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February 7, 2001
By: Steve Patterson
Mark Richt signed his first class as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs Wednesday, and a star studded class it is. Ranked in the top 15 nationally by recruiting services, the signing class of 2001 fills needs at every position.
"This is a special class for coach Richt," said Georgia recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner. "Not only is it his first recruiting class at the University of Georgia, it is his first recruiting class as a head coach."
Indeed Mark Richt's first class of signees fills all the immediate needs of the Bulldogs. Interior offensive and defensive linemen were the top priority, followed by linebackers, and then skill players.
None was bigger than the addition of the top quarterback in the Southeast for 2001.
D.J. Shockley (6-1, 175-lbs.) of North Clayton High in College Park, Ga., threw for 1,861 yards and 11 touchdowns on his way to being named to the Rivals.com All America First Team. Shockley also rushed for 864 yards and eight touchdowns.
"D.J. is very talented," said Rich. "He throws the ball very well. He is a very athletic runner. You are always looking for a quarterback who can make great decisions, hit the target, have the arm strength to make the throws you want him to throw, and then if you can add athletic ability to that you might have something very special."
As a junior, Shockley recorded 1,352 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for 733 yards and nine touchdowns.
"His potential is outstanding," continued Richt. "You want a guy with great leadership, you want a guy who is a good student and citizen, and all the things that you need in a great quarterback. I have always told my quarterbacks that 'if I have got to motivate you in the classroom, or if I have to motivate you to be a leader, then I probably have the wrong guy. He is a great student, leader, and great citizen, and he has great ability. All those things together should pave the way for a very good career for him."
The skill players, or athletes came in the form of players like quarterback safety Greg Blue, Bama Adams, and signing day surprise Tony Milton who came out of obscurity.
"Tony Milton is a kid that played a couple of seasons ago," said Rich. "He was recruited by everybody in the South, and also teams like Nebraska, Ohio State, and Syracuse. He did not qualify at the time, but he is a great athlete. Played running back and defensive back and is a very multi-talented guy. He has not been in school the last couple of years. He has had an opportunity to get bigger and strong and continue on getting his test score."
Milton was a top name on the recruiting trail in 1999. The 5-11, 195-pounder from North Florida Christian in Tallahassee, Fl., signed with Syracuse out of desperation when his native Florida schools and a host of others backed off with academic concern. Failing to qualify, Milton became determined to make it to college.
"He is extremely fast and has extreme quickness," said Garner. "He is a young man that has played several positions as a skill athlete. So obviously he wants play running back first."
The Bulldogs also needed to get at least one of the top running backs in the state. In a year when the Peach State featured five of the top 20 rated running backs in the nation, Georgia did not get a single one.
In addition to Milton, the Dawgs needed to get at least one other potential running back from the "sleeper" or "out of state" catagory.
Tyson Browning (5-9, 165-lbs.) of Oconee County in Watkinsville, Ga., rushed for 1,904 yards and 23 touchdowns his senior season. He averaged 9.6 yards per carry. As a junior he rushed for 1,849 yards and 32 touchdowns on Oconee County's way to a perfect season and the state championship.
"He is electric, makes people miss, a lot of big plays, and he seems to have no fear for a guy who is not real big," described Richt. "You have got to have tremendous speed, quickness, and bravery to play when you are not a real big guy."
"There has been a lot of smaller players who have seceded in a lot of different programs," said Richt. "It is usually because they have a lot of heart and it is usually because they are quick."
"I guess I can't say they are always brave," he chuckled in all seriousness. "Maybe the fear of getting hit keeps them from getting hit."
Mike Gilliam (5-9, 176-lbs.) of Lincoln High in Tallahassee, Fl., was named 6A All State First Team as a senior after rushing for 2,683 yards and 35 touchdowns. As a junior, Gilliam he rushed for 1,140 yards and 16 touchdowns as his team went on to win the state championship.
Wide receiver Fred Gibson (6-4, 180-lbs.) of Ware County High in Waycross, Ga., was a last minute surprise for the Dawgs. The Rivals.com All American committed to the Florida Gators just last week, but suddenly changed his mind and opted for Georgia just 24 hours before submitting his letter of intent.
Gibson recorded 50 receptions for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. As a junior he caught 63 passes for over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns. Also a standout in basketball, Gibson averages 21 points per game for Ware County. Richt said he had no doubt that Gibson would play both football and basketball for UGA.Gibson's teammate Gerald Anderson (6-3, 300-lbs.) was originally committed to Georgia Tech, but had his scholarship offer withdrawn by the Yellow Jackets last weekend.
Anderson could end up playing on either side of the ball for Georgia but projects as a defensive tackle. As a senior, Anderson recorded 77 tackles (42 solo), 16 of which went for a loss of yardage, five sacks and two caused fumbles. The preseason all star by several publications had 75 tackles and two sacks as a junior.
Anderson is perfect for a team that is in search of as many offensive and defensive linemen as it can sign.
"We needed some more linemen in the program and just about half of the class is linemen," said Richt. "We defiantly wanted to make sure that we did not come out of this without enough big people up front."
Reggie Weeks (6-4, 280-lbs.) of Smiths Station in Smiths Station, Al., could be the sleeper of this class. As a senior, Weeks won the Smith Station Man of Steel Award for being the team's most dedicated lifter. A slender 280, Weeks could easily get up to the 310-320 pounds by the end of his career with the Dawgs.
Weeks missed half of his senior season with an MCL injury. The defensive tackle recorded 25 tackles, six for a loss, and three sacks as a senior. As a junior he had 39 tackles and caused three fumbles.
He plans to move to Athens as soon as he graduates to be involved in the summer "senior led" drills. He is fully qualified with an SAT score of over 1400. He could play either offensive or defensive line for the Dawgs.
Dennis Roland (6-7, 270.) of Bolivar High in Bolivar, Mo., is a solid offensive lineman and is the only player from the Midwest in this signing class. The All-Ozarks First Team standout recorded 65 tackles, 19 of which we for a loss of yards, and seven sacks as a senior on defense.
Russ Tanner (6-4, 260-lbs.) of Johnson County High in Wrightsville, Ga., could get a shot at center with the Bulldogs. As a senior he averaged 97 snaps per game.
James Redmond (6-7, 260-lbs.) of Booker T. Washington High in Atlanta, Ga. will play in the 2001 Georgia-Florida High School All Star game.
Georgia also signed a bevy of defensive linemen. They are:
Darrell Holmes (6-3, 260-lbs.) of Crim High in Atlanta, Ga., recorded 381 tackles in his high school career. The future defensive tackle also racked up a school record 64 sacks. As a senior he recorded five fumble recoveries and one interception.
David Pollack (6-2, 260-lbs.) of Shiloh High in Lithonia, Ga., will likely get a shot at both fullback and defensive tackle for the Dawgs. The Class 5A First Team All State star was voted Defensive Lineman of the Year by the Atlanta Touchdown Club. Pollack recorded 86 tackles, 30 assists, two sacks, 23 tackles-for-loss, and three forced fumbles as a senior.
Marquis Elmore (6-3, 220-lbs.) of Charlton County High in Folkston, Ga., recorded 70 tackles, three sacks, and two fumble recoveries as a senior linebacker. On the offensive side of the ball he grabbed 22 receptions for 424 yards and six touchdowns at tight end.
As a junior, Elmore recorded 100 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks, and three interceptions. He holds school records in receptions with 51, career receiving yards (875), career tackles (252) and single-season tackles (100).
Darrius Swain (6-4, 295-lbs.) of Tucker was another late surprise. The top rated tight end/defensive end committed to Georgia earlier this week.
Georgia signed three high school defensive backs.
Greg Blue (6-2, 185-lbs.) of Banneker High in College Park, Ga., recorded 89 tackles, forced six fumbles, had four interceptions, and broke up 14 passes as a senior. On special teams he returned on kick 88 yards and a punt for 65 yards, both of which were touchdowns.
Bama Adams (5-8, 170-lbs.) of Charlton County in Folkston, Ga., was voted All Region quarterback and defensive back senior season, and his stats tell it all. Rushing, 709 yards and 15 touchdowns, completed 140 passes for 1,185 yards and 14 touchdowns. He currently holds seven school records: career passing yards (1,845), completions (108), passing touchdowns (24), and passing percentage (50%), kickoff return yards (915), touchdowns (3), and punt return yards (558).
Reggie McFadden (5-8, 160-lbs.) of Shaw High in Columbus, Ga., recorded 24 tackles, five tackles, and caused one fumble. As a junior he recorded 44 tackles, 13 interceptions, and recovered two fumbles.
The Bulldogs brought in three new linebackers.
Derrick White (6-3, 205-lbs.) of Creekside High in Union City, Ga., recorded 129 tackles, 15 of which were for a loss, 12 sacks, four interceptions, recovered three fumbles, blocked three punts, and returned one for a touchdown. For this he was named the the Class 4A First Team at linebacker.
Odell Thurman (6-1, 210-lbs.) of Monticello High in Monticello, Ga., played both fullback and linebacker this past season and posted 1,187 yards rushing and 153 tackles.
Thomas Davis (6-3, 205-lbs.) of Randolph-Clay High in Shellman, Ga., played several positions in high school. He rushed for 1,023 yards as a senior and hold the school record for touchdowns in a single game with five.
Tight end Andre Zellner (6-4, 225-lbs.) of Forsyth, Ga., signed with Georgia last year but failed to qualify. He resigned with the Dawgs today after spending a year at Hargrave Academy in Virginia.
Regardless of the rankings that the various recruiting services are going to assign to this class fans should feel good. The team addressed its needs, has a full cabinet of talent returning, and is highly motivated with a new coach.
"Everyone wants to be ranked as highly as they can in anything they do," said Richt. "We are competing for great players and we are competing on the field. The goal is to win."
"I think it takes years to assess where a class is really at," said Garner. "I think that when we stand up here three or four years from now, if we are in the SEC championship on in contention for a national championship I think that everybody will consider the class a pretty good class."
"In recruiting you can never really now who won until later on in their careers," Rich said. "You can go over the national championships of the last 20 years and see where those classes ranked four or five years prior to that. Sometimes those classes are not even ranked in the top 20 and sometimes they are ranked number one or number two. So, I think it is very hard to judge what kind of impact a class will have until you spend some time with them."
One thing is for certain, the Georgia coaches did a lot in a short period of time.
"We didn't get the whole staff together until around the 6th or 7th of January and everyone came and chipped in really hard together. There is a lot of pride in this class."
The following junior college transfers players signed with Georgia in December and are currently enrolled at UGA. Scholarships count towards 2000's numbers.
Click here to watch University of Georgia recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner speak with the press today following National Signing Day in RealVideo.
Click here to watch University of Georgia recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner introduce the Bulldogs' three junior college signees.