ATHENS — Greetings from Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. Yeah, I’m still here.
Been an interesting day, as you may have noticed. It looked like it was going to be a nice smooth national signing day and a largely positive one for Georgia. The Bulldogs had gotten good news on two of their main targets early in the day, missed out on a couple of other targets later, and coach Mark Richt and Rodney Garner told us all about what was right about the 2012 recruiting class early in the afternoon.
The plan then was to breakdown the class, disseminate all the information, write it up for our readers and get home in time for a late supper.
But then that letter-of-intent for Josh Harvey-Clemons went AWOL. Apparently the young man’s grandfather and legal guardian did as well. And though we all watched the highly-touted outside linebacker from Valdosta tell a national television audience he intended to sign with Georgia, the Bulldogs’ couldn’t announce him as a signee and we haven’t been able to put a bow around the 2012 recruiting class.
And that’s where we are. It appears that Georgia’s coaches have headed home as well as all of UGA’s sports communication staff. So even if Harvey-Clemons decided to send over a signed letter-of-intent at this point I don’t think there will be anyone here to see it. (Note to Harvey-Clemons — If you’d like to email it to me as an attachment, please don’t hesitate to do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks).
So what does it all mean? Not much in the grand scheme of things, in my humble opinion.
Without a doubt, Harvey-Clemons is a major prospect and could become a great college player. But as far as the 2012 class is concerned, of all the positions Georgia was pretty well set at, I’d say the position Harvey-Clemons plays is the most solid one. The Bulldogs signed more defensive end/outside linebackers (4) than any other one on Wednesday. It was for that reason I was frankly surprised when I heard Harvey-Clemons announce Georgia.
Michael Carvell, our capable recruiting correspondent, has a relationship with Harvey-Clemons and his family. So I’m going to leave it to him to get to the bottom of this issue. In the meantime, here are some things I do know about Georgia’s 2012 class:
1. It’s pretty good, but not great.
Rarely are you going to ink just 18 players and have the class characterized as exceptional. But don’t sell this group short. Georgia doesn’t lose a lot from 2011 and this one goes a long way toward addressing whatever voids existed.
“I feel like we were able to meet our leads,” said Rodney Garner, Georgia’s recruiting coordinator since 1998. “I think we covered everything across the board. Sometimes I think the public may look at it one way while we have some things we’re doing from a standpoint of roster management that we may be doing with our current team. We’re going to shift some guys around to fit our needs that we feel may better benefit our scheme. . . . We’re really excited about where we’re at.”
At last check, Georgia’s class was ranked No. 5 by ESPN, No. 6 by 247Sports, No. 12 by Scout, No. 19 by Rivals and No. 20 by Tom Lemming. Take it for what it’s worth.
2. Georgia needed more offensive linemen
I still don’t believe the Bulldogs have adequately addressed their depth issues on the offensive line. In a perfect world, you need a good 15 scholarship linemen to practice and compete at a level that’s going to give you plenty of guys ready to play. But that’s ideally. As Georgia proved last year, you can get by with fewer than that. And at least two of the three guys they got seem to be of the ilk that can help right away.
“Let me tell you something: Offensive line is a huge priority,” Richt said. “But the thing is, if you’re going to try to sign the best you’ve got to recruit the best. There are times when you hit it on the head and there are times when you don’t win the battle. We’re going against a lot of great programs but, I guarantee you, the guys that we’ve got are highly sought-after and guys we think can really help us.”
Theus (6-6, 292), a five-star-rated prospect, is expected to compete for playing time at left tackle. Beard (6-4, 300) is a junior college transfer who is already enrolled in school and figures to compete at both guard and tackle. Greg Pyke (6-6, 315) is a big guy out of Baltimore.
“First of all those guys are physically big men,” Richt said. “They are physical enough to compete right now. . . . Those guys I think have a tremendous shot to compete. John, in particular, is one heck of a player and he has a great chance to play for Georgia. He just has to stay healthy, learn what to do, nothing’s given but he’s definitely going to throw his hat in the ring. Guys like A.J. Green we’ve had in the past and Matthew Stafford, guys who are highly thought of at their positions. John is in that category to me.”
Richt also wanted to remind Georgia fans of redshirted linemen such as Zach DeBell and Xzavier Ward.
“People tend to forget about guys like that,” he said. “Ward has probably put on 40 pounds and he’s been getting healthy. He looks good, big, tall, kid who’s very athletic. . . . Before you know it he’ll be competing for us.”
3. Misses at wide receiver weren’t critical.
Georgia fans surely are bemoaning the choices of wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson of Hutchinson (Kan.) CC (Tennessee) and JaQuay Williams of Sandy Creek(Auburn) to go elsewhere. But the reality is it is far from devastating. The Bulldogs are well-stocked at the position and they will be in a position to reload next year.
“Here’s the deal on that: We know we’ve got a pretty good bunch of guys already,” Richt said. “We’ve got some veterans making plays. Of course, TK [Tavarres King] had over 200 yards in our last game and we’ve got some other guys. [Rantavious] Wooten and Marlon Brown had great camps last year, then they got sidetracked by injuries and some freshmen came through and made a bunch of plays for us. So we know we’ve got some play-makers there and I think a lot of the recruits knew we had a lot of play-makers there.”
Richt went on to say they expect big things from the one receiver they landed, Blake Tibbs of M.L. King.
4. There’s some pretty good quality in this class:
Georgia landed two prospects that garnered 5-star ratings from at least one of the national recruiting services in Theus and running back Keith Marshall of Raleigh. They also landed the top-rated players from four states based on various rankings – Theus (Florida), Marshall (North Carolina), outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins (Georgia) and cornerback Sheldon Dawson (Tennessee). In addition several other players are expected to make an immediate impact, including fullback Quayvon Hicks, kicker Marshall Morgan of Fort Lauderdale and punter Collin Barber of Cartersville.
5. Georgia pulled major coup getting North Carolina’s top two running backs:
CBS national recruiting expert Tom Lemming lauded Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley for putting egos aside and both deciding to come to the same place. Marshall is considered the top running back prospect in the nation according to several recruiting services but Lemming isn’t sure whether Gurley isn’t better. And together he thinks they’re an unbeatable combo.
“To think you could get the top two running backs from anyone else’s state, that would be very difficult to do,” Richt said. “These guys have a very good friendship. To think I like about them both is they’re both very high character young men. They are extremely talented. They’re both already physical enough to play this game and they’re both highly motivated.
“There aren’t many running backs any more who come in thinking I’ve got to be the only guy. I don’t think anybody wants to be the only guy. Because if you’re going to carry the ball 25-30 times a game in our league, it’s not healthy for you. It’s not good for you. You want to be with guys that can share the load with you to keep you healthy and keep you fresh throughout any game in any given season. I think these guys are special backs and we’re excited about it.”
6. Of course, Marshall and Gurley will be joining Isaiah Crowell, Ken Malcome, Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas and Brandon Harton in Georgia’s backfield. Richt does not think that’s too much depth.
“One year we had Thomas Brown, Danny Ware, Kregg Lumpkin and Knowshon Moreno at one time,” he said. “Lumpkin is in the NFL, Danny Ware is in the NFL, Thomas Brown was in the league, and, of course, Knowshon as well. We were loaded up pretty good but it didn’t seem to hurt those guys in their careers.”
Here’s Richt on a few other topics:
On fans . . .
“I want to mention is the Bulldog Nation. Our fanbase generates so much excitement. When you talk about our fanbase, our guys understand it’s a real thing. They even mention it after they commit to Georgia, they just felt overwhelmed by the amount of love they’re getting from people just wishing them well or talking to them at the grocery store our on social media or something of that nature. They’ll say, “I didn’t realize how much the Georgia fans love their team.’ That’s a big part of us being able to recruit so well.”
On 10 of 18 signees coming from out of state . . .
“The bottom line is we’re trying to find the very best players, period. We know we have one of the greatest states in the country to recruit football. . . . Our philosophy is, if you go out of state, they better be special. They better be a special player; they better be a special person. That’s how we feel about these guys. But by no means do we ever want to slight the state of Georgia.”
On slow start in recruiting . . .
“I think ‘the noise’ probably hurt us a little on the front end. But once we had the season that we had, we did something we hadn’t done since the early 1980s, winning 10 in a row, and returning a lot of players and all that. I think maybe some of the guys in a wait-and-see decided they were very comfortable with where Georgia is now and where Coach Richt and the staff are. I think that had a little something to do with it.”
On the day’s events . . .
“Quite franky, I’d like to have no buzz on signing day. I’d like it to be the most boring day. I’d like to get the max number we can handle, get them all committed and get all the faxes thjrough by 9 o’clock. Everything’s lovely. That’s how I’d like to have it. But fans like that last-second drama.”