ATHENS, Ga. — Since Rivals.com began its extensive rankings of college football prospects and signing classes in 2002, Georgia, Oklahoma and Southern Cal are the lone programs to have produced top-15 collections each year.
Of the three recruiting coordinators at those schools, only Georgia’s Rodney Garner has been in that role for all 11 classes. Garner has headed recruiting efforts for the Bulldogs since 1998, which predates the current plethora of Internet services, let alone texts and tweets.
The 45-year-old Garner took time on national signing day to discuss how recruiting has evolved since he joined Jim Donnan’s staff in ’98 and was retained by Mark Richt in 2001. The Bulldogs have been ranked among Rivals.com’s top-10 classes nine times in the 11 years, with Wednesday’s haul just missing out at No. 11.
Q: Does recruiting ever end for you?
A: “Really it doesn’t. Even before this class was signed, we had a big junior day last weekend and had over 100 kids here, and counting their guests there were about 450 people here. So you’re on to the next class.
“You want to be able to revel with these guys and give them the celebration they deserve, but at the same time you’ve got to be moving and looking toward the future.”
Q: Do you enjoy this as much as you did when you first got here?
A: “Oh, yeah. It’s still fun. There are aspects of it that have changed, and I’m not sure they have changed for the better, but you’ve got to adapt or you’ve got to get out.”
Q: If you could change some things about recruiting, what would they be?
A: “I don’t know if I would do anything so much with the rules. I just think these young men receive so much attention right now, and I sometimes feel like it’s almost impossible for them to live up to all the accolades and all the expectations that are going to be expected of them.
“It may not give them a very realistic picture of what to expect now that all of this is over, because now you’ve got to go to work and really put in the time. Things are going to be based on merit and your body of work and not on someone trying to persuade your decision.”
Q: Considering the attention prospects receive, do you encourage them to not return all the calls and texts from those who cover recruiting?
A: “We tell them that all the time, but they’re just like everybody else. Everybody wants the attention. It’s just like how so many people now want to wait until national signing day to announce. They do it for the shock value.
“You guys in the media helped create this. It’s self-inflicted.”
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 ...