Although it might seem from the outside that Georgia has stepped up its recruiting efforts in Florida by virtue of the fact that the Bulldogs already boast four of their eight verbal commitments from the Sunshine State, head coach Mark Richt said that's not necessarily the case.
Although NCAA rules prohibit Richt or any college coach from commenting on specific recruits, Richt said Georgia's recruiting effort in Florida is the same as it's always been. The results have just come quicker.
"It's just working out. We bang away hard at the state of Florida. We've got Georgia covered. We have all coaches in Georgia, we have X-amount of coaches in Florida, X-amount of coaches in South Carolina, X-amount of coaches in North Carolina. We try to cover those states but we don't cover them quite like we do our own state for obvious reasons," Richt said. "But I'll say this too, for Florida, or anybody else out of the state, we're not looking for Florida's No. 2 guys, we're looking for the No. 1 guys and we've gotten some No. 1 guys over the years. We just haven't gotten that many. Now, it seems like we're generating a lot of interest down that way. I'm just thankful for it because there are some good ones."
Richt isn't kidding.
In offensive tackle Brent Benedict, the Bulldogs snagged a commitment from one of - if not the - top offensive linemen from the state, along with linebacker Demetre Baker, who despite not having a ranking yet by Rivals.com, is considered one of the fastest at his position.
Add in B.J. Butler and Marc Deas, and Georgia already has verbals from four players who call Florida home.
More might be on the way.
Of Georgia's approximate 100 offers, 35 attend Florida schools, while three of Georgia's biggest signees from 2009 - Aaron Murray, Rantavious Wooten and Orson Charles also hail from the state.
Having an assistant like tight end coach John Lilly, the former recruiting coordinator at Florida State, hasn't hurt, either.
Although the Bulldogs already had significant contacts inside the state, having Lilly on board has only served to solidify those connections that were already there.
"He (Lilly) was the recruiting coordinator at Florida State for years and he's probably had at least one contact with all of those coaches down there at one time or the other," Richt said. "Again, Florida is a lot like Georgia. The in-state schools can't get them all, we can't get them all. If there's 150 Division I players in our state, there's no way we can get them all, there's no way Georgia Tech can get them all. So everybody's going to come in and try to cherry pick. We know that some of our guys want to go out of state, some of their guys want to go out of state. Let's just see who loves Georgia and bring them in."
One of those 35 offers was made to Miami running back Eduardo Clements. The four-star performer camped at Georgia last week and from his conversations with UGASports thoroughly enjoyed his trip. From all indications, Clements has Georgia ranked at the top of his list, but has said he now wants to wait until possibly Signing Day to make his decision known.
That may or may not be a mistake.
Richt said that the program wants to bring in "one or two (running backs), depending on who they are."
Clements might want to move up his decision.
Georgia also has offers out to MLK's Mack Brown, Southwest DeKalb's Kendrun Malcome, Opelika, Ala.'s Corey Grant and Roy Finch of Niceville, Fla.
Richt repeated his stance that once Georgia makes an offer, it is ready to accept that player's commitment. No questions asked.
Simply put, once an offer is made, it's then up to the player to decide who wants to commit first.
"If you know that we're only going to sign, for example, two running backs, one running back, one quarterback, three receivers or whatever, if you fill up that position then everybody then understands that we did offer you, you had that opportunity but some other young man decide to come," Richt said. "I think everybody sees that as being very fair and very reasonable. If we offer four kids at a position, it's the first two that decide they want to come. If there's a guy that if you're afraid he's going to commit, then you shouldn't offer him. That's my opinion."
Along with "one or two running backs," Richt repeated his statement from last week's statement in Macon that he would like to sign "three or four" receivers.
The Bulldogs already have verbal commitments from Da'Rick Rogers and Michael Bennett.
He did not guarantee that Georgia would sign a quarterback as has been widely assumed.
"We're banging away at it. We may or may not get one," Richt said. "Our philosophy is if we can get the right guy, let's do it. If we can't, let's wait."
Richt disagreed with the suggestion that it's always been his philosophy to sign a quarterback in every recruiting class.
"Not necessarily. I've never really felt that way, even at Florida State," he said. "There were years when we just didn't sign one because sometimes it's just hard to get one in any given year."
Richt also discounted the notion that Georgia doesn't need to even bother signing a running back for 2010, considering the fact that Caleb King, Richard Samuel, Dontavius Jackson, Carlton Thomas and Washaun Ealey are all underclassmen.
A lesson Richt learned while at Florida State taught him otherwise.
"At FSU this one time we thought can't sign a back this year, we've got 5-6 or whatever it was and we didn't think one (a running back) would come," he said. "But at the end of the year one kid got hurt, one kid transferred and another moved to another position. So, by the time the end of the season rolled around, we needed to sign two or three and we didn't really prepare ourselves for that because we thought we were set. You might have a guy go pro. You never know when you might add another number because it's constantly working and changing."
Richt said that's a mistake he will never make again.
"It's a hard thing this time of year when you start gathering commitments and you're thinking, your numbers, either at a certain position or overall," he said. "You can get to be like 'Oh man we're close to done.' But then a month or two later we've got room for one or two more. You just keep recruiting until Signing Day rolls around. You just don't know."
If the Bulldogs had not done that back in February, Georgia might not have wound up with Charles.
In fact, Richt feels fortunate that they did. Ditto for defensive tackle Kwame Geathers and kicker Brandon Bogotay, each of whom signed well after National Signing Day had passed.
"We knew we were still recruiting these guys but it could have been that other guys committed and we wouldn't have had any to give. But we did have some to give and we continued to pursue them and thankfully we did," Richt said. "By the time Bogotay decided he was coming, we were to the brim. Some years it doesn't happen that way. Some years, even before Signing Day, we're done, there's nothing we can do. You might be in mid-January and there's no more room. We've had to tell guys you can't come, some very good players that wanted to come. We had to tell them we're sorry you can't come because there is no room."
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