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Thursday January 12, 2012

Georgia will miss Orson Charles, but if you told me a month ago that he’d be the only early departure from the 2011 squad, I’d have considered it foolishly optimistic. We feared that Charles’s announcement yesterday would open the floodgates, but only good news started to pour in.

It was, for the offseason, quite a day. Around noon on Wedneday, we were faced with both the impending departure of Charles as well as rumors about the Falcons reaching out to Todd Grantham. By the end of the day, yes, Charles had indeed announced his departure. But then word spread that Rambo was staying. Grantham smartly issued a statement to put an immediate halt to rumors about him leaving. We soon found out that Shawn Williams and Cornelius Washington had also decided to stay. By the end of the day, it appeared as if Jarvis Jones succeeded in his mission to return the entire group of eligible defensive early entrants.

These were smart decisions. I don’t ever begrudge anyone who follows their dream, but Charles was the only player considering the NFL where another year might not make a world’s difference. I admit there is some selfishness to seeing good players hang around as long as possible in Athens, but none of the defensive players returning (Jarvis Jones excepted) were probable high-round picks. It’s an indication that, despite the temptation, hangers-on looking to make a buck, and possible personal need of the quick payday, these guys had some good advice coming from somewhere that they were mature enough to heed.

And hopefully the message that Todd Grantham preached last month sunk in. Georgia hasn’t done a great job of driving home this point with some of its recent marginal early entrants.

“If you’re not a top 15 pick you should stay in school,” Grantham stated flatly. “If you’re a top 15 pick, the amount of money that you make you can justify it. But if you’re not, you should work to become that. Because if you look at the guaranteed money you make up at the top is so great, you can actually make money by staying. You go from being a middle second-round pick to a bottom first- or top-second-round pick, you’re talking hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. You can make that by working hard.”

Of course that last sentence is the key. Take a guy like Bacarri Rambo. He entered the 2011 season as a wildcard. He didn’t have the best sophomore season, and he was suspended for the first game. Rambo put in the work to go from an iffy starter to a legitimate pro prospect. Now he’ll enter the 2012 season as a known entity, he’ll be on every relevant preseason watch list, and he’ll be playing on what should be one hell of a defense. If he continues to work, he’ll illustrate Grantham’s point and realize a windfall when he enters the 2013 draft in much better position than he would have in 2012.

Nothing is 100% official until the deadline to enter the draft passes this Sunday. At least for now it looks as if Georgia will have one of its most experienced and deepest defenses heading into 2012, and they’ll still have their coordinator to continue the development that took place in 2011.

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