Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post The serendipity of recruiting

Thursday March 29, 2007

If you haven’t heard of Bobby Reid, you will by the time Georgia’s football season opens against Oklahoma State on Sept. 1. Reid emerged as a decent Big 12 quarterback last year for the Cowboys with 24 touchdown passes and over 2200 yards through the air. He added 500 yards on the ground. He was second in pass efficiency in the conference behind only Colt McCoy of Texas. Not a bad player, right?

He nearly came to Georgia. He wanted to come to Georgia.

The class of 2004 was a bumper crop of quarterbacks. Henne. Xavier Lee. Brohm. Weatherford. Ainge. McGee, Harrell, Bomar, Patton, and Reid gave the Big 12 alone five of the best prep quarterbacks in the nation.

Georgia was in on a good number of them. Henne considered the Dawgs. Harrell named Georgia his front-runner. And of course Reid all but committed to the Bulldogs. So what happened?

Georgia signed two quarterbacks in the 2004 class. A.J. Bryant committed on Signing Day 2003. He has been a receiver his entire career at Georgia, so we forget that he was considered a quarterback/athlete for recruiting purposes (and rated the #1 “athlete” in the nation by Rivals.com that year). He was Georgia’s lone commitment for months.

Things heated up in late July during camp season. Georgia was zeroing in on three quarterback prospects. There was Reid, Harrell, and Blake Barnes of Mississippi who was rated the ninth-best pro-style quarterback in the nation. Reid really began to favor the Dawgs after a July 2003 visit to Athens. Likewise, a summer visit to Athens put Georgia at the top of Harrell’s list ($). Barnes also attended camp in Athens in mid-July and received an offer after that camp ($).

The Dawgs weren’t going to take more than two quarterbacks in a class. So with one quarterback already in the fold and three leaning heavily towards Georgia, it was a matter of who would commit to take that remaining spot. We all know that Barnes was that guy. He committed on July 28 and chose Georgia over offers from Auburn, Ole Miss, Michigan, and Mississippi State. That commitment set off a chain of events with the others. Reid describes how he got home from the Elite 11 camp to find a letter from Georgia breaking the bad news. Harrell waited just a day or two before committing to Texas Tech on July 30th ($). Reid committed to Oklahoma State a week later ($).

It’s easy now to look at Barnes’ position on the Georgia depth chart while watching Reid and Harrell start to make names for themselves as Big 12 starters and think that Georgia somehow made a mistake. That’s hindsight, but there was no mistake at the time that Barnes was a quality commitment. David Cutcliffe of Ole Miss, who developed quarterbacks like Heath Shuler, Peyton Manning, and Eli Manning, didn’t let up on the top signal-caller from the state of Mississippi. Michigan had offered him right alongside Chad Henne.

This story is a great behind-the-scenes illustration of just how tight and even random some of these recruiting decisions can be. There’s no telling if the other guys would have been successful at Georgia. We’ll never know if Barnes would have flourished in another system. Might the emergence of a Harrell or Reid in Athens have affected the decision of Matthew Stafford? The recruiting trail, much like the game we love itself, is full of such individual decisions that cause ripple effects and aggregate to affect programs, games, seasons, and even careers.

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