This was one Friday the 13th that was filled with anything but horror.
Georgia's hopes for a special 2012 football season intensified Friday afternoon when several junior defenders announced they were staying for their final college season. The Bulldogs had more than half of their starting defense request paperwork to the NFL's draft advisory board, but the only player leaving early is tight end Orson Charles, who announced his intention Wednesday.
"It started out scary, because there were so many talented guys that had very good reason to think about the NFL," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I think they're all going to end up in the NFL one day, and it's kind of scary to think you will lose two, three, four, five or six great players potentially. Now that it's over and most everybody stayed, it gives me tremendous confidence that these guys really want to be here."
The Bulldogs finished 10-4 this past season, winning their first SEC East title since 2005, and wound up 19th in the Associated Press poll after ending the previous two seasons unranked.
Safeties Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams announced Wednesday that they were returning, while outside linebacker Cornelius Washington and cornerbacks Sanders Commings and Branden Smith waited until Friday. Nose tackle John Jenkins said he was coming back days before the Bulldogs lost the Outback Bowl to Michigan State, and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the team's most heralded player, said he never requested paperwork.
"I felt like this past season went by so fast, and we didn't complete what we wanted to complete," Jenkins said. "We set a foundation of where we can be in a few years, but we know that as a group we have to finish the drill. To come back with these guys and their decisions to stay are a big deal for Georgia."
Said Washington: "You think about this past season and all the success we had, and we believe we can go above and beyond that."
Rambo called Richt several days ago to inform him that he was likely leaving before changing his mind, and Commings said there was continual communication among those with decisions.
The Bulldogs will return every defensive starter from the Outback Bowl except cornerback Brandon Boykin. Georgia finished 11th nationally in rushing defense (allowing 101.2 yards per game), 10th in passing defense (176) and fifth in total defense (277.2), and its run defense was the most effective since the 1985 Bulldogs allowed 99.5 yards a game.
Georgia's offense will lose Charles, center Ben Jones and tackles Justin Anderson and Cordy Glenn from the starting lineup, but it won't lose backup quarterback Hutson Mason. After weeks of debating whether or not to transfer, the 6-foot-3, 196-pound sophomore from Marietta has decided to stay and redshirt next season.
That will give Mason an opportunity to start in his senior season or in his junior and senior seasons if Aaron Murray makes himself eligible for the 2013 draft.
Friday's good news for the Bulldogs spilled into recruiting as well, as Georgia received a commitment from Todd Gurley, a 6-1, 210-pound running back from Tarboro, N.C. Gurley rushed 148 times for 1,457 yards and 27 touchdowns this past season and is rated the No. 13 running back nationally by Scout.com and the No. 29 athlete prospect by Rivals.com.
Gurley chose the Bulldogs over scholarship offers from Clemson and North Carolina State.