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Post Richt’s recruiting keeps rolling

Monday June 4, 2007

Just as I noted last week that the Georgia recruiting train was picking up speed again, the Dawgs added two more football commitments over the weekend.

Cornerback Makiri Pugh started things off on Friday afternoon. Georgia again went head-to-head with Clemson for a prospect and won, and they also beat out Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Pugh is from Charlotte’s Independence High School – a familiar name to Bulldog fans. After Robert Brannon, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Joe Cox, Pugh will be the fourth Dawg in recent years from this proud North Carolina program. Pugh is projected to be one of the top 250 players in the nation at any position according to Rivals.com, and you can get an idea of his talent by looking at his offer sheet.

I have to take a second here and single out Joe Cox. Here’s a guy who led the Dawgs to a comeback win over Colorado last year, but he ended the season positioned to be a career backup. Even though recent events have proven that Cox gets along with his teammates, Stafford’s promotion had to be a tough bit of news to take, and it might even be understandable for Cox to become a little disillusioned with the situation. But Pugh credited Cox (and Massaquoi too) with honest feedback that helped him choose Georgia. "Their feedback really matched up to the visit," Pugh said ($), and it obviously meant a lot that these two Independence alums could back up with their own experience what Pugh was hearing from the coaches.

The other commitment was a bit of a surprise. Griffin defensive lineman Toby Jackson, considered to be leaning to Alabama, announced his commitment to the Dawgs on Sunday evening. Jackson draws comparisons with former Bulldog Jonathan Sullivan for his ability to play defensive end and defensive tackle. Though Jackson committed to Georgia, don’t expect Alabama or even other schools like FSU to back off of one of the best defensive linemen in the state. With standout lineman DeAngelo Tyson already committed, Jackson would be another key piece in a potentially tremendous defensive line class.

Why is recruiting going so well? Everyone is pointing this morning to Loran Smith’s piece in the ABH about the "new Mark Richt" who is much more hands-on in recruiting this year. By cutting back on personal commitments and changing responsibilities within the program (Mike Bobo’s increased role stands out), Richt has been able to give things like recruiting much more personal attention. It’s not just recruiting, either. If you’ve been at a Road Tour event this spring, Richt seems much more comfortable talking about the bigger picture. He’s able to speak in depth about defenders. He wasn’t ever completely aloof when talking about the rest of his team, but it was clear and natural that his focus was on offense. That’s changing a bit.

And let’s face it: this time last year, Coach Richt was dealing with a very serious health crisis with his wife. The life-changing nature of cancer strikes even the most driven of us, and it is entirely reasonable and understandable that Coach Richt would have been distracted last summer.

The result is that a very solid recruiting class is coming together. There are several pieces to the puzzle. It’s a good year in-state at some key positions. Richt will also be the first to credit a very capable staff of assistants who do much of the heavy lifting. But there is no question that more and not less exposure to Mark Richt on the recruiting trail is a big plus to many of this year’s top prospects.

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