What if Keith Marshall does not pick UGA on Tuesday?
It would be a recruiting nightmare for the Bulldogs. Even the idea that the nation’s No. 1 RB is seriously considering alternatives ignites panic attacks among masses of UGA supporters.
Marshall is the “make-it-or-break” recruit for UGA’s 2012 class. The speedster from Raleigh, N.C., is the guy that the Bulldogs have to get. Why is that? Because of ongoing RB problems and an emergency-level lack of depth (we’re talking fire alarms, folks) at the place once proudly known as “Tailback U.”
From listening to some UGA fans, if Marshall doesn’t make the “expected” decision on Tuesday afternoon, the Bulldogs might as well forget about next season. It would be like another 0-2 start without playing any games.
That seems kind of drastic and silly. But maybe the perception isn’t too far off? After all, Mark Richt seemed to validate the theory by making a rare public display of recruiting desperation, telling reporters that “If I was a great running back, I would want to come to Georgia” – which many translated as Richt personally handing out a job application to Marshall.
Many Georgia fans feel that Marshall is a “lock” to pick the Bulldogs over Clemson, Florida, Notre Dame and South Carolina on Tuesday. That’s not exactly illogical thinking, as Marshall has been rumored on message boards to be favoring Georgia for months. Yes, they are UGA-themed message boards, but no other UGA targets are talked about with such bravado and swagger.
However, this is the circus of recruiting – where anything and everything can happen and then change entirely again in a couple of days. Nothing is 100-percent certain with teenagers, as we learn every February, until the scholarship papers are signed (See: Mike Davis, Florida Gators). Heck, it’s that same unpredictability that makes recruiting so fun and addictive to follow.
Back to our question: What if Keith Marshall does not pick UGA on Tuesday? Short story: It wouldn’t be a pretty picture. The Bulldogs are pretty much using the same “high risk, high reward” recruiting strategy that was so successful in landing Isaiah Crowell last year. In other words, it has always been Keith Marshall at the No. 1 spot on the recruiting board and no one else. Yes, Georgia will sign at least two running backs in this class, but Marshall always has been and remains the grand prize.
“Yes, that’s an interesting question,” said Rusty Mansell, National Recruiting Analyst for 247Sports.com. “You know, the biggest advantage for Georgia if something like that was to happen with Keith Marshall is that he’s announcing on Dec. 6 and not in February. That way, if Keith goes somewhere else, Georgia has 50-something days left in the recruiting cycle to set their sights on other running backs.
“With Isaiah Crowell, it was a different story. It was hit-or-miss on national signing day. Nobody knew for sure what he was going to do until that day. Georgia’s coaches probably knew before that, but as late in the recruiting process as other schools were still pursuing Isaiah Crowell, everybody was a little nervous until he announced. This time around with Keith Marshall, there’s still two solid months before signing day. That gives Georgia time to do what they need to do to get some other players on the board.”
What is Georgia’s “Plan B?” The No. 2 target is another North Carolina RB, Todd Gurley of Tarboro. He’s bigger and considered to be more physical than Marshall, but doesn’t have the same explosiveness and speed. You can’t really call Gurley “Plan B” because he’s part of “Plan A” right now as UGA hopes to sign both (Gurley will announce in early Jan.). So what is the backup plan?
“I don’t know … I mean, there are other running backs that Georgia has kind of kept in touch with,” Mansell said. “There’s Chris Brown at Seminole County High School. Georgia had been talking to him each week until recently. Speaking with his coach about a month ago, he felt like Georgia was close to offering at one point. Chris plays at a small Class A school but he has good size and put up big numbers. Allatoona’s Miles Jones is another one who may get a look from Georgia. I wouldn’t be surprised if they make one last push for someone like Kenyan Drake. I know he’s solidly committed to Alabama, and has never said anything differently to me. But it doesn’t mean that other schools won’t try to recruit him until he signs.”
Bottom line: There really isn’t a backup plan for UGA. Some will say it’s a reckless way to recruit, while others will point out that it was the same exact all-or-nothing strategy that successfully netted Isaiah Crowell – and will prove to work again for Marshall.
Back to Mansell: For the record, he has been communicating with people around Marshall and said that “it sounds like Georgia is in pretty good shape.”
That’s good news for UGA, and there’s more good news: Guess who Marshall saved for the very last spot on his calendar for his final in-home visit with college coaches before his decision? That would be Richt. Don’t you save the best for last? Richt sprinted with the speed of the “Honey Badger” after the SEC Championship game (with RB assistant Bryan McClendon on his back) to North Carolina to meet with the highly-touted recruit and his family on Sunday.
Decision Day is Tuesday for the RB ranked No. 1 in the country by Scout.com. It is tentatively scheduled for 2:30 p.m. but may run a few minutes late like they always do. Please come back to the AJC for coverage.
Also, you may want to consider following Keith Marshall on Twitter by going here. He’s pretty active on Twitter and it wouldn’t be surprising if he dropped a few hints between now and his announcement.
THE OTHER BIG NEWS OF THE DAY
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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