published Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Tweets tweak recruiting

ATHENS, Ga. -- When Rodney Garner became Georgia's recruiting coordinator in 1998, video clips of high school football prospects were not readily available on the Internet.

There were no comprehensive online recruiting sites such as Rivals.com and Scout.com, nor were players announcing their decisions by wearing various hats. Garner has evolved with these publicity-driven avenues in the recruiting process, but now Facebook.com and Twitter.com have entered the mix.

"I know you've got to embrace some of these things, but my job is already encompassing enough," Garner said. "I'm not going down certain roads right now until I have to."

As the recruiting passion continues to grow, so have Facebook and Twitter as means to which prospects can give updates or clues about their decisions. In some cases, they intentionally mislead people to see what kind of reaction will occur.

Former Ooltewah defensive end Jacques Smith admitted to that last month after claiming it was "Alabama or LSU" on his Facebook page before enrolling early at Tennessee.

"The Facebook thing was just for fun," Smith said. "Me and (fellow Vols signee) Jawuan James thought it would be funny to mess with the fans and post something about maybe going to another school."

Georgia coach Mark Richt said he and his staff monitor some of the reports from Web sites and try to decipher what is fiction or true. Richt admitted the past several weeks have been chaotic in that regard.

"A lot of things do get out of control," Richt said. "I talked to a guy at lunch the other day who has a plane that looks like ours or has a 'G' on it, and he said every time he takes off and does business, there is a report that we're going to get a certain coach or a certain player. He took some trips to Tuscaloosa and to Knoxville, and it was craziness."

Jakar Hamilton, a safety who enrolled at Georgia last month, spent time on MySpace.com when he was in ninth and 10th grade. He's all about Facebook now, as are a lot of his new teammates.

Georgia's most talented player, receiver A.J. Green, had 7,248 fans on his Facebook page as of Tuesday.

"Facebook is like another life," Hamilton said. "People spend at least three or four hours a day on it, probably more than that, and a lot of recruiting gets done through that. There will be a player that coaches are trying to get, and I will go and tell them, 'Coach is trying to get in touch with you.' Facebook really helps a lot if you're trying to reach out to a player."

Twitter is increasingly active in recruiting, too.

In late January, former Vols commitment and eventual Southern Cal signee Markeith Ambles visited Knoxville. The Atlanta-area receiver "tweeted" that he wanted to get physical with a 25-year-old Knoxville radio host, but she rejected him publicly via Twitter.

Just last week, Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo and Tennessee receiver signee Da'Rick Rogers verbally sparred through Twitter. Rambo claimed he would "knock fire" from Rogers when the Bulldogs and Vols play, and Rogers replied, "Who is Bacarri Rambo?"

New Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham wasn't dealing with Facebook or Twitter when he left Michigan State for an 11-year run as an NFL assistant. Grantham spent the past two seasons in Dallas as defensive line coach and said most Cowboys players were on Twitter but that there weren't these kinds of issues to deal with.

These issues may only be beginning.

"The Internet has made a lot of things more visible," Grantham said. "You get a little bit more footage at times, so things are more accessible to you than they were in the past. I also think there is more stuff out there that could be true and could not be true.

"I think you have to take all that with a grain of salt and get to know the players."

about David Paschall...

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 ...

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