Georgia Football: Re-Evaluating the Bulldogs' 2011 Recruiting Class
In the midst of a disappointing 6-7 campaign in 2010, Georgia head coach Mark Richt saw recruiting as a reason for optimism even as the Bulldog football program floundered. On a weekly call-in radio show, he offered the following encouragement to fans (per Tim Tucker of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution):
When you talk about in-state kids, that’s why I’ve been talking about this Georgia ‘Dream Team,’ this team of guys that I think are the best players in the state of Georgia. And I believe if they will stay in the state and come together, we can prove to the United States of America that we have the best football in the country [in] the state of Georgia. We need those Georgia kids to stay at home and do that thing for the Bulldogs, and I think everybody is going to get excited about that.
When all was said and done a few months later, his goal was largely accomplished.
According to 247Sports, Georgia signed the nation's sixth-best recruiting class in 2011 and in the process reeled in five of the state's seven best prospects.
Here's a position-by-position re-evaluating of that Dream Team recruiting class.
Unless other wise noted, all recruiting stats, rankings and ratings courtesy of 247Sports.
- Christian LeMay: Regarded as the nation's top pro-style quarterback.
Behind former starter Aaron Murray and current starter Hutson Mason, LeMay rarely saw the field. He redshirted in 2011 and accounted for just 43 passing yards as a Bulldog. LeMay elected to transfer following the 2013 season. Obviously, LeMay was stuck behind one of the greatest passers in SEC history, but his inability to work up the depth chart is what he'll be remembered for.
- Isaiah Crowell: Ranked as the nation's top running back.
It's easy to remember Crowell's ugly dismissal and a freshman campaign that was mired by injuries and a suspension. Often ignored, however, is the fact that Crowell was the SEC's Freshman of the Year in 2011 and accounted for 850 rushing yards in 2011 as the Dawgs clawed their way to the SEC Championship Game. His tenure at Georgia was shorter than anyone would have expected, but he gets a passing grade for a handful of impressive outings.
- Malcolm Mitchell: Regarded as the nation's second-best athlete.
- Justin Scott-Wesley: Ranked 34th among all receivers.
- Chris Conley: Regarded as the nation's 44th best receiver.
- Sanford Seay: Ranked 62nd among receivers.
Seay did not pan out at Georgia, but the other three players certainly have. Despite a slew of injuries, Mitchell, Scott-Wesley and Conley have combined for nearly 3,000 receiving yards and 23 touchdown catches.
- Jay Rome: The nation's fifth-best tight end.
It's too soon to tell what Rome's legacy as a Bulldog will be. After redshirting in 2011, Rome made one start and appeared in all 12 games in 2012. His 2013 season was cut short by injury. Once healthy and with Arthur Lynch departed for the NFL, Rome should be poised to shine in 2014.
- Zach DeBell: The nation's 35th-best tackle.
- Watts Dantzler: The nation's 36th-best tackle.
- Xzavier Ward: Ranked 46th among tackles.
- David Andrews: The nation's ninth-best center.
- Hunter Long: The nation's 67th-best guard.
A number of starters were already entrenched when this group arrived in 2011, but only David Andrews (27 consecutive starts) has managed to crack the first unit. Accordingly, it's hard to ignore the fact that four of these five players have failed to register a single start between them. That should change this year, as DeBell has a real shot at starting. But thus far, this group has been resigned to backup duty.
- Ray Drew: Regarded as the nation's second-best strong-side defensive end.
- John Jenkins: Ranked as the ninth-best junior college prospect.
- Sterling Bailey: Considered the nation's 19th-best strong-side defensive end.
John Jenkins made an immediate impact in Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme in 2011, Ray Drew had a breakout season in 2013 and Sterling Bailey seems poised to compete for a starting job in 2014. If there's any disappointment here, it's that Drew (considered the second-best recruit in this class outside of Crowell) took so long to establish himself as a playmaker.
- Amarlo Herrera: Ranked as the nation's 11th-best inside linebacker.
- Ramik Wilson: Considered the nation's 16th-best inside linebacker.
These two players led the SEC in tackles last season as Wilson set the pace with 133 and Herrera followed suit with 116. As Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald pointed out last month, Wilson is getting a lot of NFL draft attention as a potential first-round pick in 2015. But it was Herrera who first made an impact at Georgia with eight starts as a true freshman. Combined, the two players have appeared in 72 games, registered 42 starts and notched 362 total tackles in the process.
- Damian Swann: Ranked as the nation's second-best cornerback.
- Corey Moore: Considered the nation's sixth-best safety.
- Nick Marshall: Rated as the nation's 18th-best cornerback.
- Chris Sanders: Ranked as the nation's 24th-best safety.
- Devin Bowman: Considered the nation's 38th-best cornerback.
- Quintavious Harrow: Rated as the nation's 102nd-best safety.
Attrition killed this group as only Swann, Moore and Bowman remain with the Bulldogs. Swann has been a full-time starter since 2012, but it hasn't always been pretty. Moore rotated in and out of the starting lineup in 2013 and is now poised to start following the dismissals of two starting safeties. Bowman has primarily contributed on special teams. If this group had lived up to its potential, Georgia's defense would have been much less porous over the past few seasons.
- Nathan Theus: Ranked as the nation's top long snapper.
Georgia's special-teams unit has been plagued by mishaps over the past few seasons, and Theus is hardly above reproach in this regard. A number of high snaps have left Georgia holders and kickers in compromising positions.