Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press Dalton High School football player Watts Dantzler talks to friends, family and media in the commons area of Dalton High School on Sunday afternoon. Dantzler announced his signing with the University of Georgia, where his father played, on Sunday at a news conference at the high school.
DALTON, Ga. -- Mark Richt's recruiting Dream Team added its latest member Sunday when Dalton High School rising senior Watts Dantzler committed to the University of Georgia.
It was no coincidence that the 6-foot-8, 330-pounder, widely regarded by scouts as the top offenisve tackle in Georgia, chose Father's Day to announce his decision. Dantzler did it as a way to honor his later father, Danny, a former UGA player who died of Lou Gehrig's disease last year.
Dantzler, who reported more than 40 scholarship offers, had recently narrowed his list to Georgia and Auburn. He said he would have been happy in either program but family ties to the Bulldogs were too strong.
"I want to thank all the schools that have taken the time to recruit me," he said at a news conference Sunday. "I have been truly blessed to have had the opportunity to see some of the great schools in the country. Today being Father's Day truly means more than anything in the world to me. I had, and still have, the best dad in the world, and I know he's still looking down on me.
"I've rooted for Georgia since I was a little kid. Having my dad, mother and grandparents attend Georgia means I've had red and black running through my blood my whole life. Coach Mark Richt and my position coach, Stacy Searels, are the two best coaches in the country at what they do.
"I've felt at home there since I was a kid. I've always dreamed of putting on the red and black. One thing my dad always said when I was young was 'Go, Dawgs. Sic 'em.'"
Dantzler also considered Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee and Ole Miss. Among the reasons he chose Georgia, he said, was Richt's project to keep Georgia's best 2011 prep talent at home.
"The Dream Team concept was something I liked," Dantzler said. "They showed me the list (showing UGA's top targets) and I was at the top of the Dream Team, and that made me feel special. I'm going to be calling (Georgia recruits) Isiah Crowell and Gabe Wright when I get home and get them on board, and maybe we can have one of the top two or three recruiting classes in the country."
Recruiting analysts say Dantzler likely will be moved from his left tackle spot in high school to the right side in college. His Dalton position coach, former Tennessee All-American Bill Mayo, believes he can thrive on either side.
"Watts is a good enough athlete that he can play on the left side," Mayo said. "They may move him to the right side, but he's really a good run blocker -- very physical and dominant -- and he's a good enough athlete that he can play on the left side.
"In addition, Watts has a lot of football sense. He understands the game, more than just his assignment, but what everybody else is supposed to do. That will help him as he gets into college."
Adam Winegarden, Dalton's head coach the past two seasons, was in attendance Sunday and said Athens won't be Dantzler's final football home.
"Watts' talent and upside is limitless," said Winegarden, who is a finalist for a prep head coaching job in Alabama. "I think Watts can eventually play in the National Football League. He's been blessed with a ton of God-given ability. This is not the ending point for him at all. This is just the starting point.
"I think, for Watts, it's a great thing to get it out of the way. Now he can concentrate on being a great Catamount and teammate and being the best player he can be."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...