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February 6, 2008

Information Overload: Signing Day Edition

Do you remember when Signing Day used to be like Christmas morning? You had no idea what was coming. Maybe some idea but there were a lot of surprises. Richt has turned Signing Day into a formality. We now know the bulk of the class prior to the start of the football season. Of our 25 commitments, 23 were in by the end of October. The kicker is they're all good. It's a fun time to be a UGA fan and I'm more than willing to take a somewhat less exciting Signing Day because frankly while the old days were more exciting, they weren't always the good kind of exciting. Now on to the class, think of this as the Idiot's Guide to UGA's 2008 Recruiting Class. For many of you this will be a refresher, but maybe there'll be something in there that you forgot…

QB – We're still stacked here and with Logan Gray redshirting and the coaches speaking highly of him, there's not a tremendous need right now, as Stafford and Cox will just now be juniors and Gray will be two years behind them. This will be a big target position in '09.

RB – The loss of Thomas Brown is big, as he's been a rock for 4 years. The loss of Kregg Lumpkin in the same season would typically be disastrous, but the emergence of the phenomenon that was Knowshon Moreno certainly doesn't leave the cupboard empty. Behind Moreno is a group of unknowns, only one of whom is on campus right now, the gem of last year's class, Caleb King. It's a position that was an obvious need for more than one player to sign and we went out and grabbed a bevy of good 'uns.

Richard Samuel (6-0, 197) : A freakish athlete, the kid is already on campus. He's also only 16 (actually I think he's turned 17 since getting to campus but the point is he's really young to be as good as he is). He's listed as an athlete by many services because he could just as easily end up at LB. He's got a frame that will carry considerably more weight, he's an excellent student and he's amazingly athletic (jumped the center, blocked a kick and ran it back for a score on one play this year) with speed to burn. He's pretty much the perfect recruit.

Dontavius Jackson (5-11, 195) : One of the top players in Georgia, from the same high school that produced stud RB recruit Carlos Brown from a few years back, Jackson is a good all-around back that really excels betweens the tackles. He's not a big guy right now but will probably fill out considerably in Athens (didn't we all?). He's already on campus as well.

Carlton Thomas (5-7, 159) : A small back that plays much larger than his size. He's incredibly quick and far stronger than his size would indicate. Watching clips of him, it's easy to see why some services view him as a top 10 RB in the country (ESPN actually compares him to Barry Sanders). He hardly ever takes a direct hit and changes direction with little loss of speed. He's a different back than we've had in recent years but he'll be a really exciting change of pace. He could also be a big help in the return game early in his career. These small, quick backs are starting to find a situational niche in the SEC, with LSU and UF both featuring these type guys with good success.

WR – Sean Bailey, Mikey Henderson, AJ Bryant and TJ Gartrell move on, but there's a boatload of bodies at the WR position, some proven, most waiting for their shot. Massaquoi returns as the most proven commodity. Wilson, Moore, Goodman, and Harris constitute the returners with experience. Two very promising redshirts will enter the equation this year in Isreal Troupe and Walter Hill, but the position is in serious need of a playmaker with deep threat potential. We're adding two really good ones.

A.J. Green (6-4, 184) : Once again we waltz into South Carolina and take one of their prized recruits. He's exactly what the program has been missing and what every coach in the country is looking for. Widely regarded as one of the top 10 recruits in the country regardless of position, he's taller than most DBs, has good deep speed and his best quality might very well be his hands. He's got an amazing knack for going up in traffic and coming down with the ball and he's not scared to go across the middle, a trait uncommon in your taller WRs. If he qualifies (and recent indications are he could very well make it), he's got the kind of talent that could see the field early and make an impact. He's a humble kid too; one that committed early and never wavered despite numerous overtures from schools all over the country. He's got an incredibly lanky build and will likely add weight in college but I don't think he'll ever be filled out like a Calvin Johnson or Mike Williams. He's built more like Randy Moss or Fred Gibson. He's got amazing body control for a guy his size.

Tavarres King (6-1, 169) : An excellent compliment to Green, King is a pure deep threat. He reminds me a lot of Sean Bailey in that he's so fluid and reacts so well to the deep ball. He broke all kind of state receiving records and is another kid that was able to come in early. That coupled with his involvement in a more advanced HS passing attack could mean early playing time despite his slight build. He's already a very developed WR.

TE – We lose Coleman Watson to graduation but this is another stacked position, with Chandler the clear starter as a senior coming off a very solid season. Behind him we have the specimen that is Bruce Figgins, former stud recruit NeDarris Ward and last year's rivals.com #1 TE in the country Aron White. White isn't a traditional TE (although he's added some weight) and spent some time at WR last season before moving to TE. Despite the depth there, the staff felt like we could use one more in this class to firm up the depth chart for future years if someone special came along.

Dwayne Allen (6-4, 243) : He's pretty much exactly what you look for in a TE recruit. He's got the size, speed, physicality and hands (he won the hands competition at the Under Armor All-American game, against the top WRs in the country). He originally committed over a year ago and wavered recently, strongly considering FSU, UNC and Clemson, but it appears he finally settled once again on the school he originally fell for.

OL – Not quite the need position it was last year, it remains a priority in order to avoid the vicious 3-4 year cycle we've been on of having to completely reload after losing all your seniors. It was a tradition started by Donnan and continued under Richt and Callaway. New OL coach Stacey Searels came in and made a bad OL situation a good one, and despite starting 3 freshmen OLs last season, he could be looking at starting one or two more this year as well. The depth chart doesn't have many upperclassmen and is heavy in the freshman/sophomore classes but this staff has learned the dangers of passing on OLs. He won't be listed here, but getting Kiante Tripp as an OT for all of spring and fall practices is incredibly big as he could be our starting RT next year after spending his first 1+ seasons as a DE. We lost seniors Velasco and Adams and JUCO transfer Scott Haverkamp decided to give up football so we needed a few bodies to get the numbers right. This group joins the redshirt class consisting of Justin Anderson, Tanner Strickland and Ben Harden.

Ben Jones (6-2, 306) : This guy is interesting. He showed up in Athens from Alabama hoping for an offer but he was a relative unknown at the time. He dominated the camp and ultimately earned an offer. He committed shortly afterwards even after the one offer many thought could sway him, home team Alabama. He's vocal and nasty. He's tailor made for the center position and given that he's already on campus, he'll be in the mix for this coming season. Searels loves this kid. At the ESPN Under Armor All-American game, he was selected as a captain for his team. He's got future leader written all over him.

A.J. Harmon (6-4, 330) : I'm listing this guy here because there's a stipulation on what position he ends up based on what weight he reports at. If he's in shape and under an agreed upon weight (I think it's 315), he'll get the shot at DT that he wants. If he's over that weight, Searels gets him on the OL. He's a mammoth kid that most agree has a brighter future on the OL at OG, but he'll likely start at DT a la Tripp and his DE experiment. He originally committed to Clemson but couldn't get UGA off his mind and finally flipped. His nickname is 'Flight 75' and he's from the same high school as Fernando Velasco (who also wore #75). He's a very outgoing kid with a ton of personality. He'll be a quotables type guy whoc can take over for Jeff Owens.

Cordy Glenn (6-6, 315) : The class really needed an OT prospect and Glenn fits the bill perfectly. He's big and has a long wingspan…prototypical OT size. He's got the parts you want to work with and he'll benefit tremendously from Searels' tutelage. He was a relatively late commit, waiting until early in December to announce (these days, that's apparently late). He had offers from SC, Bama, AU and UF.

Jonathan Owens (6-5, 295) : Another Alabama guy like Jones, Owens also committed early in the process (last June) and it's easy to forget him. He's a big kid that we've targeted for OG. He's in the mold of Tanner Strickland from last year. He's likely to redshirt and provide depth in 2009 and beyond.

DE – We lose Marcus Howard and his breakout senior season but we return a large group of guys who saw PT last season. Lomax seems poised for a big breakout next season. Battle returns along with Wynn, Lemon and Dobbs. Add to that group Neland Ball, a kid that's been very impressive in his redshirt season, and you've got a solid group, but one that needs some youth to get the class separation in order. We nailed that.

Toby Jackson (6-4, 244) : According to some, this guy could be our top recruit. He committed far earlier than most expected, spurning offers from all the big boys (Miami, FSU, USC, etc.). He's got a big frame and could eventually move inside but right now he looks to be the next Charles Johnson as a big DE. He's athletic enough at right at 250 to have played MLB in HS. He could have an impact on the depth chart as soon as he gets on campus, assuming he qualifies, he's that good.

Cornelius Washington (6-4, 220) : Our first commitment for this class (way back in July of 2006), it's very easy to forget how good this guy can be, especially since he missed his entire junior year to injury. He's very lean right now at 6-4, 220 (he looks even lighter), but the guy can fly, anchoring his school's 4x100 relay team. He's got the speed and frame you want but is probably a year or two from being an impact player. He just oozes potential.

Jeremy Longo (6-4, 212) : A solid DE prospect from FL, Longo really slid under the radar. He played for a large school in Florida in the top classification and put together really, really good numbers the last two years. He's not overly flashy, but he's got great speed for his size and will add some weight and be a factor soon. He's probably in for a redshirt given his low current weight, but he'll be a good one. He had offers from Miami, SC, UVa and WF among others.

DT – DT is in pretty good shape right now but it's time to start adding young guys because we'll lose some really good ones in the next two years. We return the top 5 at the position with Owens, Atkins, Weston and Irvin, along with the developing Crawford, not to mention the DT/DE hybrid Brandon Wood. We need a guy or two to get in line and we did that quite nicely, especially if Harmon ends up here.

DeAngelo Tyson (6-2, 276) : He ended up falling to a 4-star after the post-season all-star games but this guy was as highly regarded a DL prospect as you'll find for the bulk of his senior year. He faced lots of triple teams his senior season after playing on the same DL as last year's signee Justin Houston. He carries his weight well and reminds me some of former UGA DT Jonathan Sullivan, a big, impressive, quiet guy. He had offers from all the major schools but ended it all early back in March.

LB – Our LB depth chart is solid right now, with underclassmen and talent everywhere ready to replace the few upperclassmen we have. Like other positions though, it's imperative to sign a few in each year you have the scholarships in order to develop depth and establish a replacement plan for the underclassmen in the system already. We landed several guys who could end up here but I'm only going to list a few for now as LBs.

Christian Robinson (6-2, 205) : Another early commit guy (May) that's easy to forget, he's got the bloodlines you look for as his dad played SEC football (albeit at South Carolina). He's incredibly athletic, making all-State as a TE. Like several of the LB commits, I expect him to redshirt before contributing.

Nick Williams (6-3, 206) : Robinson is athletic. I mean this guy is REALLY athletic. He played QB for his HS team and Bobo told him he'd put in a package of plays for him just in case he was needed. He could end up at safety but he's got a great frame to be a solid LB.

Marcus Dowtin (6-2, 215) : This guy played RB for his HS team as well and could've ended up there for some schools but we liked him at LB (a lot). He's fast and athletic (surprise), athletic enough to be listed by Rivals.com as the 2nd most athletic LB in the nation (don't ask how they come up with that). He committed over offers from Michigan and a host of big schools.

Akeem Hebron (6-1, 220) : He was a star recruit for us a few years back, but a few run-ins with the bottle put him on the Odell express to Milledgeville to get his act together. He'll come back a more committed player, as they almost always do after learning their lessons for a year (actually he already is back). Hebron is fast and has a better knowledge of the system than any of the other newcomers, plus he's already used his redshirt year so I think it's safe to say he sees in the field in some capacity, even if only on special teams. Look for him to back up Rennie Curran at WLB.

S – We lose Kelin Johnson this year and will lose CJ Byrd next year so it was important to add a few although both Reshad Jones and Quintin Banks were impressive as freshmen. Williams could play here if needed, but we got two solid ones.

Sanders Commings (6-1, 195) : He'll likely play football and baseball in Athens. He could really end up on either side of the ball as he's excellent with the ball in his hands but he's got everything you look for in a safety. He flirted with some other schools (SC mainly) but he's solid now. Incredibly, he was one of our last 4 commitments despite announcing way back on Halloween.

Bacarri Rambo (6-1, 195) : Another very early commitment (almost a year ago), he's another one that could possibly end up at another position, mainly LB. Despite numerous offers from schools all over, he never really wavered although FSU tried hard back this summer. He's got a Thomas Davis approach to playing safety as a strong hitter who doesn't mind playing close to the line.

CB – You always need CBs, especially when you've got as many in one class (3 rising juniors) as we do. Allen, Miller and Evans along with Brown will all be gone in two years, leaving only freshman Vance Cuff so it was important to get at least one solid CB prospect. Why not get 2?

Brandon Boykin (5-11, 170) : Absolutely amazing athlete. Don't believe me? Check out the youtube highlights of him playing basketball. For a guy 5-10 or so he's got incredible leaping ability. AJC.com listed him as the top athlete this year…in basketball. He's a HS QB so will likely need some time to learn the nuances of playing CB at this level but he'll be a future stud.

Makiri Pugh (5-10, 194) : Another early summer commitment, Pugh plays on the same HS team that gave us Joe Cox and Massaquoi. He was hurt for much of the year but he's a bigger, more physical CB than guys we've added recently. He's more like a Paul Oliver. He could even grow into a safety if needed. Like nearly everyone else in this class he had lots of offers to choose from.

ATH – There are always a couple of guys that could be slotted in different places and this class certainly has some flexibility, with as many as 8 being unclear of their ultimate position. It's important to have guys that are open to that because then you can get them on campus, figure where they're best suited and let them develop there.

Xavier Avery (5-11, 185) : It's hard to say where this guy will end up. If he plays football in Athens, it'll likely be in the defensive backfield, probably as a CB, and he'll certainly be a good one. He's fast, physical and smart. The only problem is he's not just a football talent. He's projected as high as the 1st round in the upcoming MLB draft. All of the tools that make him a top notch football player project to the diamond as well and although he is adamant about wanting a degree, it's unlikely that he'll be able to turn down 1st round money, and in the end, that would have to be the smarter move but our coaches love him, not to mention the coaches at Oklahoma, who wanted him badly.

Bryce Ros (6-4, 233) : It's almost impossible to figure where this kid will end up. The son of the 1980 UGA captain Frank Ros, he's got the lineage you want. Frank was a MLB but Bryce has likely outgrown that spot. He played DE and TE in HS but those two positions are particularly deep in Athens right now. He could conceivably put on weight and play DT or OL but it's entirely possible that he could end up as a FB as well, especially considering we lose Southerland next year and with limited scholarships next season, probably won't bring one in. Ros is an intriguing prospect. He moves very well for his size and could fill a number of needs.

ST – We lose both of our two scholarship kickers this year, so we certainly need someone to come in and take over (if capable). We're set at punter though, with two of those already. We needed a kicker and we got one about as good as you'll find, and he committed early.

Blair Walsh (5-10, 163) : Walsh has a cannon for a leg. He's hit from as far out as 60. He played alongside Longo on a very good big-school team in Florida so he's no stranger to pressure. There will be some adjustment to kicking without a tee but I've seen video of him kicking without a tee with good success. He can also punt if we should for some reason lose our top two guys. Solid pickup and he's probably the most likely guy in the class to play next season.

Well, that's the class unless something crazy happens but this has been locked in for a while with the exception of some minor blips. We've already gotten a strong start on next year's group, with 5 commitments in the last month. That class will likely be small (under 20) but it should be very selective, as we'll hand out a limited number of offers. This 2008 class we're signing is (on paper) as good as nearly any class we've signed. It has players at nearly every position. It's deep and more importantly, it's deep with talent. Before the end of October (over 3 months prior to signing day) we had all but two of these guys on board. We had very few misses and the misses we did have were quickly filled with other talent.

The misses – this will be more for posterity's sake looking back here 5 years from now…

Omar Hunter – oh what could've been. Omar originally committed to Notre Dame, then reopened his recruitment about the same time he started dominating the post-season all-star games. He saw a rapid rise in his stock by the recruiting services, largely due to the fact he was one of the few uncommitted top prospects. UGA simply ran out of scholarships and he ended up in Florida. As an under-sized DT (6-0, 280) he flat dominated GHSA at Buford and will join an impressive young UF D.

Zebrie Sanders – the enigma, this kid played the recruiting game too long or maybe he honestly couldn't make up his mind, whatever the reason, by the time he called UF to commit, they told him they were full. He then called UGA, who was also full, having recently taken the commitment of AJ Harmon. Luckily for him he was able to "settle" on FSU. He's a very higly rated prospect, he just became a victim of today's recruiting game where if you don't commit early you run the risk of missing out.

Joe Adams – a WR/CB from Arkansas, he was thought to be a big UGA lean up until the week of his announcement. He ended up going to USC (of course). The guy's film was amazing. Very fluid, just gliding across the field and making people miss.

That's really about it. The class was done so early it seemed, well, boring. It's anything but boring. Yes there were guys we missed on like Patrick Johnson (CB from Miami) and Brice Butler (WR from GA who went to USC) but we once again locked down the state's top players. A year after losing guys like Eric Berry, Morgan Burnette, Antwane Greenlee and Allen Bailey all in the same class, this class was much needed.

Until next time,

Jody



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