Yesterday, one of my favorite sources for college football information, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ran a story by longtime columnist Jeff Schultz titled, "Richt, Georgia have been hurt by too many recruiting risks." Intriguing title, obviously, so it was worth a read. However, the points made by Schultz left me a bit baffled.
His main point: "The problem now is that too many of the players Georgia is recruiting should be red-lined. The line of risk needs to be pulled back."
An interesting note—one that I disagree with whole-heartedly.
Richt is not out there recruiting the Willie Williamses of the world. He's in the hunt for players that every other coach—Nick Saban, Gene Chizik, Will Muschamp, Jimbo Fisher and Dabo Swinnery, for example—are pushing to get to their campus. Everyone is fishing in the same pond; to act like they are not is to do a disservice to all the parties involved.
If the Bulldogs and Mark Richt have any sort of problem, it's not that they are "recruiting the wrong guys." It is that their guys are getting caught a lot more than everyone else's.
There is one thing that football fans and media fail to understand: These teams are more alike than people care to understand. It's not that Alabama or Clemson have more "character guys" on their rosters. Rather, their players have the fortune of not being caught often, if at all.
That's not the case for Georgia, as the Bulldogs players seem to be the law's favorite targets. Not a knock on the Athens-Clark County Police, but rather just a testament to the bad luck of the Georgia Bulldogs, who are doing much of what the rest of the collegiate landscape does.
If there is anything to hit on about Georgia, it should be stopped at acknowledging their adherence to their tough policies. Schultz does mention this:
Richt, to his credit, no longer responds to players’ criminal or just plain stupid actions by merely making them run stadium steps or suspending their dessert privileges. He has come a long way from enabling Odell Thurman. He suspends players. He kicks them out.
But he proceeds to go on about how the Bulldogs need to red-line the entitled 4- and 5-star players, who are, apparently, only bad apples when they get to Georgia. Give me a break. Kids screw up.
Unfortunately for the Georgia Bulldogs—or fortunately, depending upon what side you fall on—Mark Richt and his athletic department are willing to hand down hard discipline and make things public that other schools don't make a habit of doing.
Georgia doesn't have a discipline issue. It has a getting caught issue. It has a "we punish our players harder than other people" issue. But the Bulldogs most certainly do not have a "we recruit bad people" issue.
Richt is not captaining a ship full of high school convicts; he's got a team of players he believes in, and, at times, those young people make bad decisions.
The idea that Isaiah Crowell had "red flags" in recruiting that would foreshadow him having a gun under his seat during a traffic stop is asinine and is wholly unfair to the kid. Maybe there were red flags about him being a bit of a jerk or red flags about him enjoying pot a bit. But having a gun with the serial number scrubbed off—you got that from him in recruiting? Hardly.
Or was David Cutcliffe of Duke, who recruited Crowell as well, willing to risk the whole gun ordeal the same as Richt—because, you know, the red flags were there?