Georgia signing class more about depth than stars
The Georgia Bulldogs had a lot of prospects to show off
Just not some of the names the fans wanted to see.
Coming off a season in which it came up 5 yards short of playing
for a national title, Georgia unveiled the largest signing class of
the Mark Richt era, a staggering 32 prospects bolstered by 13
players who’ve already enrolled in Athens after graduating early
from high school and junior college.
It figured to be one of the top-ranked groups in the country,
but there was plenty of grumbling among the red and black faithful
about the ones who got away, the so-called five-star recruits who
get the fan base all pumped up.
The prospect generally considered the best in the nation,
defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of Grayson High School in suburban
Atlanta, followed his older brother to Mississippi instead of
signing with the school that is less than an hour’s drive away. The
Rebels, who are coming off a 7-6 season, also landed another player
near the top of Georgia’s wish list, offensive lineman Laremy
Tunsil from Lake City, Fla. Finally, there was top-rated linebacker
Reuben Foster, who picked defending national champion Alabama over
Auburn and the Bulldogs.
Richt, not surprisingly, said he was happy with the players he
”I really don’t have any disappointments right now,” said the
coach, who attended a news conference just four days after having
hip-replacement surgery. ”As far as I’m concerned, we got the
number one class in America. We took care of business in the areas
we needed. We got guys who are very, very talented and are excited
to be here. Our job is to develop them into a great football team.
That’s what matters the most.”
With plenty of needs to fill, especially on the defensive side,
the Bulldogs focused heavily on building their numbers at a variety
of positions. They signed eight defensive backs, six linebackers
and a trio of defensive tackles who all clear the scales at more
than 300 pounds. The newcomers will help fill the voids left by the
departure of stars such as Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, Bacarri
Rambo and John Jenkins.
”Different people have opinions on where people rank and that
kind of thing,” Richt said. ”We know as coaches that we got a
great class that we’re proud of and very excited about. Somebody
invented these rankings, decided to rank the players and make a big
deal about it. The reality is what happens when we hook it up and
play Clemson (in the season opener). That’s what our fans care
about the most.”
The lead-up to signing day was marred by off-the-field
Longtime recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner left to take a
coaching job at Auburn, his alma mater. Defensive coordinator Todd
Grantham will reportedly have an interview with the New Orleans
Saints this week, the latest in a series of potential NFL jobs he’s
been linked to over the last two years. Finally, there was Richt’s
ailing hip, which required surgery last Saturday. He had intended
to wait until after signing day, but bumped up the operation so he
could attend a Southeastern Conference coaches meeting next
”I knew it was a dead period. I couldn’t physically go anywhere
anyway,” Richt said. ”We’re allowed to make X-amount of calls. I
really could do the same things from my home on the telephone that
I could sitting in my office. I felt it was the best thing to do to
go ahead and have the surgery.”
Grantham wouldn’t address his interest in the Saints job. He
would only say he’s happy at Georgia and expects to be coaching the
Bulldogs defense next season.
”I’m not going to respond to all the rumors and innuendos
because it’s very difficult to do that all the time,” he said.
”So I’ll just leave it as it is.”
Georgia has some key weapons on offense coming back next season,
including quarterback Aaron Murray and running backs Todd Gurley
and Keith Marshall. Not surprisingly, they were light on recruiting
those positions, signing one quarterback (early enrollee Brice
Ramsey from Kingsland, Ga.) and a pair of running backs. The main
focus on that side was receiver (four signees, plus two other
players listed as athletes) and four linemen to bulk up the guys in
Among the highest-rated players landed by the Bulldogs:
defensive back Tray Matthews of Newnan, Ga.; linebacker Tim
Kimbrough of Indianapolis; defensive end Leonard Floyd of Eastman,
Ga.; and offensive lineman Brandon Kublanow of Marietta, Ga.
Everyone in the class is eager to show they’re just as good – or
better – than the ones who didn’t come to Athens.
”This is the class we got. This is the class we want,” said
offensive lineman Aulden Bynum, another early enrollee out of
Valdosta, Ga. ”If you don’t want to be here, you don’t need to be
J.J. Green of Kingsland, Ga., said there’s no reason this group
of Bulldogs can’t keep up the success of the ones who came before.
Georgia has won two straight SEC East crowns and just missed
playing for the BCS championship last month, losing to eventual
national champ Alabama 32-28 in a thrilling conference title
”Just because you’re a three-star guy, that doesn’t mean you
can’t ball out and beat a five-star guy out,” said Green, who can
play receiver and other positions. ”We’re going to be out there
playing with a chip on our shoulder.”
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