2011 Recruiting Update: Where Georgia's Top 10 Recruits Could Be Headed
I've taken a liking to the state of Georgia's 2011 recruiting class—one of the strongest and deepest in a long time.
Star running back Isaiah Crowell, whom I've profiled a number of times, is a player who could change the fortunes of whatever school he commits to for the better.
Tight end Jay Rome brings a special blend of size and athleticism to the position.
A trio of Peach State defensive linemen will make their impact felt, likely in the trenches of the SEC.
Georgia is a perennial battleground state, one that will feature heavily in the recruiting wars that flare up at the junction of the SEC and ACC powers.
Here is an update on the top 10 Georgia recruits, including (when possible) their highlight film, their current favorites and a prediction on their final selection.
James Vaughters, OLB
I profiled James Vaughters in my top 10 linebackers preview, disagreeing with the recruiting sites that listed him as an inside linebacker. I thought he looked more like a DE/OLB pass-rushing type in the mold of Texas' Sergio Kindle.
As if on cue, Vaughters paid a visit to Texas and included them on a list of his nine potential finalists, along with Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, Southern Cal, and Stanford.
This update from Crimson Confidential quotes Vaughters praising the Tide after a visit in February.
Scout's no. 2 linebacker, Vaughters is also weighing in-state programs Georgia and Georgia Tech, though his recruitment has clearly taken a national turn.
If the Longhorns offer—which may not be guaranteed—I think this one will come down to Alabama and Texas, arguably the two most attractive schools for linebackers at the moment. There's a reason Vaughters traveled across the country even at the risk of coming home empty-handed.
Still, Mack Brown is famously queasy with out-of-state prospects, and the Longhorns did land a big one in last year's top OLB, Jordan Hicks.
For that reason, I predict Vaughters will end up in Crimson on National Signing Day. But his decision looks to be waiting at least until fall, so stay tuned.
Stephon Tuitt, DE
Stephon Tuitt, a strongside defensive end out of Monroe, Georgia, has had Georgia Tech as his favorite for some time.
In fact, he toyed with the idea of committing recently, and hinted that a decision had already been made.
The Jackets would definitely feel better gaining his verbal, since his recruitment is about to blow up.
Tuitt was named the top player at a recent MVP camp by Scout despite other athletes gunning for him.
It doesn't look like Tech has much to worry about here. Tuitt, a strong student, has visited GT a number of times, and has Georgia, Florida and Clemson in a distant second.
Tuitt's coach, Matt Fligg, is confident he will wrap up his recruiting soon.
If he's not officially a silent commitment to GT, he is one figuratively speaking. Unless Florida, Clemson or Georgia charge hard, his verbal will be in the books before summer.
Isaiah Crowell, RB
I've written about Isaiah Crowell a few times this week.
His recruitment took an interesting turn this week. A recent visit to Auburn didn't pan out for the Tigers. A commenter on my most recent article posted these comments made my Crowell after the visit: "It was alright, but I don't think that's the school I'm going to go to."
With Auburn out of the picture, Alabama fans must be expecting a commitment by the start of the summer, but I predict a wait-and-see approach from the running back. Florida State, Florida, USC, Tennessee and Clemson are other schools to watch in his recruitment.
He was my second-favorite running back in the class, and still is. I think he has the durability and explosiveness to compete for the top running back in the SEC.
In any event, I don't expect to see much more movement on his recruiting until fall rolls around. We can take Auburn off the list, however.
Ray Drew, DE
Ray Drew, who will likely be one of the nation's top weakside defensive ends, plans to delay his recruitment as long as he can so that he knows he made the right decision.
As such, the 6'5", 243-lb end claims no early favorites and wants to look around. Just this week, he's visiting Auburn, South Carolina, Clemson and Tennessee in a whirlwind tour.
Update: he was impressed with the South Carolina visit, for what it's worth.
Rivals also has a video interview of Drew discussing his interest in Georgia Tech.
The in-state Bulldogs look to be fighting Florida State for the lead on the south Georgia prospect, and might be losing ground.
Florida State beat Georgia in a head-to-head for south Georgia linebacker Telvin Smith in the most recent recruiting cycle, leading the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to run an article speculating that the Bulldogs had lost their grip on South Georgia prospects.
In my opinion, any waiting helps the Bulldogs, whom I think will have a surprisingly good year both on the field and on the recruiting trail.
The speedy end also maintains an interest in things other than football. I wouldn't know what that's like.
Unless a campus really wows him, I expect him to be one of the prospects who pulls a hat out of a bag on National Signing Day. Which hat it will be is too difficult to call this far out.
Gabriel Wright, DT
Defensive tackle Gabe Wright is part of a package deal that includes Carver High School teammate RB Isaiah Crowell.
That's according to Wright, of course.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the two Columbus, Georgia prospects commit to the same school. They share a few of the same suitors—Alabama, Florida State, Georgia and Clemson.
But the recruiting trail sometimes breaks these deals down the road, particularly if one recruit is generating more buzz than the other.
Wright's a good prospect, and the fact that Auburn, Alabama, Florida State, Georgia and Clemson have extended offers gives them a better-than-average shot at ending up with both.
But this also gives schools an opportunity to crack into Crowell's recruitment via Wright. Take Keenan Allen's defection for Cal as evidence that recruiters will go to any length to get prospects to switch.
If the package deal holds up, I like Alabama or Florida State (Auburn, remember, is off Crowell's list) to get Wright. Both have recruited south Georgia well of late, and both provide immediate playing opportunities for Wright and his teammate.
Jay Rome, TE
Five names have stood out for top tight end Jay Rome for some time: Clemson, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee.
His father played for Clemson, and he "likes Clemson a lot," according to a recent interview.
Rome, of Valdosta, Georgia, was another player the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article cited as an example of the Bulldogs losing their group on South Georgia players.
But a source close to the Rome family says the Dawgs have a legitimate shot.
The article also mentioned Florida State making a major push to enter his recruitment, which is not surprising considering their proximity to Valdosta.
From everything I've read about Rome, he wants to take all five official visits and see how the action plays out this fall before making any further decisions.
That he has four SEC schools in his top five should not go unnoticed—they're clearly his conference of choice—but don't underestimate Clemson's pull both as a legacy and as an outstanding recruiting school in its own right.
Seemed like a great kid in the interview video below, where he also updates his recruiting (and mentions Florida State).
C.J. Uzomah, QB/ATH
I profiled CJ in my Top 10 2011 quarterbacks article and also claimed he should go to Georgia Tech, where his athleticism, intelligence and rocket arm would be a lethal combination in the triple option.
The Yellow Jackets have done well in getting Uzomah on campus, but they better keep it up. He's getting attention from a variety of programs around the country.
Auburn and Clemson have both welcomed Uzomah to campus in recent weeks, and Uzomah came away impressed with both. Both have favorable depth charts for the raw QB prospect to redshirt and learn the system.
Miami is also pursuing Uzomah, and even Ohio State jumped on board in a crucial year for quarterback recruiting in Columbus.
The Bulldogs don't seem to have much interest.
Considering the depth chart at all five of those schools, Uzomah is probably top priority at more than just Georgia Tech. Keep an ear out for whether Uzomah wants to stay close to home or if playing time is a bigger priority. That should indicate if the Yellow Jackets have a real fight on their hands.
Watts Dantzler, OT
Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee and Vanderbilt are Watts Dantzler's top five schools according to Rivals.
The playful, enigmatic tackle, a likely five-star in a strong year for offensive linemen, is the top target for all five of his leading schools.
Georgia especially is all over Dantzler, and he's dropped in on UGa's campus for a few unofficials.
He could be the kind of capricious recruit that commits three times before settling on a fourth suitor on signing day, but that's the nature of the beast in the SEC.
We're too far out to get any sense of who those four could be, or who could come out on the winning end. Clemson could well reenter the picture if Watts chooses it as a destination for an official visit.
I would think this is a recruitment that won't be solidified until the contracts get signed.
Damian Swann, CB
Georgia, Florida and Virginia Tech round out his top four—all terrific schools for Swann to make an impact and receive superior coaching.
Can the Tide be caught? Swann has said he will visit Georgia...eventually and that a series of unfortunate events has prevented him from checking out Athens until now.
I originally predicted the finalists would be Florida and Alabama, but the Gators must not be recruiting him as hard as they have some defensive backs, or we'd probably be hearing about them more. He still plans to visit Gainesville, so there's a chance he commits regardless.
I trust that his interest in Georgia is sincere, but unless the Bulldogs can keep him uncommitted until fall and get him on campus for an official, there's little use in betting against the Tide on this one.
Quan Bray, RB
Bray is Georgia's other solid running back recruit. He plays quarterback and running back in high school, but runs the veer offense, where the passing demands on the QB are very minimal.
Still, the experience of making quick reads on a defense as a runner has Alabama, Florida, Clemson, Georgia and Miami chomping at the bit. Bray claims that of his more than 30 offers, those five are recruiting him hardest.
Saban and company were successful in getting Bray to visit Tuscaloosa (which he has done several times, according to another source), but he maintains that he holds no leaders and will trim down his favorites list this summer.
I couldn't locate embeddable film of Bray, but you should be able to see ESPN's film here.
His elusiveness and speed are eye-grabbing. He really catches the edge on a defense and runs smoothly even when he's taking a sharp angle. I think he could be a major threat in the Gators' spread-option run game if they end up on top.
I look forward to hearing from Bray on his leaders and catching more film as the 2011 recruiting season kicks into full gear this summer.