Georgia Football: 8 Best Bulldog Recruits from BCS Era

Brian JonesContributor IJuly 11, 2014

Georgia Football: 8 Best Bulldog Recruits from BCS Era

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The BCS era has come to an end, and there were a lot of talented players to come across the college football landscape during the 15-year span.

    It was no different for the Georgia Bulldogs, as they had a top-10 recruiting class almost every season during the BCS period.

    But who were some of the most talented Bulldog recruits? Who were the ones that succeeded in high school and college and went on to play in the NFL?

    Here’s a look at the eight best Georgia Bulldog recruits during the BCS era.

No. 8: WR Fred Gibson (2001)

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    JOHN BAZEMORE/Associated Press

    A 247Sports 4-star recruit from Ware County, Georgia, Fred Gibson helped the Bulldogs win the SEC title in 2002 and led the team with seven touchdown catches in 2004. In fact, his 2,884 receiving yards is second in school history behind Terrence Edwards. Standing at 6’4” and 180 pounds, Gibson was one of the more athletically gifted receivers to play in Athens.

    And because of that, Gibson was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL draft. He played for four more teams the next two seasons until he moved on to the NBA D-League, where he played for two seasons.

No. 7: CB Paul Oliver (2003)

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    Paul Oliver was a consensus All-American in high school. He was a 247Sports 5-star recruit back in 2003 and was considered the best cornerback in the country.

    His best game as a Bulldog came in 2006 against Georgia Tech. He held Calvin Johnson to two receptions for 13 yards, batted away three balls and intercepted one. That game led to him being drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 2007. He played for the Chargers until 2010 before signing with the New Orleans Saints in 2011.

    On September 24, 2013, Oliver committed suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was only 29 years old.

No. 6: TE Leonard Pope (2002)

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    247Sports listed Leonard Pope as the sixth-best tight end in the country and the fifth-best in Georgia.

    Pope was a reliable target for D.J. Shockley in 2005, as he led the Bulldogs in catches (39) and receiving yards (541). He was a big part in the Bulldogs’ SEC title run that season, and that led to him being drafted in the third round of the 2006 NFL draft.

    Pope has played in the NFL for the last eight seasons and is currently a free agent.

No. 5: RB Knowshon Moreno (2006)

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    Georgia has always been known for its great running backs, and Knowshon Moreno fits in that category.

    What makes Moreno interesting is that he’s not from Georgia or from the southeast. New Jersey is where Moreno calls home, and 247Sports listed him as a 4-star recruit and the 12th-best running back in the country back in 2006.

    During his two-year stint in Athens, Moreno rushed for 2,734 yards and 30 touchdowns. He was a first-team All-SEC player those two seasons, and that led to him being drafted 12th overall by the Denver Broncos in the 2009 NFL draft. He was a key member in the Broncos run to the Super Bowl in 2013, and he’s now a member of the Miami Dolphins.

No. 4: DE Charles Johnson (2004)

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    Listed as the ninth-best defensive end in the country in 2004, Charles Johnson quietly disrupted opposing offensive lines.

    In 35 games and 13 starts, Johnson recorded 73 tackles and 14.5 sacks, which places him 10th in school history. He also became the first defensive lineman in school history to lead the team in passes defended in a season with 10.

    Johnson was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2007 and is now one of the premier pass-rushers in the NFL.

No. 3: QB Aaron Murray (2009)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Aaron Murray came out of high school already a sought-out recruit, as he was listed as the third-best quarterback prospect in the country back in 2009 according to 247Sports.

    But what he did in Athens has made him a legend. He left Athens as the SEC all-time passing yards and passing touchdowns leader. He lead the Bulldogs to two consecutive SEC East titles and was a 2013 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm finalist.

    Murray was drafted in the fifth round by the Kansas City Chiefs in this year’s NFL draft.

No. 2: WR A.J. Green (2008)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    There may not be another receiver like A.J. Green. This 5-star recruit was named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2008 as he led the SEC in receiving yards, and he would have gone down as the most dangerous receiver in SEC history had it not been for an injury-riddled 2009 season and a 2010 season where he missed the first four games due to a suspension.

    Green was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft and has become one of the best NFL players the last few seasons.

No. 1: Matthew Stafford (2006)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    There may not have been a bigger recruit during the BCS era than Matthew Stafford.

    And he lived up to the hype, as the 5-star prospect from Texas led the Bulldogs to a Sugar Bowl win in 2007. He also was named to the Pro Football Weekly All-America team in 2008, throwing 25 touchdowns during that season, which was a school record.

    He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2009 and has become one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. He was recently ranked No. 100 in the Top 100 Players of 2014 by NFL.com.