In the wake of the dismal 6-7 season just completed for the Georgia Bulldogs, many have speculated including myself on what’s wrong in Athens. Most have said strength, conditioning, coaching, player development, discipline, and recruiting. I was thinking today about the perception regarding the current state of the fence around the state’s high school talent and decided to do a little research on the topic. Using Rivals’ prospect database for the last five years (2006-10), I analyzed the “ones who got away” by looking at Georgia’s 4 and 5 star players. We all know recruiting is much more art than science, but we can say generally that the group of blue chippers are the players everyone is after.
Over the five-year period, Georgia produced 120 blue-chippers according to Rivals. 43 of those players signed with the Bulldogs representing 36% of the population. One surprise to me was the school that was second. When I started this analysis, I thought Auburn, Florida, or Florida State would be second, but I was surprised when I found that Georgia Tech had signed 9% of the state’s top talent. Auburn was a close third with 8% with the Florida state schools rounding out the top 5 with a total of 11% between them.
Some overall data points I thought were interesting was that 78% of the top talent considered Georgia on their list, and Richt and company converted 46% of those considering the state university. Of the remaining 54%, 86% claimed to hold offers from Georgia and only 20% of them claimed an official visit to Athens. I didn’t have the data on those who did not consider Georgia during their recruitment to determine if the Georgia coaching staff had actively recruited the player by the extension of an offer.
Analysis by Class
2006 (This Year’s 5th Year Seniors)
Signed: 7 (Reshad Jones, Justin Anderson, Kiante Tripp, Asher Allen, Brandon Wood, Quintin Banks, Akeem Dent)
Misses: Jermaine Cunningham (Florida) – 2nd round pick of the Patriots, Mario Fannin (Auburn) – significant contributor to the Tigers’ national championship run
Analysis: With the combination of the out-of-state blue chippers (Stafford and Moreno), this class was very highly regarded. Jones and Allen left school early to go to the NFL. Although Jones was the most highly-regarded player in the state, he never really lived up to his full potential. Allen played as a true freshman and would not have been available this year. After a year at prep school, we hope to see Anderson turn into the dominant nose guard in 2011. Akeem Dent will be playing on Sundays next year after a solid senior season. The coaching staff virtually wasted Tripp’s talent by bouncing him around on both lines of scrimmage. Wood and Banks never really showed their talent due to injuries throughout their college years. Jermaine Cunningham would have been a great addition to this class as a rush end along with Justin Houston. Mario Fannin never considered Georgia probably due to Georgia’s courting of Moreno.
2007 (This Year’s Senior Class)
Signed: 8 (Caleb King, Chris Little, Rennie Curran, Justin Houston, Israel Troupe, Neland Ball, Corvey Irvin – JUCO, Jarius Wynn – JUCO)
Misses: Eric Berry (Tennessee) – top 5 pick in this year’s draft, Cam Newton (Auburn by way of Florida, JUCO, and Bobby Lowder’s stash) – Heisman Trophy winner and central piece of Auburn’s national championship, Morgan Burnett (Georgia Tech) – drafted in this year’s NFL draft, Allen Bailey (Miami) – All-ACC performer, Jonathan Dwyer (Georgia Tech) – All-ACC performer, Cameron Heyward (Ohio State) – future NFL star
Analysis: All I can about the players we missed in this class is “Wow!” The Georgia coaching staff should have treated the 2007 recruiting class as the “Dream Team.” The Georgia coaching staff had to choose between King and Dwyer and thought King would be better in our offense. Justin Houston, newly declared for the NFL draft, fulfilled all of the promise and has thrived in the 3-4 defense. Rennie Curran was a 3-year tackling machine and was one of the few bright spots on the 2009 defense. Israel Troupe hasn’t seemed to find his way in the Georgia offense. Irvin and Wynn were both solid contributors as JUCO transfers and are playing in the NFL now. Of those we missed on, Morgan Burnett is still the one I scratch my head over. His brother played a lot at Georgia. Everyone points to the failure to sign Eric Berry as the big miss in this class, but his dad played for the Orange Nation. The fact that we were considered speaks volumes. Only 1 of the 22 players (Nick Clayton – Georgia Tech) didn’t have us on his list at one time.
2008 (The Recruiting Class with the Preseason #1 Ranking)
Signed: 13 (A.J. Harmon, Richard Samuel, Cornelius Washington, DeAngelo Tyson, Toby Jackson, Dontavious Jackson, Brandon Boykin, Tavarres King, Cordy Glenn, Christian Robinson, Shawn Williams, Xavier Avery, Akeem Hebron – JUCO)
Misses: Omar Hunter (Florida), Brice Butler (USC)
Analysis: We signed practically everyone we wanted in-state in 2008 plus a wide receiver from South Carolina who has been pretty good. Georgia high-school talent wanted to play for the team that would enter the season as the pre-season #1 team in the land. Other than Hunter, Butler, and Josh Jarboe, the fence around the Georgia blue-chip talent was as high as the Great Wall of China. A.J. Harmon hasn’t panned out. After wasting Samuel’s redshirt and then trying to turn him into a feature running back, Grantham finally will have Samuel where he belongs next year as a redshirt junior at linebacker with Jarvis Jones. Cornelius Washington has shown flashes of brilliance and has been abused in the running game playing opposite Houston. The coaching staff threw Tyson to the wolves this year at nose tackle. Hopefully, he will be at his natural defensive end position in the 3-4 next year. Neither of the Jacksons panned out, and Toby never stepped foot on campus as a student. Boykin has been a starter and a star as a kick-off returner. Tavarres King will be expected to pick up the slack for his fellow signee now professional, A.J. Green. Cordy Glenn will likely be the first guard selected in next year’s NFL draft. Christian Robinson has contributed at inside linebacker this year but needs to get bigger. Shawn Williams has been a marginal contributor to this point because the coaching staff has moved him back and forth between safety and linebacker. Avery never stepped on campus and signed a baseball contract instead. Hebron returned to Georgia from GMC and never lived up to his potential due to injuries, off-the-field issues, and the depth chart. While Hunter would have been solid in a Georgia uniform, he hasn’t set the world on fire in Gainesville, and Butler to this point has languished on the Trojans’ depth chart.
2009 (Solid if Unspectacular Class)
Signed: 8 (Chris Burnette, Branden Smith, Abry Jones, Washaun Ealey, Zach Mettenberger, Mike Gilliard, Dallas Lee, Derrick Lott)
Misses: Jarvis Jones (USC) – transferred to Georgia and will probably enter 2011 as a starter, Greg Reid (FSU) – star since he stepped on campus, Philip Lutzenkirchen (Auburn) – played a significant role in the Tigers’ championship run
Analysis: We signed a good class in 2009. Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee will be looked to contribute on the offensive line in 2011. Branden Smith has all of the attributes of a game-breaking type of player on both sides of the ball. After his concussions this year, he only played defense and primarily as the nickel. Abry Jones is like DeAngelo Tyson in that he should flourish at defensive end with a space-eating nose tackle in place. Washaun Ealey has shown flashes of brilliance over the last two years but still hasn’t become the dominant tailback we need. Zach Mettenberger never played a down outside of G-Day games between the hedges and will push Jordan Jefferson for time in Baton Rouge next year. Mike Gilliard has been a great contributor on special teams but has not become an every down type of player on defense. Derrick Lott has seen a few snaps on defense as a redshirt freshman. We missed on the big one, Greg Reid, since he was the only 5-star prospect in Georgia. He has been a great player at FSU on both defense and special teams.
2010 (The Current Freshmen)
Signed: 7 (Alec Ogletree, T.J. Stripling, Garrison Smith, Jalen Fields, Mike Thornton, Ken Malcome, Jakar Hamilton)
Misses: Da’Rick Rogers (Tennessee) – a pre-Signing Day switch to the Vols, Markeith Ambles (USC) – never considered Georgia, generally it’s too early to tell who will be the misses in this class
Analysis: Clearly, the weakest class on paper in the Richt era was known more for its late defections than its successes. Alec Ogletree is a star in the making as an head-hunting safety in the mold of Davis and Blue but with the ball skills of a Sean Jones. T.J. Stripling was beginning to make some noise until his injury at Colorado. Garrison Smith and Ken Thornton appear to be defensive ends as opposed to the nose tackle so desparately needed. Jalen Fields and Ken Malcome redshirted but will likely be looked to help in 2011. Jakar “The Hit Man” Hamilton was disappointing in his first year at Georgia. He may be better suited for corner than safely when the dust settles. 23% of the in-state blue-chippers? That’s completely unacceptable from a recruiting standpoint.
What Did I Learn?
1) Our in-state recruiting has slipped over the last couple of years as Auburn and Alabama in particular have made some in-roads in the Peach State. It’s clear that performance on the field has led to challenges in prospects’ living rooms for the coaching staff.
2) The “Dream Team” is necessary to reestablish our dominance over the best home-grown talent. If February 2, 2011, ends up being a nightmare, it could be an omen for the fall and for the future of the current staff.
3) We will never sign every blue-chip player in the state because we don’t oversign and gray-shirt, but our misses haven’t been as drastic as I initially believed. I would have liked to have signed Cunningham, Berry, Bailey, and Reid.
4) Over the last few years, we have gone to a regional/national recruiting model. I think the results of the last 2 years have confirmed that strategy may not be the best to produce a winning product on the field. We must control (not seal) the borders when it comes to high-school football talent.
Those are my thoughts, and I would like to hear your thoughts in the comments.