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February 7, 2007

Dawgs build bulk up front

ATHENS - Georgia went for a football signing class that was big on bulk instead of flash.

The Bulldogs landed 12 linemen among their 23 signees Wednesday, addressing major holes on both the offensive and defensive sides.

Despite losing some of the state's top players to other schools, coach Mark Richt insisted that it was another strong class for a school that perennially ranks among the nation's best in recruiting.

``I know that we have addressed a lot of our needs,'' he said. ``We have future starters, we have future All-SEC players here and, more than likely, we have some All-Americans. We may even have a national award winner here.''

In a change from past years under Richt, Georgia went heavy on junior college and prep school players, picking up six signees who should be able to move into the lineup more quickly than those straight out of high school. All are linemen four on offense, two on defense.

The Bulldogs wound up signing eight offensive linemen, more than any other position.

``I think the emphasis is important,'' Richt said. ``Any one of these young men could see that we had some serious needs up front, especially offensively. We had a very low number of scholarship players before this class, a dangerously low number in my opinion. They saw the opportunity to play, but I think they also realized that Georgia is a great place to be.''

Seven linemen have already enrolled at Georgia and will be available for spring practice.

``This class is unique in that a majority of the class was complete for several months,'' recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner said. ``This is the first time in a long time that we have been able to sign junior college kids. I appreciate the administration doing the things that made that possible.''

Among those who will be counted on provide immediate help are three players from Georgia Military College: defensive end Corvey Irvin, defensive tackle Jarius Wynn and 6-foot-8, 310-pound offensive lineman Vince Vance.

The Bulldogs also signed 320-pound offensive lineman Justin Anderson, who played last season at Hargrave Military in Virginia, and a couple of highly ranked defensive ends from the prep ranks, Neland Ball from Jackson and Justin Houston from Statesboro.

Georgia did sign some highly regarded skill position players, most notably running back Caleb King from Greater Atlanta Christian. In addition, the Bulldogs picked up quarterback Logan Gray and tight end Aron White, high school teammates from Columbia, Mo.

The Bulldogs did most of their work within the state. Eighteen signees are from Georgia, though the school missed out on some of the state's top prospects. Creekside cornerback Eric Berry signed with Tennessee, McIntosh County linebacker Allen Bailey picked Miami and Peachtree Ridge defensive lineman Cameron Heyward was expected to go with Ohio State.

``We don't want to lose any of the players that we target in the state,'' Richt said. ``The reality is, everybody across the nation is targeting our state and they are trying to get the very best out of our state. Our goal is to keep as many within our borders as we can. That doesn't always happen.''

Richt had hoped to sign Hardaway offensive lineman Antwane Greenlee, but he chose Florida State in a last-minute decision. Georgia filled in nicely with Chris Little, a 6-6, 330-pound offensive lineman from Twiggs County.

``I thought it could happen, but I didn't know for sure if it would,'' Richt said. ``That was an exciting thing.''



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