National Signing Day 2010: Are the Georgia Bulldogs in Trouble?
Stop the presses! Jeff Whitaker has chosen Auburn over Georgia!
Wait, wait! Call in the National Guard! Deon Rogers has decommitted from the Dawgs in favor of Louisville!
Oh, my goodness: Nickell Robey is leaving?
What in tarnation is going on at the University of Georgia?
Is Mark Richt losing his touch?
Is his job next?
If you are within earshot of a recruiting conversation, you are likely to hear some of these questions popping up in light of two Georgia prospects deciding to decommit in the span of 48 hours.
Jeff Whitaker, the prized defensive lineman out of Warner Robbins, Ga., decided to commit to the Auburn Tigers. That decision made a lot of SEC faithful stand up and do two things:
- Take notice of the Auburn Tigers hauling in a stellar class under first-year Head Coach Gene Chizik.
- Begin to wonder if the Georgia Bulldogs are a program in decline under Head Coach Mark Richt.
The answer to the second question is simple: "No, it isn't."
Richt hired his defensive coordinator Jan. 15, ending a six-week search that appeared to be littered with assumptions, presumptions, and refusals. Many say that the length of that search cost the Bulldogs their solid ground with guys like Nickell Robey and Deon Rogers—possibly.
However, in truth, the Dawgs were able to hang on to all of their commitments throughout the search. The guys remained solid—no prospect went on record to say he was reopening his recruitment.
So, why then are these same guys now jumping ship and tossing their loyalties elsewhere? Well, here's the "411" on each of those situations:
Nickell Robey (DB):
Robey was very close to the fired coaching staff, particularly former defensive coordinator and secondary coach Willie Martinez. After it was clear that Martinez would no longer be coaching at Georgia, Robey became disenchanted and disinterested in Georgia. That said, it is only within the last couple of weeks that it has become more unlikely that Robey will sign with Georgia.
What may have happened to cause this change of tune? The hiring of defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos, for one.
A quick look at the Huskies' football roster from 2007 and 2008 makes one thing fairly obvious: Lakatos likes his defensive backs to be 5'10" or better—Robey is 5'8". Furthermore, the two most recent commits for the 2011 class are 6'0" in height.
Robey has a ton of talent and a great number of ball skills. He's going to be good for whatever team he decides to sign with in 2010, and there's no denying that the Dawg faithful would have loved to have seen his talents in Athens next season.
That said, it's clear that Lakatos does tend to recruit and gravitate toward a bigger, more physical kind of back, and Robey, for all his speed and talent, might have had a tough time matching up with receivers who are 6'1" or better.
Deon Rogers (LB):
According to ugasports.com http://uga.rivals.com/ recruiting analyst Radi Nabulsi, the Dawgs were content to let Rogers go—there were some questions about how well he would fit into the new 3-4 scheme that would be implemented by new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
You can hear his thoughts on Rogers and other recruiting tidbits here.
The fact of the matter is, Grantham kind of backed off a bit and allowed Rogers to seek out a program that may have been a better fit for his abilities. Does that mean that Georgia would not have liked to keep him? No. But, there again, it became a two-tiered issue of how well Rogers would fit the new scheme and how comfortable Rogers would be with Grantham after having been so close to former linebacker coach John Jancek.
It was the best decision for both sides, in the end, as Grantham continues to try to bring in the guys who are the best fit for his scheme.
Jeff Whitaker (DT):
His decision to commit to Auburn wasn't so much a shock to the system as it was a situation in which he had been a longtime Auburn lean who was flirting with the idea of going to Georgia.
Whitaker decided to open the door to more visits in November, and Georgia was one of the schools he chose to visit. For the coaching staff's part, they were a bit surprised to find that Whitaker was interested in revisiting his Georgia options—they were thought to be pretty well out of the race by that time.
They did what they needed to in order to make his decision tougher, but it was pretty well-known that he was probably going to end up with the Tigers.
The change in the coaching staff's defensive philosophy is a major reason for the re-evaluation of this class. Some of the guys the former coaches brought in are good fits, while others are not. It's not a matter of Richt losing his grip on the program, nor is it a reflection of the state of the Georgia football program.
If this were the 2011 class we were discussing, then the concerns would be more valid, but as of now, they just seem a bit too overblown.
The only recruit worth taking serious note of is wide receiving prospect Da'Rick Rogers—the only offensive recruit that seems to be destined for a switch. His recent dalliance with the University of Tennessee has caused quite a ruckus and has ignited some SEC posturing on both sides.
Richt and Company are still making moves to pick up players. Defensive tackle Mike Thornton is a strong possibility—he was one of two tackles that the Dawgs were targeting for the nose spot, along with Whitaker.
Add to that Florida State linebacker commit Telvin Smith. He's taking a long look at Georgia and could be a surprise switch on signing day.
In the end, the recruiting talk about Georgia being in trouble—at least for the moment—is much ado about nothing, and, in my opinion, is probably premature.
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