Ole Miss. One of only a handful of Juniors named to the Remington Watch List for the best center in America. (4) ROKEVIOUS WATKINS, Atlanta Creekside, 6′6″ 340 lb. OG/OT, Two year starter at S.Carolina, Pre-season All-SEC.Literally pushed Uga all over Williams-Brice Stadium last year in the Gamecocks handling of Georgia. Projects as NFL 1st Round pick. (5) JUWUAN JAMES, N. Gwinnett 6′6″330 lb.OT. High school is 45 minutes from UGA campus! Named Freshman All-American at OT for Tennessee. (6) BRANDON GREENE, Atlanta Cedar Grove, 6′6″ 310 lbs. OT. Alabama Commitment. High School coach Ray Bonner, like Gartrell, hugh UGA fan. Greene named Under Armour All-American and will play in game. (7) JOE HARRIS 6′4″ 290 lb. Lithonia, OG, Probably the top OL in Georgia. Work out Warrior. High School 45 minutes from UGA Campus. South Carolina Commitment. (8) VIDAL ALEXANDER, 6′6″ 335 lb.Buford, OT, If not HARRIS OR GREENE, ALEXANDER is the top OL in the State. High School is less than 45 minutes from UGA campus. Will commit, but not to Georgia. Richt’s failure to properly recruit these athletes is costing Georgia dearly. They have no choice but to run a fineese offense because they lack the physicality to pound the ball. This year, because of horrible evaluation and attrition, their backups consist of walkons , true freshman or redshirts with serious injuries from their high school days, It’s doubtful UGA can risk injuries to their starters by conducting full scale scrimmages! Even the most Kool-Aid drinking UGA fan can decipher a pattern here. There’s no excuse for it, and Richt/Bobo should be held accountable because they’re decision making regarding these athletes is costing UGA football games.

Dawg86

August 3rd, 2011
8:01 am

Uga stopped recruiting stephenson players because they never pan out. Kregg lumpkin, demario minter, josh johnson, t.j. Gartrell not to metion. reggie over at tech. None of these guys ever achieved what their stars said they should

Coach gartrell must do a hell of a job selling these recruits as elite because they never do much at the next level. In fact if these players are so great, then why isnt stephenson winning any state championships?

If they never pan out then why would uga (or tech) focus a legitamite effort on them?

ATLER (ramblin wreck)

August 3rd, 2011
8:04 am

What do you mean what if? It’s happening now. We’re losing top recruits to out of state schools at an alarming rate.

O-Line Dad

August 3rd, 2011
8:04 am

@ JB,
UGA: losing record, multiple discipline issues, players academically ineligible, multiple arrest, Coach Staff change on the horizon, etc…

That is why players don’t want to play at UGA. Stop living in the past. Florida, Alabama, LSU, Auburn have Coaches with less tenure than CMR and they have National Championships. UGA needs complete renovation. I guess according to you the UGA catch phrase should be “we are #2″

haha, LOL, haha

Felix

August 3rd, 2011
8:09 am

I’m sure somebody can give me some examples, but I honestly cannot think of any Lithonia recruits that have ever panned out for either school. Given the track record, I’m not sure this is a huge negative. How many of these 11 players did UGA even go after?

Super Duper

August 3rd, 2011
8:10 am

Stephenson Coaches do a great job of preparing their players for life. They get them to college. A State Championship isn’t the answer to preparing a young man for life. My son could play for the Stephenson staff regardless of State Championships.

nates

August 3rd, 2011
8:11 am

O-Line dad,

You should be more concerned about why your joke of a football team that resides down in the ghettos of Atlanta is unable to ever beat this “horrible” UGA team you are so worried about.

JB

August 3rd, 2011
8:21 am

I would like to see O Line Dad stand in front of those 24 new Freshman in Athens this morning and tell them that.Richt may not be the caliber of coach at those schools you rattled off, but as a man and and mentor, the others don’t come close to Richt.

1eyedJack

August 3rd, 2011
8:21 am

This is about the eleventy-seventh article I’ve read about Stephenson High. I’m sick of Stephenson. Are there any other football players out there?

Guru

August 3rd, 2011
8:28 am

@chillywilly…I played at Morehouse. The kids I coach I tell them to shoot for the stars. if it doesn’t work out you can always drop down and not lose eligibility…Nothing like playing in front of 80K…and the facilities and support systems at even the weaker Div 1 schools are amazing!

bhamwreck

August 3rd, 2011
8:30 am

Stephenson: the most major scholarships. So why will nobody be surprised when its Camden 35 Stephenson 7. The object of the game is to win. Forget these Stephenson clowns.

Dawg Tell

August 3rd, 2011
8:31 am

Stephenson always have a good team coached by Gartrell.However the majority of time they field a team of men amoung boys.When these men go off to play in college ball they are playing men at the same level of size and talent.Maybe Richt evaluates what they will do at the college level or maybe Garner was a little worried about his job the last year and was a little slow in showing the love.

junja

August 3rd, 2011
8:33 am

You are exactly right, the Lithonia kids never pan out in football. Basketball, maybe, but something happens to these kids in football as soon as they live Lithonia. This is a non-story. They won’t even make the semi-finals of the playoffs this year. Book it.