Alabama’s Nick Saban and UGA’s Mark Richt haven’t competed against each other on the football field since the infamous 2008 “Blackout” game, won 40-31 by the Crimson Tide.
But the two SEC coaches go head-to-head in recruiting battles all the time, especially in the fertile grounds of the state of Georgia.
Georgia is almost like a second home to Saban.
When a reporter suggested last spring that Saban recruits the state almost as if he lives in it, the coach quickly replied “Well, I still have a home in Georgia” – a reference to the mansion he owns on Lake Burton in northeast Georgia.
Saban talked about the recruiting emphasis he puts on Georgia this week:
“What we try to do in our recruiting is do a really good job in a five-hour radius of our Tuscaloosa area,” Saban said. “We obviously want to do a great job in our own state. It just happens that a large part of Georgia where there’s a lot of population, a lot of good football players and programs, fall into that sort of circumference.
“We do have some very good players from Georgia. They have a lot of good players from Georgia, too. I think it speaks well of the great high school football they have in Georgia, the good programs they have, how players are developed, how important football is in that state. It’s an important part of our recruiting, that entire five-hour radius, for us.”
Last year, Saban raided Georgia for eight of the state’s elite prospects while constructing yet another No. 1-ranked national recruiting class. Saban may have gotten the best of Richt in head-to-had battles within the state, edging out his counterpart for Hillgrove High School RB Kenyan Drake. Saban also held off late charges from the Bulldogs for Cedar Grove High School OL Brandon Greene and Buford High School LB Dillion Lee – whose brother, Dallas Lee, plays OL for UGA. However, Saban was most remembered in these parts for telling Booker T. Washington High School RB Justin Taylor, who had been committed to Alabama for nearly a year, only a few weeks before signing day that he would have to accept a grayshirt offer and delay his signing until the following year due to a knee injury (Taylor ended up at Kentucky).
Last year, Richt’s signature recruiting victory over Alabama was rallying from far, far behind – with assistance from UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham — to win over Harris County High School DE Jordan Jenkins, who was considered a longtime lean to the Crimson Tide.
This year, Saban is not doing as well in Georgia, although he may still put together another No. 1 class. He’s just getting his players elsewhere. Alabama only has two commits so far from the state – Walton High School teammates, RB Tyren Jones and QB Parker McLeod. Alabama beat out UGA for Jones, although he may still take a visit with the Bulldogs.
Early on, it appeared that Saban would have another banner year in Georgia. Alabama was considered the early frontrunner for undisputed No. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche – whose mother admitted she liked the Crimson Tide the most in the beginning. Former Troup High School linebacker Reuben Foster, who is ranked as the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect by Scout and Rivals, was committed to Alabama for nearly a year before switching to Auburn last summer. He may switch for a third time, and is heavily considering UGA. Pepperell High School offensive lineman Andy Dodd also flipped from Alabama to LSU.
Alabama is still in contention for Ridgeland High School DB Vonn Bell, who also has childhood favorite Tennessee and Ohio State as his three finalists.
Yes, 2013 has been good for Richt against Saban so far. UGA beat out Alabama for Brookwood High School LB Shaun McGee, and held onto Camden County High School QB Brice Ramsey after strong overtures from Saban.
There’s at least one huge head-to-head recruiting battle left this year in the state, as Norcross High School RB Alvin Kamara has Alabama and UGA as his co-leaders.
Outside of the state lines, Alabama ripped away longtime UGA commit Derrick Henry, the 5-star RB from Yulee, Fla. And the two schools are the co-leaders for the nation’s top offensive lineman, Laremy Tunsil of Lake City, Fla. But that’s out of state, not in Georgia.
Saban vs. Richt. Not just at the Georgia Dome, but in the homes of Georgia recruits.
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