Although UGA appears to sign a top recruiting class every year, they could have much more success just by focusing on the home state.
The easiest and most cost efficient place to recruit is a school’s home state. All SEC coaches seem to know the true importance of in-state recruiting. After accepting the job at the University of Tennessee, Lane Kiffin proclaimed, “We need to build a fence around the state of Tennessee.” This is the prevailing thought around the country, exemplified in the extremely competitive SEC, yet forgotten by the University of Georgia.
The three most memorable Bulldogs of the last few years are Matthew Stafford, (Texas) Knowshon Moreno, (New Jersey) and AJ Green (South Carolina). While it is wonderful that such quality players left their respective states to come to UGA, do not forget those who left the Peach State: Eric Berry, Cameron Heyward, Cameron Newton, Neiko Thorpe, Darvin Adams, Greg Reid, Philip Lutzentirchen and Da’Rick Rogers. The list only includes players from 2007 to 2010 and all these players possess the ability to play in the NFL. Eric Berry was the 5th selection in last year’s draft. Cam Newton recently won the Heisman and virtually every other possible award. Where would Georgia’s program be if they could have snatched up a few of these top athletes?
While it is evident that bringing in a top recruiting class does not guarantee instant or even long term success, good recruiting is the first step toward building a winning program. Think about these numbers: since 2007, UGA has never signed more than three of the top ten recruits from Georgia. UGA managed to sign just one of the top ten in-state recruits last year, which was the least under Head Coach Mark Richt. This year has the potential to top last year’s embarrassment since UGA currently does not have any commitments and four of the top ten recruits have already committed to out-of-state schools. There is obviously still hope for UGA since two of the remaining are among the most coveted recruits in the country: Defensive End Ray Drew and Running Back Isaiah Crowell.
Is it possible for UGA to sign one or even both of these guys? Absolutely. Is it likely? Absolutely not.
Over the last 4 years, UGA has yet to sign the top in-state recruit under Mark Richt. It seems even more unlikely than ever that this will be the year that UGA is able to sign the top recruit. While the other SEC schools are on the rise, UGA recruiting is on a steady decline. The recent success at the two Alabama schools and the new coaching regime at Florida make it unlikely that this year will be any different. National Signing Day will soon arrive and this year UGA will be fortunate to keep any of the top recruits in state.
Honestly though, all UGA fans know that this recruiting class can and should be a lot better. Just take a look at LSU; over that past five years they have signed at least half of the top ten in-state recruits, including eight of 11 in 2006. This year, they are on the same path after receiving verbal commitments from four of the top five. Why are the Dawgs so far behind the Tigers?
Most recruits cannot see the Bulldogs improving anytime soon, especially with the current coaching staff. Recruits are looking for successful programs that can win SEC & National Championships and receive national exposure for excellence. Georgia has not shown that potential in several years and therefore recruits go somewhere that does. Georgia needs a coaching change to bring in new staff that wins games they are supposed to win and to win some that they shouldn’t. Until changes are made, UGA will be nothing more than the Ugly Duckling of the SEC.
There is still a lot to be decided this off-season, and as seen last year with Da’Rick Rogers, a verbal commitment really means nothing. So, UGA fans, enjoy the possibility of locking up top caliber prospects, but when February rolls around, don’t expect to see too many of the top Peach State Performers to become Bulldogs.