Georgia’s 2011 freshman class, anchored by the “Dream Team”, already had pressure on it to do many things for the football program. Replacing the 2010 class wasn’t supposed to be one of them.
The 2010 class was small, especially by SEC standards, with 19 members. It was rated #15 by Rivals.com. Not bad, but also not up to par with programs at the top of the conference. Fortunately there were some gems – Bennett is making an impact. Alec Ogletree is a star. Gates has been a lifesaver.
Every program deals with attrition, but the knocks to the 2010 class have been extreme. Only 12 of the 19 are still with the program, though two others are working their way to Athens via the JUCO route. Three of the 12 are injured, and only Alec Ogletree is projected to play this year. Kolton Houston’s eligibility status is up in the air. So pretty much only 9 of the 19 players from the 2010 class are available to the team this year, and that number is reduced to 8 until Ogletree returns.
Lopping the 2010 class in half is bad enough, but it comes on top of an exceptional amount of attrition across all classes. I’m stealing the work of a friend here, but Georgia has seen 15 players leave the program in the past year with eligibility remaining. This doesn’t even include those who failed to qualify or enroll in the first place. For a lot of programs, this would be the foundation of a really nice recruiting class.
1) OL Brent Benedict, RFr. – Transferred to Virginia Tech
2) LB Marcus Dowtin, Jr. – Transferred to North Alabama
3) TB Washaun Ealey, Jr. – Transferred to Jacksonville State
4) FS Jakar Hamilton, Sr. – Seeking transfer
5) TB Caleb King, Jr. – Academically ineligible
6) WR Logan Gray, Jr. – Graduated w/ eligibility, transferred to Colorado
7) WR A.J. Green, Jr. – Early entry into NFL draft
8) OL A.J. Harmon, Jr. – Transferred to Alabama State
9) LB Justin Houston, Jr. – Early entry into NFL draft
10) DE Jeremy Longo, Jr. – Medically disqualified
11) RB Ken Malcome, RFr – Seeking transfer
12) CB Derek Owens, So. – Seeking transfer
13) OL Tanner Strickland, Sr. – Graduated with eligibility remaining
14) OL Trinton Sturdivant, Sr. – Knee injury, career over
15) S/LB Nick Williams, Jr. – Transferred to North Alabama
3-star recruits: 1
4-star recruits: 13
5-star recruit: 1
You can argue about whether some of those are better off gone or whether others would have ever contributed anyway. You can’t begrudge the guys going to the NFL, and injuries happen. The larger point is that Georgia is coming close to 70 players who signed Letters of Intent. About 23 of those are newcomers. I’ve lost track of the exact numbers, but I would expect that there are no more than 50 scholarship players left on the team who aren’t true freshmen or former walk-ons. Georgia has the talent to weather that situation to some extent, but it really shows up on the depth chart. You don’t have to dig deep to see the effects – just look at tailback or the offensive line or middle linebacker to see where the depth is being stretched pizza-thin and where the coaches are having to make creative (or desperate, depending on your outlook) moves just to fill out the depth chart.
There’s not much to do but sign more players, and Georgia should be able to load up this year. That’s fine, but Georgia now finds themselves under pressure due to the same class size restrictions that were lauded during the offseason. You can’t make up a large numbers gap with one class now, and you’d better make those 25 count.