published Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Georgia expecting 'good group' again

A year after compiling a "Dream Team" of in-state signees, Georgia football coach Mark Richt will address a less-hyped recruiting class today in Athens. Alabama and Florida are expected to assemble the top two classes in the 14-team Southeastern Conference.
A year after compiling a "Dream Team" of in-state signees, Georgia football coach Mark Richt will address a less-hyped recruiting class today in Athens. Alabama and Florida are expected to assemble the top two classes in the 14-team Southeastern Conference.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Georgia football coach Mark Richt asked Peach State prospects last winter to join his "Dream Team," and the concept worked when the Bulldogs landed Columbus tailback Isaiah Crowell, Valdosta receiver Malcolm Mitchell, Thomasville linebacker Ray Drew and Atlanta cornerback Damian Swann.

There has been no catchy moniker for the Bulldogs and their 2012 recruiting efforts entering today's national signing day, and where would one begin?

"It's a really weird year for them," ESPN recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg said. "There seems to be so much talent leaving that state, and it's upper-echelon talent, but then you look at Georgia's class, and it's another good group for Mark Richt. No one had them getting Jordan Jenkins, and they got Keith Marshall.

"They are among the two or three SEC teams with some room left, so they could really close well. I think it could be another big finishing splash for Georgia."

Alabama could finish with the highest-rated class nationally and will be tops among SEC teams, though Florida could make an 11th-hour charge. The Gators are in the running for several undecided top-100 prospects, most notably cornerback Tracy Howard of Miramar, Fla., defensive end Leonard Williams of Daytona Beach, Fla., and receiver Stefon Diggs of Olney, Md., who has pushed his announcement to next week.

Georgia could land a consensus top-10 class by getting linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons of Valdosta, Ga., Rivals.com's No. 31 overall prospect, and offensive tackle Avery Young of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., the No. 74 prospect. Harvey-Clemons has an announcement scheduled this morning at 9 on ESPNU, with Young's announcement scheduled this afternoon at 2.

Tennessee enters today with a class ranked No. 18 by Rivals.com and No. 22 by ESPN but is not in Scout.com's top 25. The Volunteers have a commitment from just one of Rivals.com's top 25 Volunteer State prospects -- Jackson receiver Drae Bowles -- though Tennessee did not offer scholarships to many of the state's elite.

The Vols leaving Tennessee to find prospects has become as common as "Rocky Top" during games.

"You could look at it as a disadvantage and lean on that, but we chose to use our tradition and history and facilities as advantages," former UT coach Phillip Fulmer said. "Instead of being isolated and worrying about the state, we went after the entire East Coast, from New Jersey to Miami, as a recruiting base. You go back and look at our rosters, and we had kids from all over the country, and because of that, we sometimes had to bring in four or five guys to get one.

"That took me taking 70 to 75 home visits, and some of my peers were taking 25 and 30, but we were successful doing it."

The strangeness of Georgia's class this year is reflected by the rankings, as the Bulldogs entered today pegged No. 19 by Rivals.com, No. 17 by Scout.com and No. 5 by ESPN.

Georgia's top three commitments according to Rivals.com are offensive tackle John Theus, tailback Todd Gurley and Marshall, also a tailback, and none of those are within the state. Theus is from Jacksonville, Fla., and the two tailbacks are from North Carolina.

Snatching elite out-of-state prospects has been common among SEC schools this winter.

Florida's top two commitments, offensive tackle D.J. Humphries and defensive end Jonathan Bullard, are from North Carolina, and Alabama went into Louisiana to snag a commitment from safety Landon Collins and into Florida to get receiver Amari Cooper and athlete prospect Eddie Williams. Should Williams start out at receiver, he would join Cooper, Cyrus Jones and Chris Black in likely comprising the nation's top crop at that position.

"That is the one area Alabama probably hasn't been as successful in since the '08 class with Julio Jones as they have been in other positions," ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill said. "The wide receiver spot has been a significant priority for Alabama, and those guys will all be given an opportunity, because there is a significant need there."

Auburn also has the potential of gaining ground late, but the Tigers, who have a consensus top-20 class, could lose Diggs to Florida, Young to Georgia and cornerback Ronald Darby and defensive tackle Eddie Goldman each to Florida State.

The nation's No. 1 prospect according to Rivals.com, receiver Dorial Green-Beckham of Springfield, Mo., is expected to decide today between Missouri and Arkansas.

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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