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Post Recruiting zen

Friday February 3, 2006

Far too much recruiting coverage out there to add anything specific about the solid class.

Even three or four years ago, the month of January was controlled chaos in the Georgia recruiting process. There would be a parade of 10 or so prospects into town each weekend, and fans studied the basketball schedule not because they cared about basketball but because it provided a chance to scrutinize the prospects in town, note who was sitting with whom, and interpret every facial expression as a hint as to how the weekend was going. January was critical. Less than half the class had committed, and it was necessary that each weekend go well and produce commitments.

We still saw some of this circus in 2005 during the weekend of Bryan Evans’ visit and commitment. But in 2006, the interest in the January visits of high-profile prospects Rashad Jones and Stafon Johnson barely rose above casual concern. Why? Two reasons. First, and probably most importantly, Jones and Johnson had pretty solid home-state favorites. Georgia felt solid about Jones despite the best efforts of LSU, and even the most optimistic recruitnik saw the long odds in winning a recruiting battle with Southern Cal for a California prospect. Second, Jones and Johnson were icing on what was already a very nice recruiting class. Each is an outstanding prospect and looks likely to help any program they considered, but neither would make or break the Georgia class. So the sense of urgency which usually comes with January visits was noticably missing.

There is a definite tradeoff when much of your signing class commits early. There could be injuries. Still-developing juniors and young seniors might not improve during their senior season and fizzle. They might begin looking around and require hand-holding as the recruiting process drags on. Then there’s the case of Texas. You might not be able to cash in on a likely recruiting shot in the arm from a national title if many of your scholarships are already promised (nice problem to have).

When you’re talking about early commitments like Matthew Stafford or Brandon Wood, you’re not taking huge risks. Georgia’s pre-January commitments were good enough to quickly move Georgia among the Top 10 recruiting classes, and they maintained and even improved that position with late commitments from Jones and Moreno. Meanwhile, instead of pouring a ton of energy into January recruiting, the Georgia staff went all-out on the few specific remaining targets and was able to begin using the momentum from another SEC title to target the Class of 2007. The number of known offers to this next class is already well into double-digits and climbing.

Someone on Signing Day said to me, almost with a bit of wistfulness, that there was just no last-minute recruiting drama this year. The late decisions of Moreno and Jones were stories worth watching, but most felt confident that they’d end up in Athens. Calm years like this are surely the exception even for top programs. Calling it “easy” or “dull” insults the effort put in by the staff and ignores the amount of work necessary to have this kind of class fall into place with plenty of time to spare. Still, while noting some of the drama and disappointment among some of Georgia’s regional rivals, we’ll take this kind of “boring” every year. Great job, coaches.

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