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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Protecting Their Turf

The mood from fans yesterday seems pretty mixed. On one hand, you have the fans who are calling Signing Day a major fail for Georgia. On the other hand, you have fans going out of their way to defend what happened. As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in between.

The fact is, Georgia did land some very good players, and particularly on defense, a lot of solid depth for 2010 and stars for the future will enter the program in June. That's good. And Da'Rick Rogers is just one player -- and maybe even one who has the old Nuke LaLoosh attitude to boot -- so his loss probably won't make or break Georgia's claim to future SEC titles.

On the other hand, I think there were two very big areas of concern, and both were addressed by a couple of commenters.

First, from Muckbeast, who wrote:

"Also, look at how few of the top instate players we signed."

And this is the one thing that bothers and concerns me more than anything else.

It seems like this was a HUGE year for GA High School players. Why did we lose so many of them? :(

Indeed, Georgia didn't exactly protect its turf to the fullest. We talked about this at length a couple of weeks ago in one our in-depth recruiting posts, if you'll recall, and yesterday's results really underscored what might have well been considered a concern beforehand.

Of the top 10 recruits in the state, according to ESPN's rankings, Georgia landed just one -- Alec Ogletree. Now, to be fair, the Bulldogs did manage to snatch up four of the next 10. And to be even more fair, the No. 30 recruit in Georgia is roughly the same as the No. 2 recruit in, say, Arkansas.

So to say Georgia landed just one of the state's 10 best recruits certainly isn't the same as saying Georgia didn't ink a lot of very good players from the state -- 13 in all, to be precise, and just one of fewer than three stars.

But there is something to be said for protecting the borders and bringing in the best of the best that Georgia's very fertile recruiting trails have to offer. And when you stack the Bulldogs up against the competition, it really doesn't look like they did too well and keeping their best and brightest close to home.

To wit:

# of State
Top 10
# to other
SEC schools
Georgia 1 5
LSU 8 1
Tennessee 2 4*
Florida 6 0
Alabama 3 4
Auburn 2 5
South Carolina
5 3

* State still has one uncommitted player among its top 10 recruits.

None of the big guns in the SEC did a worse job of keeping its top 10 recruits than Georgia this year, and only Auburn allowed as many to land at another SEC school. And, to be fair yet again, Alabama and Auburn were the only schools on this list competing with another SEC school within its state's borders.

Even if we look at some other top national schools, Georgia comes up lacking.

# of State
Top 10
# to other
conf schools
Ohio State
4 1
Texas 7 2
Oklahoma 4 2*
USC 4 2
Penn State
4 2

* State still has one uncommitted player among its top 10 recruits.

Again, the only school we've looked at with as much trouble keeping top talent at home has been Tennessee -- and the Vols lost their head coach just weeks before signing day. That's not exactly the company you want to keep.

And yes, I know the argument that was brought up the last time that Georgia has a lot of border schools hoping to poach the state for prized recruits. That's true. But it doesn't mean it should be acceptable, and this year Georgia had the double whammy of missing out on a number of the best and brightest and instead seeing those players go to the Dawgs' main rivals.

Oh, and speaking of rivals, that brings me to the next point that a reader made that seems to be one of the more salient arguments that there shouldn't be much joy in Dawg-ville today.

Posted anonymously:

We can spin it all we want but this is a day that I would rather forget! I ask one simple question: have we made up ground on Florida or have we lost ground? Dawg Nation needs to wake the hell up! I'm tired of the spin machine that is Richt and Garner on "they got who they were targeting". Give me a break..we got taken behind the woodshed today and spanked. All is not well in Athens.

OK, perhaps "salient" was too strong a term. But the commenter has a point. Did Georgia make up ground on Florida yesterday? It's pretty hard to make the case that it did, and given the fact that the Gators have two of the past four national titles and have beaten Georgia in four of the last five head-to-head games, that's a problem.

And when it comes to protecting borders, it's hard to argue that Florida didn't do it as well as anyone. The Gators have a pretty talent-rich state chock full of poachers, too. And yet, they landed six of the best 10 players in the state, and not a one got away to another SEC school. That's dominating the recruiting trail. And if Florida's goal is to dominate, it should be Georgia's goal, too.

And the bigger problem? Urban "I'm risking my life to coach you!" Meyer didn't just dominate his home state. He was pretty dominant nationally, too.

Another somber rundown: Florida pulled the No. 6 player from Connecticut, the No. 6 player from Georgia, the No. 3 player from Alabama, the No. 1-ranked players in Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland, and the No. 1, No. 4 and No. 8 players out of California.

In other words, there were eight states in which Florida got as many top-10 recruits as Georgia got in its own state.

In other other words, Florida dominated California -- a state on the other side of the country -- far better than the Bulldogs recruited Georgia.

In the end, recruiting rankings don't mean everything, but they do mean something. And whatever that something amounts to, Georgia fell behind by a good bit of it to the one team it needs to start catching up to.

(Side note: Yes, I realize this was a fairly negative post, so I'm sorry to bum you out. I'll conclude then, with this note from Firebrand, which I think also offers some good perspective on things:

"What gives me hope is that we went through a lot this off-season. And we had a bad year on the field, as well. Hopefully this season sets us up for a huge 2011 in recruiting. I think the 3-4 should excite Athletes across the state to come play some attacking football."

Indeed. Anyone who wanted coaching changes had to know the risks involved.

What happened yesterday was, in part, due to those risks. But the future has potential, as Mark Richt said: "We’re very confident and trying to do the right thing. We’re also confident in that a lot of NFL teams and college teams are moving toward this trend, so we’re moving to the front end of this trend.”)


Anonymous said...

The 2009-2010 year has caught the UGA program in a kind of funk: below average wins, longer than expected coaching change, loss of some key recruits. However, it is clear that Richt has made some big decisions, and the effects of these decisions may cost us some in the short-term.

We have great talent on our team, and hopefully, we will see the fruits of talent/new coaching on the field next year. Next year's strong performance will bring back our swagger, and it will show up in next year's recruiting as well.

Irwin R. Flecther said...

I think the problem is that by all means, UGA had a down year. They ended in the Independence Bowl, lost in bad fashion to three of the five teams in the division, fired a bunch of coaches, and took 3 weeks to hire a guy with a solid resume but with no ties to recruits.

You can go one of two ways on this, but they both start at the same points. UGA didn't gain ground on Florida in 2009. UGA did not have a good year in 2009. UGA did not take any steps forward in 2009. So the two ways you can go are (1) UGA is on the way down or (2) UGA had a down year, certainly a top 5 recruiting class wasn't to be expected after that, but let's see how the changes shake out on the field before digging a grave for the program.

I choose #2. I think it follows reality more closely and still allows guarded optimism...something this coach and these players deserve from a fan base after the last decade of solid work. The fact is that 2009 was not a good season for a program that wants to win championships. Period. I don't think any of the coaches would argue that point. This recruiting class is a reflection of that. Was it awful? was probably a bit better than the actually season. (the average talent based on stars or what have you was solid...but the total numbers should have been higher) Was it championship level? No, and anyone that thought it would be was perhaps a bit naive.

What all this means beyond that is all speculation. Again, when you look at star rating, it wasn't a bad class. Win in 2010 and you should be able to sign a solid number of players in 2011 to make up the gap. The facts are that UGA won 8 games, finished strong against Auburn, Tech and A&M, has a new staff that should start building ties within the state, and has a TON of underclassmen talent signed during the height of Knowshon/Stafford hysteria...

Honestly, though comments like this get me jacked up... "Dawg Nation needs to wake the hell up"??? Really? Where has this jack been? In Saddam's spider hole or something? (Speaking of which...arrest development re-runs on IFC on Saturday's are absolute manna from the gods) So his advice would be for Richt and Garner to take a public dump on the program and the recruiting class? Great idea. Don't be a bunch of tools. You wanted a better direction than the one we had seen under Willie...Richt agreed and made the changes. You don't have to be a rah rah sunshine and buttercups guy, but at least acknowledge reality. We haven't reached the post Bill Solich Nebraska stage yet, folks.

jlove said...

3 words:

murray, ealey, and green.

most likely go undefeated next season (check out our schedule, much more favorable than this past season) as long as we can knock off the florida -used2be-tebow's and the pricks from tech.

Wells said...

UGA got 4 of the top 10 GA recruits according to rivals, and either did not offer (Ambles, Storm Johnson) or offered very late/did not strongly pursue (Tailer Jones) 3 of the other top ten kids; hence, at least according to Rivals, things do not appear nearly as bad as they do according to

Regardless, the Dawgs clearly lost ground to Florida by virtue of the talent each school signed for the class of 2010.

Irwin R. Flecther said...


I want to go back to another point. Our issue isn't an ability to connect with kids 'in-state.' State boundaries are a red herring. Our biggest issue is the ability to lock down Metro Atlanta. Georgia is a huge state. It is the largest state east of the Mississippi. Auburn, FSU, Florida, and Clemson...draw a circle around those schools using a radius of 150 miles and you probably cover more area in Georgia than in their home state.

Look at ESPN's list again...most of those kids are from Atlanta. UGA missed on most of them. 9 kids on that list are from Gwinett, Hall, Walton, and Newton Counties....UGA got 2.

Rather than using artificial boundaries like state lines, I'd be curious to see how UGA has done within a 150 mile radius of Athens compared to other schools recruiting kids within 150 miles of their campus. I'm not sure that would be favorable to UGA. Of course, the flip side is that while GA Tech, Auburn, Tennessee, Clemson, South Carolina, FSU, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, and Vanderbilt's 150 mile radius would ALL overlap UGA's, a place like Texas (which would only overlap with A&M and Baylor) or USC (UCLA) or LSU (anyone??? maybe Starkville...but that's stretching it according to Google Maps!).

Randall said...

Keep in mind the rating system does not take into accout academics or criminal records. Would we really want a top 5 recruiting class if they end up holding up a gas station at gun point? (Kiffin) Do we even persue kids that are unable to make it in the classroom? (Harrick) We certainly don't want to go down that road or Jan Kemp again. Richt seems to have a different type of player that he is going after. Did I read that Kolston graduated with a 3.75? I would like to see the BS "star" system crossed with GPA and criminal records. Go Dawgs! Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Had Florida not signed this monster class, they would have finished 3rd in the East. As is, they'll finish a nice little 2nd. So good for them, I guess.

Additionally, the whole "OMG GEORGIA WAS IN THE INDEPENDENCE BOWL!!!!" argument is silly. Georgia was sent to Shreveport because Georgia was *screwed*. The Dawgs were better than Auburn, both overall and head-to-head, but the Tiggers got sent to a NYD bowl. Stupid.

The real hierarchy should have been this:

Outback: UT
Chick-fil-A: Georgia
Music City: Kentucky
Liberty: Arkansas
Indy: Auburn

kwame said...

UGA seems (sorry Dave) to be trending downward lately, overall. For whatever reason, we didn't get our top choices for DC (I like Grantham and think he will prove to be successful, but he wasn't our top choice). Maybe recruits saw that as a knock on the program. Other than Thornton, we lost every head to head battle over recruits since mid December. There's just a lot of negativity around, and a lot of people questioning Richt and Co.'s abilities and decisions. Some say UGA regularly underachieves, considering the high school talent and the amount of UGA alums in the NFL.
I think the upcoming season will be a good chance for things to turn around, thanks to a manageable schedule and the running game and offensive line, as long as the defense gets nasty again.

Matt said...

I remember reading somewhere (yesterday) another person essentially saying this:

UGA missed out on the top quarterback, top runningback, top OL, top WRs, top CBs, and top linebacker in the state.

I understand losing some guys, but that is losing out on a lot of positions, including many of need.

Also, if hiring new defensive coaches was an issue, why were most of our best recruits on the defensive side of the ball? Also, the only recruit we picked up yesterday was a highly rated defensive tackle. Not sure what to make of that. You might be right, but we didn't do well in offensive recruiting either.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to piggyback on Matt's comment. It is fine that Da'Rick chose the Vols, I definitely subscribe to the, "we only want players who really want to be Bulldogs" philosophy, but I am wondering why he switched his commitment at the very last minute? Yes, it appears that something was going on with Nance Jr. and Nance Sr., but wasn't CMR (or Garner) in constant contact with this guy? Did they not know something was up? And if not, why? Can't blame the loss of a recruit who plays offense on the firing of three coaches who ran the defense.

opsomath said...

Just want to reiterate that getting all the players from GA is an unrealistic goal. If you're from west Georgia, you are just as likely to grow up in Auburn territory than surrounded by Dawg fans, and if you're from south Georgia, you are actually more likely to be an FSU fan than a Dawg. FSU has invested for decades to make that happen, even offering south GA students in-state tuition to make sure that area is their turf.



Dan said...

Did we really lose ground on Florida? TEBOW GRADUATED. UGA traded Willie for Grantham. NO we did not lose ground in the first two months of 2010 to the Gators.

As for recruits, you are all referring to a group of high school kids that haven't played a down of SEC football. Some will become all SEC, but some will get injured, some will flunk out, some will become felons, some will transfer, some will play 2nd string behind the other top recruit, and some will never qualify.

Yes we missed out on some guys due to transition, but it's one class and if memory serves me correct the last 4 years of top classes have not resulted in a trip to the SEC Championship. Remember the goal is to finish first in the SEC, not the Rivals standings.

Don't lose focus Dawg Nation, the defensive cancer we've had the past few years is being cured by Dr. Grantham.

And don't forget, Pollack was a 3 star and Thomas Davis was only offered one D1 scholarship, the difference was their defensive coaching. My bet is there are a few in this recruiting class that can play ball too if they are coached up. GAME ON!

joeski said...

I have to take issue with Matt and those who think like him in regards to this comment:
"UGA missed out on the top quarterback, top runningback, top OL, top WRs, top CBs, and top linebacker in the state."

This is directly related to what I said on earlier comments: these so-called 'rankings' are misleading, and you cannot judge the recruits a school has pulled in until they are no longer at the school (regardless of how/why they leave). Until then, it's all just HYPE, which might in fact be driven by something beyond a rational and unbiased consideration.

The name David Pollock ring a bell to you? He was a 'marginal 3-star recruit' according to; David Greene? 4 star.

As I've said before: you really just CAN'T judge anything more than potential in high school athletes.

I am more sympathetic to theworldaccordingtojennifer's concerns: if we feel we have a recruit locked up, we should get him, because scrambling to fill that slot if he should bolt is not going to yield an optimal result... but then again, there is only so much you can do, right?

I remember when I was 18... I was a complete flake about where to go hang out with my friends, much less a more serious decision regarding where I was going to go to college.

Anonymous said...

Do the commentors take in consideration the needs of the UGA? If the top ten are all defense or offense then we won't pursue them all. If a QB, for example, doesn't like your scheme..a la GT..he won't think of coming to your school or some looking at your depth chart figures they can play sooner elsewhere..or do we just seek to sign the top ten or twenty and assign "athlete" status to them until we see how things shake out? Now if we're competing for each of the ten and they're still leaving, e.g. Akins, then we can start to worry.