The Georgia Bulldogs routinely stake claim to impressive recruiting classes, courtesy of strong efforts within state borders. The Peach State is particularly packed with elite talent in the 2015 cycle, providing an opportunity for head coach Mark Richt and company to assemble America's No. 1 prospect haul by taking care of business at home.
"This is up there with the best classes I’ve seen in Georgia," said Daryl Jones, the program's director of on-campus recruiting. "Our recruiting home base is strong. We have a real appreciation for talent in this state."
There's plenty to appreciate in a class that features an impressive collection of top-level talent.
The state of Georgia boasts four 5-star recruits and 25 4-star recruits in 247Sports' composite rankings. Those totals rate fourth nationally behind only Florida, California and Texas—states with significantly larger resident populations and several more FBS programs.
The Bulldogs perennially pack classes with in-state products, which bodes well for the potential of a big signing day next February.
|Year||Total Signees||Players Ranked Top 20 in Georgia||National Class Ranking|
|2015 (current commits)||6||3||12th|
Richt, who was hired in 2001, has deep roots in Georgia. In an era of constant coaching changeover throughout the country, his lengthy tenure has created serious rapport with the state's high school coaches.
"It gives you history with many high school coaches," Jones said. "(Richt) speaks with them regularly and visits when it’s allowed by the NCAA. He personally reaches out to coaches who achieve milestones. It helps build relationships."
Powerhouse programs like Camden County, Norcross and Tucker reload with exceptional recruits on an annual basis, so it's imperative to establish a pipeline with schools that sustain success. There are premier student-athletes to be found throughout the state, which the Bulldogs break down into categories.
"There are those who have grown up here and have a fondness for Georgia football as the flagship program in the state," Jones said. "Then there are athletes who moved here from elsewhere. We have to win them over and make it clear what our program and our brand is about."
Georgia competes in the country's most contentious conference—on and off the field. SEC rivals regularly make the state a top recruiting priority, even those beyond the range of nearby proximity.
As of late February, Texas A&M had extended offers to 13 of Georgia's 2015 prospects, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Aggies are mounting a major recruiting effort in the state after offering just eight total players during the 2013 and 2014 cycles combined.
"It hit us that ‘Hey, there is some interest here in Texas A&M from the state of Georgia,’" Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin told Journal-Constitution reporter Michael Carvell. "Because of that, we’re interested in some of the prospects there because there’s a tremendous talent pool in the state of Georgia."
Programs outside of the SEC are also focused on tapping into that talent pool.
Top-ranked 2015 offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt committed to Clemson in February. Shadell Bell, a 4-star wide receiver from Decatur, also pledged to the Tigers as head coach Dabo Swinney continues to plunder the Peach State.
Of course, the Bulldogs must also contend with Georgia Tech.
Despite several early decisions, most of Georgia's top in-state targets remain uncommitted, including 5-star defensive tackle Trent Thompson, who is rated the nation's No. 1 overall player in 247Sports' composite rankings. Florida State, Alabama and Auburn have entered the equation, but the Bulldogs have always been in the picture, and his respect for the program is apparent.
“Talking to Coach Richt almost on a daily basis is pretty cool," Thompson told the Journal-Constitution in February. "It’s a huge honor, especially with it being Mark Richt, the head coach of the University of Georgia. You can’t get better than that.”
A commitment from Thompson would build substantial momentum for the Bulldogs, who picked up 5-star Georgia athlete Terry Godwin in January. Dominant in-state defensive linemen Chauncey Rivers and Justin Young have since followed suit while 4-star receiver Christian Owens joined the class last April.
Richt remains in the mix for a plethora of Georgia prospects, as 16 of the state's 4-star standouts are still undecided. The team will attempt to make a push for these playmakers with recruiting events in Athens, including game-day action.
"I don’t think you’ll find a better environment in college football than what we have between the hedges," Jones said. "Our fans—Bulldog nation—are unreal in their support of the team. They can win over visiting student-athletes with the enthusiasm and support they show during a game."
The state is ripe for Richt and his staff to pick up an abundance of incoming stars. It's just a matter of sealing the deal despite outside interference from programs like Alabama, which holds commitments from three Peach State players, including 5-star defensive end Mekhi Brown.
If Georgia is able to beat out opponents on its home turf—and a strong 2014 season would go a long way toward doing that—there's a legitimate chance for a rise to the top of national recruiting rankings. The Bulldogs don't have to stray far from a backyard brimming with talent to build something special on signing day, providing plenty of promise and a high ceiling for the team's 2015 class.
All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R college football recruiting reporter Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.
Recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.