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February 9, 2011The University of Georgia capped off another top five class on Saturday, adding Gulf Coast Community College defensive tackle Johnathan Jenkins as signee? number 26. In part one of our Signee Superlatives feature, UGASports takes a closer look at the class to see who will make the biggest impact, who was missed, who was the biggest steal and much, much more.
Class MVP: Isaiah Crowell - Crowell gets the nod as the five star running back was the consensus top target for the entire 2011 class. One of the hardest fought recruiting battles in years, the Georgia coaching staff learned of Crowell's destination when the rest of the nation did, as the 5-foot-11, 208-pound back didn't tell anyone other than his family before he announced on ESPNU. Crowell made a big splash in his announcement as well, bringing out a bulldog puppy to show the world his intentions to sign with UGA and cementing the Dream Team as a resounding success.
Runner Up: January 20th - The momentum of the recruiting class hung in the balance on this fateful Thursday, as two of Georgia's elite target were set to make their decisions known. While Valdosta tight end Jay Rome was predicted to pick Georgia, his addition to the class and persistence by tight end's coach John Lilly should not be overlooked. Most felt he was Clemson bound a year ago. Rome got the day going right for Georgia fans as he announced on ESPN he was joining the Dream Team, also calling out Ray Drew and Isaiah Crowell to join him in Athens. Teammate and outstanding athlete Malcolm Mitchell was also long thought to be headed out of state, with Florida being a player early on and Alabama being the perceived heavy favorite up until the night before he made a much celebrated announcement on the radio at a Hibachi grill in Valdosta. His decision to sign with Georgia over the Crimson Tide signaled the first big recruiting victory in months, and built momentum that would carry them through signing day. This big Thursday also built momentum for the huge recruiting weekend Georgia would have just 28 hours later as Kent Turene, Isaiah Crowell and Jonathan Jenkins rolled into town on official visits.? Two of them committed that weekend.
Most Upside: Zach DeBell - DeBell burst onto the recruiting scene last spring, after an impressive camp circuit brought the 6-foot-7, 255-pound first year offensive tackle double digit offers. DeBell had made the transition from defensive end smoothly, and college coaches across the country were fighting over the chance to work with his impressive frame and nasty demeanor. He committed to Georgia in July over Notre Dame, South Carolina, South Florida and Tennessee. New offensive line coach Will Friend has to be excited about the All-Conference potential of DeBell, who told UGASports on Monday he was at 280-pounds (up from 265-270 during the season) and hoped to be at 290-295 when he gets to Athens.
Runner Up: Ramik Wilson - Another talent plucked out of Florida, Wilson heads to Athens as one of the more unheralded four star prospects in the country. But anyone who has seen the 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker play will tell you Georgia got one of the top three linebackers in the Sunshine State. Rivals.com State of Florida Recruiting Analyst Chris Nee said of Ramik: "Wilson is a physically imposing linebacker that stands out from the second you see him amongst his peers on the field." Nee continued, "When the game begins, he also makes an impression. He moves very well sideline to sideline and does an effective job of making plays in space as well as attacking and getting into the offensive backfield. He is a versatile linebacker that the Bulldogs did a good job of stealing from the in-state schools before they made a late run at him." Georgia is bringing in two other outstanding linebackers in Kent Turene and Amarlo Herrera, but Wilson could end up being the best of the bunch in two years.
Unwavering commitment: Chris Sanders - Sanders is the obvious choice as he was the first commitment of the 2011 class back on January 30th. It needs to be mentioned that no matter when asked, Sanders did not hesitate to mention his love for Georgia. His offer list, which included schools such as Auburn and Florida State, would likely have tripled had Sanders not shut things down after making his decision. The Bulldog and Georgia Boy tattoo on his right arm solidifies his status as an unwavering commitment to Georgia.
Runner Up: Corey Moore - Moore would have been the first commitment if not for the fact that Sanders went into Coach Mark Richt's office first last January. One thing that stands out about Moore is that other schools, such as Alabama and Clemson, made multiple attempts to pluck the All-American safety from the Bulldogs. Nevertheless, the Rivals250 prospect stayed true to his word and signed with Georgia.
Biggest steal (From another school): Johnathan Jenkins - The massive defensive tackle was once committed to Oklahoma State, but Georgia targeted the 6-foot-4, 350-pound JUCO and made him a major priority. The chance to play in the SEC and the lure of being an integral part of Coach Todd Grantham's 3-4 defense were too much to pass up, as Jenkins chose Georgia on Saturday, February 5th.
Runner up: Kent Turene - Georgia never stopped recruiting the longtime USC commitment, and his first time in Athens sealed the deal for the childhood Savannah native. Turene decommitted from the Trojans just days before signing day, giving the Bulldogs a late victory over former Tennessee Volunteers coaches Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron. A year ago the two got a longtime Georgia commitment, Calhoun wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers, to join his teammate and good friend Nash Nance in Knoxville.
Biggest miss: Xzavier Dickson - The Griffin outside linebacker, who did not get the offer he wanted at Dawg Night in 2009 from ex-Bulldog defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, chose to sign with the school that offered first, Alabama. While Coach Grantham was quick to target and offer Dickson, the seven month difference was simply too much to overcome. Dickson was widely regarded as the top pass rusher in Georgia, and his 19 sacks backs up that statement.
Runner Up: Cornellius Carradine - With outside linebacker Justin Houston leaving early for the draft, the need was there to find a comparable talent to replace the All-SEC selection and Bronko Nagurski Trophy/Butkus Award finalist. While Dickson plays the same position, it was Butler JUCO DE "Tank" Carradine who likely could have stepped right in and filled Houston's shoes. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound specimen led all JUCO's with 16 quarterback sacks this season, and recorded 109 tackles for the Bulldogs. While Georgia was considered one of the top two finalists, Carradine chose the Seminoles. Florida State offered a month before Georgia, and were able to get the top rated JUCO on campus for their 31-7 victory over Florida.
Most surprising commitment: Xzavier Ward - Long thought to be done on the offensive line, Georgia sent out a late offer to East Paulding offensive tackle Taylor Gadbois in January. Unknown to most was that the Bulldogs had also re-extended an offer to Colquitt County standout Xzavier Ward. After Gadbois decided to stick with his lifelong favorite Miami, once again Georgia was thought to be likely finished at tackle. Later that day word got out that the Bulldogs had also offered Ward at the same time as Gadbois, and that the 6-foot-7, 270-pound lineman had jumped on the chance to join the Dream Team early Monday morning.
Runner Up: Nick Marshall - Considered to be one of the most gifted quarterbacks in the country, Wilcox County's Nick Marshall was one of the top targets for Coach Mike Bobo and Georgia. But when another elite passer, Butler's Christian LeMay, chose the Bulldogs, the consensus was that Georgia would not be adding the Rochelle star. After whispers that Georgia Tech might have added Marshall, the four star athlete gave UGASports the unexpected news late one Tuesday night in June that Marshall had not only committed to Georgia, but that he was going in as a defensive back. Most Bulldog fans woke up Wednesday morning to text alerts informing them of the unforeseen addition to Georgia's 2011 class.
Mr. Versatility: Nick Marshall - Marshall is no doubt one of the top athletes in the country. While leading Wilcox County to the Single A state championship his junior year, Marshall was 192-of-323 passing for 2,956 yards and 32 touchdowns, with only 13 interceptions. He also added a couple of interceptions on defense as well. His senior year, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound athlete had 2,728 yards and 41 passing touchdowns and set the state record for career touchdown passes with 101. On defense, Marshall had six interceptions and returned two for touchdowns, with a third returned for over 75 yards. Marshall also averaged 28 points a game playing basketball, and is a major BCS prospect in the sport as well. Marshall could play quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback, and safety at the next level. He will also play basketball at Georgia.
Runner up: Ramik Wilson - The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Rivals250 prospect will likely play at 240-250 pounds at the next level and could project as an inside linebacker, outside linebacker, tight end or even kick in some situations. The Jefferson linebacker posted one of the most impressive senior stat lines in the country, with 90 tackles, 18 sacks, five passes broken up, seven fumbles forced and one fumble recovery. Plus on offense he accumulated 19 catches for 258 yards and one touchdown at tight end, while also completing his only pass attempt for 72 yards and a touchdown. Wilson also handled kickoffs and punts, and is listed online as averaging over 47 yards per attempt. His coach says he has kicked punts over 60 yards multiple times in practices.
Fastest: Justin Scott-Wesley - The Mitchell County wide receiver burst onto the national scene last spring, when the 6-foot-1, 210-pound prospect smashed the state 100 meter time with 10.35. It was the fifth best time in the country when it happened and it cemented the Camilla standout as one of the fastest football players in the country. He also won the state title in the 200, running an impressive 21.575. With most sprinters checking in well below six feet tall, the tall Scott-Wesley will bring an impressive combination of size and explosiveness to Athens. His commitment to the Dawgs came as he was standing on the first place platform at the State of Georgia Track Championships. With a medal around his neck he donned a Georgia hat and committed in front of the crowd.
Runner Up: Malcolm Mitchell - While Scott-Wesley may hold claim to the fastest signee, Valdosta's Malcolm Mitchell may have an argument once the pads are on. The 6-foot-1, 187-pound athlete burned defensive backs all season long, setting Valdosta school records with 77 passes caught for 1,419 yards and 15 touchdowns. A big play waiting to happen, Mitchell had seven 100-yard receiving games, catching at least one touchdown pass in nine different games. He showed his blazing speed in St. Petersburg at the Under Armour All-American game, taking advantage of a mismatch with safety Erique Florence while making a 49-yard touchdown reception. Mitchell's speed may also get him on the field next year as a return specialist.
Strongest: Ray Drew - Described by national analyst Barry Every as possibly "one of the strongest players, pound-for-pound, in the country," Drew made his mark early in 2010 in the Badgersports Strongest Man competition. Up against lineman such as Trip Thurman, Marcus Jackson, Georgio Newberry, Cyrus Hobbi and Anthony Zettel, Ray was able to win multiple events. But it was his tug-o-war battle against a bigger offensive lineman that won over the analysts in attendance. Drew was on the brink of losing the tug-o-war, an almost impossible position from which to rally, but was somehow able to muster the strength and triumph, thus winning the overall competition.
Runner Up: Johnathan Jenkins - The 6-foot-4, 350-pound four star prospect is a monster of a defensive tackle, and is expected to give Georgia that push up front they lacked last season. Jenkins benches 430 right now, but hopes to close in on 500 hundred pounds when he reports to summer practice.
Sleeper: Chris Sanders - The Tucker free safety may have been the first commitment, but the 6-foot-1, 176-pound signee did not receive the fanfare like a lot of other additions to the Bulldogs' team. Sanders is a standout in coverage, showing good range and recovery speed. He needs to add weight, but his range is impressive and Sanders comes to Athens as one of the better coverage safeties of the last few years.
Runner Up: Sanford Seay - Seay was one of the later additions to the class, with the Lee County wide receiver emerging last fall as one of the more productive wideouts in Georgia. Seay had 68 passes for 1,105 yards and 15 touchdowns his senior year, and the 6-foot-2, 198-pound prospect showcases solid hands and route running on film, possibly the best at both in Georgia's receiver class. He may not have gotten the offers or publicity of Mitchell, Chris Conley or Scott-Wesley, but Seay's potential may be just as high.