Georgia goes outside for success

Georgia goes outside for success

February 6th, 2014 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia coach Mark Richt, left, and fans react after a young fan asked a tough question about Georgia's special teams on national signing day Wednesday in Athens, Ga.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Georgia had its borders penetrated during the recruiting cycle that ended Wednesday, but Bulldogs had plenty of success in bordering states to compile yet another successful class in the Mark Richt era.

The Bulldogs signed just three of Rivals.com's top 13 Peach State prospects but ventured into Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina to collect nine of their 21 total signees. Three of Georgia's out-of-state signees are in Rivals.com's top-100 prospects, including running back Sony Michel of Plantation, Fla., who is the highest-rated Bulldogs signee as the nation's No. 13 overall recruit.

"We are very, very pleased," Richt said. "We feel like we do a good job of evaluating, and we feel like we do a good job of getting after the ones we want. Obviously, we don't get them all, but nobody gets them all. We know this is a tremendous state, and when we go out of state, we're looking for some pretty special cats. We feel like we've done that as well."

As of Wednesday night, Georgia's class was ranked eighth nationally by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com, ninth by ESPN and 12th by Scout.com. The Bulldogs had Rivals.com's No. 12 classes in both 2012 and '13, which followed their "Dream Team" class of 2011 that was ranked No. 5.

Georgia signed three Rivals.com top-100 prospects from within the state as well, landing Cedartown tailback Nick Chubb, Norcross defensive end Lorenzo Carter and Quitman cornerback Malkom Parrish. Carter made his announcement Wednesday afternoon on ESPNU.

"He's a great kid, a great student and just a great person," Richt said. "He's the kind of guy that could end up being a captain for you one day. I would expect him to be a leader in his class, and I bet he takes on some leadership role on the team within the next couple of years."

Though Chubb, Carter and Parrish stayed in state, four of the Peach State's top 13 prospects opted for Clemson, with Auburn and South Carolina getting two apiece. The state's top prospect, Hinesville linebacker Raekwon McMillan, signed with Ohio State.

When Richt was asked if he is concerned with Clemson and South Carolina -- Georgia's first two opponents last season and this season -- invading the state, he quickly retorted, "We've been going in their state, too, so they might need to worry about that."

Quarterback Jacob Park of Goose Creek, S.C., receiver Isaiah McKenzie of Plantation, Fla., and tight end Jeb Blazevich of Charlotte, N.C., were four-star signees who chose to leave their respective states for Georgia.

"My college roommate was from Charlotte, and it's three hours away and an easy drive," Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "Every player, really, that we've signed since we've been here from North Carolina or South Carolina has had a high percentage of being very productive players for us. We're going to continue to recruit great players, and we're going to continue to recruit this state, but you're never going to make everybody happy in this state.

"The way Atlanta is now, it's not like you're recruiting south Georgia. A lot of people in Atlanta didn't grow up there, where in south Georgia, those people are from Georgia and they have roots. It's a constant battle, but that's part of it. We're still the state school, and I believe you can get everything any young man wants here."

Bobo cited receiver Rico Johnson as an important signee due his speed, adding that he had to change his play-calling last year after the stretch-the-field threats of Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley were lost for the season with ACL injuries.

Though 13 of Georgia's signees are expected to play on offense, new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was happy with his haul. Of Georgia's eight defensive signees, four are in the secondary.

"We focused a little bit on the back end from the time we got here," Pruitt said. "The quickest way to be good or bad on defense starts with the secondary. If you're good in the secondary, you've got a chance to be good on defense. If you're struggling in the secondary and make a mistake back there, everybody knows it.

"We have a lot of guys coming back on defense, but we just felt like we needed to start from the back and work forward."

Odds and ends

Georgia signed its class down one defensive assistant, which had Richt praising three graduate assistants who went on the road -- Mike McDonald and former Bulldogs Daniel Inman and Christian Robinson. ... Richt on whether he's asked by recruits if he will still be coaching in four years: "I haven't heard that. Coach Bowden went to 80, so what does that give me, another 27 years?" ... Richt said new defensive line coach Tracy Rocker will work with four positions, with a rush linebacker joining the three down linemen.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.