While we’re all anticipating good news tomorrow on Signing Day, Dr. Saturday asked a good question over the weekend. Georgia often has Top 10 recruiting class, so what’s so special about this one?
It’s a fair question. Blutarsky’s response captures the context: this class stands out because it comes from a program all but left for dead by the media and even many of its own. That helpless throw-in-the-towel mentality when it comes to recruiting (and the program in general) was alive and well less than a month ago. In his infamous rant against Mark Richt, Fran Tarkenton shared his angst.
In the meantime Alabama and Auburn and Tennessee are working and kicking our butts and recruiting people and getting coaches that have spread offenses…We’re going to lose the elite players this year. We haven’t in the past — we’ve gotten the elite player.
(Aside – former players like Pollack, the Baileys, Godfrey, and others have jumped in with a “how can I help?” attitude to do whatever it takes to bring this program back. Tarkenton? Well, he’s gone on the radio to attack the faith of the coach.)
But in less than a month it’s come full circle to the point that Mark Bradley, who shared Tarkenton’s words with the AJC audience, now senses that the wind is blowing in the other direction. Georgia isn’t going to lose the elite players. Other schools are recruiting harder than ever, but so is Georgia. They’re not “kicking our butts” on the recruiting trail. It’s important that Georgia is having success with its recruiting, but it’s equally important in the eyes of fans that Richt and the staff seem to be putting up a fight and won’t concede recruiting battles, especially for the state’s top talent, to the likes of Auburn, Alabama, and others who might be riding a little higher right now.
Beyond that, there are some other things going on with this class adding to the hype. I’m hesitant to count uncommitted players, but it definitely does have a different kind of feel than any class since that 1998 group that went on to form the core of the 2002 team. What else is there?
Momentum. Georgia’s recent stars like Murray, Green, Stafford, and Houston committed early in the process. Georgia’s biggest Signing Day commitment in recent years was probably Marlon Brown in 2009. The Bulldogs put a lot of their eggs in the Dream Team basket, and it was a big risk. The state of the class just a month ago was such that opinions like Tarkenton’s could be taken somewhat seriously. Rome and Mitchell turned it around, and Georgia has been on an incredibly hot streak since. Georgia isn’t just adding more commitments late. They’re adding some of their best.
Early contributors at positions of need. Every class has a few players who can or have to contribute right away. But this class is meeting immediate needs that even casual fans can appreciate. Some of the biggest needs have yet to announce, and that’s why there’s such anticipation over guys like Crowell and Jenkins. It might be unfair or unwise to do so, but fans have already plugged four or five guys from this class into the depth chart.
The Dream Team concept works. It’s an obvious concept and maybe even a little gimmicky. There was also a good deal of risk – such a public campaign had the potential to backfire on Richt. The class, even considering the significant contributions from out-of-state prospects, would be judged on Richt’s ability to deliver in-state. If Isaiah Crowell chooses Georgia, the Dawgs will have landed seven of the top 10 players in the state. Few schools can make their homegrown talent such a key part of a successful recruiting class, but it had to happen for Georgia this year. And it has.
Recovery from 2010. A repeat of the 2010 class, ranked 15th nationally by Rivals.com, would have been a bad sign for Georgia and Richt. Programs can survive the occasional sub-par class, but the recovery of the program has to have something to work with. Georgia hasn’t had an impact class in a while. Though the 2009 class was rated 6th in the nation, many of the top prospects in that class have yet to contribute – whether due to injury, transfer, or a failure to break through on the depth chart.
Magnitude. Georgia signed only 20 players in 2009. They added 19 last year. In the four recruiting classes since 2007, Georgia has signed just 86 players. That’s before you account for transfers, medical hardships, and others who no longer count towards the total over those four years. There will always be those who fret over the numbers, but my response is always the same: the folks in Athens can count to 85. The numbers always work out. If Georgia signs over 25, there will be those who lump the Dawgs among the bad guys who oversign, but Georgia has actually been dealing with the opposite problem lately. In recent years, Georgia has played its numbers close to the vest. That’s caused some Signing Say anxiety as some prospects have had to be turned away. The door seems wide open this year.
In other words, Georgia is due a haul. Combine the items above, and you are looking at 1) a large class 2) making a big push towards Signing Day 3) with several marquee prospects 4) that’s meeting urgent needs. And, yes, all that’s being done after such a downer of a season. This being a recruiting post, you always have to remind yourself of a few things:
- You still have to coach ‘em up, right?
- A class is only as good as those who 1) enroll and 2) stick it out. If 2/3 of your great class flunks out, transfers, or ends up injured, that’s a thin senior class in a few years.
- It’s still just keeping up with the rest of the SEC. Even with three national top 10 classes since 2007, Georgia never had better than the third-best class in the SEC. The 2007 class that was rated #9 in the nation was only the 6th best in the conference. Insane. A single top haul doesn’t even mean that you have the personnel to compete in the Thunderdome of the SEC – it takes a string of good classes.
But for now, we’ll take it. It’s a good shot of success when the program really needs it. And if Georgia can add a few more pieces over the next week, we’ll be looking at an unprecedented class at Georgia in the face of great odds. Not a bad start to a critical season for the program.