A year ago, there was a huge wave of elation when wide receiver Marlon Brown chose Georgia midway through the afternoon on national signing day. This year, it might simply be a sigh of relief when the flurry of activity finally comes to an end on the first day high school seniors can officially sign with their college of choice.
It’s been a wild two-month stretch on the recruiting trail for the Bulldogs, and the final results the past few days have been mixed — at best.
On the bright side for head coach Mark Richt was the addition of offensive lineman Kenarious Gates on Tuesday. Gates, who played at Greenville, Ga., was initially a Kentucky commitment but switched allegiances when Georgia made a late offer.
The downside, however, has been the departure of three defensive prospects in recent weeks and ongoing concerns about where five-star receiver Da’Rick Rogers will land.
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Rogers, a Calhoun, Ga., product who is considered one of the top recruits in the country, had been committed to Georgia for months. But when his good friend and high school quarterback Nash Nance decommitted from Vanderbilt and chose to head to Tennessee instead, rumors swirled that Rogers would soon follow.
For his part, Rogers has done little to quiet the concerns, and his decision today is widely believed to be in Tennessee’s favor.
What’s not a mystery — as far as UGA is concerned — are the plans of defensive end B.J. Butler, linebacker Deon Rogers and defensive back Nickell Robey. All three were Georgia commitments as late as January, but none will be in Athens this fall. All three lost their position coaches when Richt fired Willie Martinez, John Jancek and Jon Fabris on Dec. 2, and new defensive coordinator Todd Grant-ham was unable to convince the commitments to remain on board.
Robey announced earlier this week that he had officially scratched Georgia from his list, and he is now likely to land at Southern California or West Virginia. Rogers and Butler both dropped their commitment to Georgia to go to Louisville, where former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was named head coach in December.
The coaching changes at Georgia may have some long-term benefits on the recruiting trail, but the short-term costs appear to have been high. Six weeks passed between the dismissal of the previous staff and Grantham’s hire, which left the door open for other programs to move in on Georgia’s commitments. The Bulldogs are still without one position coach — likely a linebackers coach — and Grantham has already said he plans to revamp the previous defensive scheme, adding further confusion for potential recruits.
Georgia’s recruiting class was ranked as high as fourth by ESPN and was a consensus top-10 class, but the departures are likely to send the Bulldogs tumbling down the rankings. Still, there is some hope that Richt will land a few signing day surprises, too, including receiver Kadron Boone and defensive tackle Mike Thornton.
Following Georgia’s bowl win over Texas A&M, recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner said the Bulldogs signing class would likely top out at 25 or 26 players. Since then, three recruits have been lost, Rogers figures to be a fourth, and two members of the 2009 defense — Rennie Curran and Reshad Jones — announced they were leaving school early.
Reaching 25 signees — Georgia has 17 now — is not likely Richt’s primary concern. Simply finishing the day by plugging a few of the newly created holes would be enough.