Alabama head coach Nick Saban gestures to the fans as he leaves the field after defeating Georgia 41-30 in an NCAA college football game in Athens, Ga., Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
The Alabama Crimson Tide may not be through with Georgia.
Alabama, a 41-30 winner over the Bulldogs last Saturday night at Sanford Stadium, is developing a stronger recruiting presence in the Peach State. The Crimson Tide already have four commitments from Georgia for their 2009 signing class after signing only five in the five-year stretch from 2002-06.
“I think that’s probably going to start being the case,” Rivals.com recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg said Wednesday. “The state of Georgia is always loaded with 150-plus Division I recruits, and Georgia is pretty much going to get who they want, but I think with Alabama’s success, kids are obviously going to want to play for that program and for Nick Saban.”
Three of Alabama’s commitments are Atlanta-area offensive linemen — Jonesboro’s Darius McKeller, Atlanta’s Chance Warmack and Snellville’s Kellen Williams. The other is Ridgeland High receiver Michael Bowman, who is the highest-rated of the four.
Saban pointed out last week that Georgia is rich with talent and that Atlanta is within three hours from Tuscaloosa.
“Georgia is fourth, I think, in prospects behind Texas, California and Florida, and it’s relatively close to us,” Saban said. “Our state is very important in recruiting, but we philosophically try to look at the five-hour radius of where we are as places we should at least start our recruiting base, and it includes a significant part of Georgia.”
THE GREAT EIGHT
Georgia’s top eight prep football prospects for the 2009 signing class:
1. LB Jarvis Jones 6-3, 226 Columbus undecided
2. DB Branden Smith 5-11, 171 Atlanta undecided
3. DB Darren Myles 6-0, 175 Atlanta undecided
4. OL Chris Burnette 6-2, 300 LaGrange Georgia
5. ATH Donavan Tate 6-2, 205 Cartersville undecided
6. RB Washaun Ealey 5-11, 205 Twin City Georgia
7. DT Abry Jones 6-3, 250 Warner Robins Georgia
8. WR Michael Bowman 6-4, 206 Rossville Alabama
The Crimson Tide have been quite visible in Georgia this season after opening with a 34-10 drubbing of Clemson in the Georgia Dome. They are expected to open next season in the Dome against Virginia Tech.
Leading Alabama’s recruiting efforts in Georgia are defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson. Smart grew up in Bainbridge and played safety at Georgia, while Thompson grew up in Riverdale.
Of course, just because Alabama might be peering into Georgia doesn’t mean the Bulldogs can’t look elsewhere as well.
“Georgia is doing a little more out-of-state recruiting than they have in the past,” Newberg said. “Look at Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno. They’re from Texas and New Jersey. To me, Georgia’s best commitment to date might be quarterback Aaron Murray, and he’s from Tampa.”
Columbus linebacker Jarvis Jones is the Peach State’s top-rated prospect, but Newberg doesn’t believe he has Alabama or Georgia in the picture. Newberg believes the No. 2 prospect, Atlanta Washington defensive back Branden Smith, will pick between Georgia and LSU, and the No. 3 prospect, Atlanta Carver defensive back Darren Myles, might choose between Georgia and Alabama but has a bunch of options.
Alabama-Georgia recruiting battles have been very rare in recent years, with Crimson Tide defensive end Lorenzo Washington being the most recent example. Washington, who hails from Loganville, picked the Tide over the Bulldogs in 2004.
“You don’t really see them, and I don’t know what the real reason is for that,” Newberg said. “Previous coaching staffs at Alabama may not have felt they had a chance at those elite Georgia kids like an Auburn did or a Florida did or a Tennessee did. That may change.”
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...