For fans, it’s almost a national holiday. For coach Mark Richt, it’s a day to sweat things out a bit more than usual.
Richt said it’s rare to have a significant number of recruits still mulling their decisions this late into the process, but with today’s signing day festivities — the first day high school seniors can submit letters of intent — he expects to get a few answers from some of the top uncommitted recruits still out there.
By the time the season ended the past few years, Richt and his staff have done a lot more celebrating than recruiting. Sure, they’re still on the road four or five days a week, but it’s mostly to check in with the players they have already nabbed, a bit of reassurance that the coaches haven’t forgotten them.
“There really wasn’t much recruiting going on at all,” Richt said. “We had them all committed. We just went there, everybody laid out their best spread of food and we had a party.”
That hasn’t been the case this year.
Several key commitments remained up for grabs into February, and today’s signing day festivities, which are expected to draw several hundred fans to Georgia’s Butts-Mehre athletics facilities, promise to bring a few more announcements, too. One of those top targets turned down the Bulldogs on Tuesday, however, when Lowndes defensive back Greg Reid chose Florida State over Georgia.
A year ago, Georgia’s stellar freshman class played a vital role in the team’s 10-win season. Wide receiver A.J. Green, kicker Blair Walsh and offensive linemen Ben Jones and Cordy Glenn were all starters by year’s end, while Brandon Boykin, Nick Williams and DeAngelo Tyson were among several others who played significant roles on the team.
The 2009 class already has some marquis names. Quarterbacks Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger, and lineman Dallas Lee have already enrolled in school to get a jump on the upcoming season, while several other big names, like defensive back Branden Smith, defensive tackle Abry Jones and running back Washaun Ealey are expected to arrive this fall.
The early departures of quarterback Matthew Stafford, running back Knowshon Moreno and cornerback Asher Allen added a few extra needs to Georgia’s wish list for 2009, but it might be wide receiver and defensive end where Georgia has the most glaring needs.
The Bulldogs thought they had a top pass rusher committed, but Griffin’s Toby Jackson failed to qualify and enrolled in junior college.
The Bulldogs did manage to reel in four-star defensive end Montez Robinson, however, after he spurned Auburn following Tommy Tuberville’s departure as head coach.
The wide receiver ranks have been spread thin as well with the departure of three seniors and the transfer of redshirt freshman Walter Hill.
Georgia has verbal commitments from four-star recruit Rontavious Wooten, but would like to add at least one more star pass catcher, such as Marlon Brown, a five-star wideout from Tennessee. But quarterback Joe Cox said the process of finding the right players extends beyond talent.
“We’re looking for guys that want to play for Georgia, that want to be Bulldogs, that love it here as soon as they set foot on campus,” Cox said. “That’s the type of guys we want, and hopefully we can get a few more to come through the door.”
Georgia currently has 17 commitments, including the three early enrollees. Among the other big names Georgia still hopes to land are safety Jawanza Starling, Carver High defensive end Jarvis Jones, offensive linemen Kwame Geathers and Bobby Massie, and receiver Orson Charles.