Georgia needs to turn season around
The Georgia Bulldogs have the No. 9 recruiting class in the nation right now and are in the mix for more big-time recruits, but they need to find a way to turnaround their disappointing 1-4 start and gain some momentum before it starts to impact their recruiting.
It's not so much that the recruits will be deterred by the school's record, but more so that there could be possible staff shakeups and other teams will be able to use negative recruiting.
"I am not sure if the season's outcome will affect their recruiting as much as the possibility of instability. That could really affect the decisions of these kids," said Valdosta coach Rance Gillespie. "Wins and losses are one thing, but who you are playing for is what it's all about. Kids want to be comfortable with the coaching staff and want to play for the coaches that recruit them."
Gillespie brings up a great point because recruiting is about relationships. That one word is the single most important aspect of college coaches recruiting these players. A coaching change, whether at the top or the assistant level normally has a great impact on the recruiting process for a prospect. So if there are any pending changes in Athens that could work against the Dawgs.
Even if their are no coaching changes for the Bulldogs, the teams they are battling with for recruits will use every tactic out there to lure the prospects to their respective campuses, including negative recruiting. Not to mention the negative feeling surrounding the program created by the media and fans won't help Georgia's recruiting.
"College football has become a culture of instant gratification," Gillespie said. "No one wants to stick with the guy struggling and give him time to get things fixed."
Still, the Bulldogs have the tradition of being a college football heavyweight on their side and can even sell early playing time to incoming recruits.
Thus far Georgia has landed 16 prospects, including five ESPNU 150 prospects -- QB Christian LeMay (Mint Hill, N.C./Butler), WR Justin Scott-Wesley (Camilla, Ga./Mitchell-Baker), ATH Zachary Witchett (Atlanta, Ga./Washington-Wilkes), DE Sterling Bailey (Gainesville, Ga./East Hall) and WR Chris Conley (Dallas, Ga./North Paulding). But a lot remain on the board for Georgia.
DE Ray Drew (Thomasville, Ga./Thomas County Central), a five-star in-state recruit, has been rumored to be favoring Georgia but has never come out and said that. He prefers to not show his recruiting hand and claims he's open between Georgia, LSU, Auburn, Florida State, Notre Dame, Michigan, UCLA and others.
"Hey, you never know in the game of football. One year you can be on top of the world and the next you can just drop off. Or vice versa," said Drew. "I do know that Georgia is a young team with a new defense. Everyone had to make adjustments and that takes time. The slow start shouldn't be that big of a surprise. You know it's just a matter of time before Georgia turns it around. I still like Georgia like I always have."
One of the things missing in Athens is a big-time running back, but that could change in a hurry if the Dawgs were able to land in-state star Isaiah Crowell (Columbus, Ga./Carver). The five-star recruit and No. 1 running back prospect in the nation is likely going to decide between Georgia and Alabama. It's going to be an epic border war for this talented runner. He was recently a lean to the Bulldogs, but now the pendulum seems to have swung towards Alabama.
Two other major targets for the Bulldogs are TE Jay Rome (Valdosta, Ga./Valdosta) and WR Malcolm Mitchell (Thomasville, Ga./Thomas County Central). Rome favors Georgia and Clemson, but Alabama and Florida are chasing. Many feel he could end up a Tiger because he has strong ties to that program because his father (Stan Rome) played there. Meanwhile, Mitchell likes Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida.
Some other key recruits Georgia is hot after are TE Nick O'Leary (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer), OT Cyrus Kouandjio (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha Catholic), S Marcus Roberson (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas), DE Xzavier Dickson (Griffin, Ga./Griffin) and ATH Damian Swann (Atlanta, Ga./Grady).
Georgia is in a transition period right now, but never count the Dawgs out because they have always been a football power on and off the field.
Hart's big decision
ESPNU 150 RB Demetrius Hart (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) is deciding between Alabama and Michigan on Friday at his high school. The 5-8, 190-pounder is the school's all-time leading rusher and it is believed that the Wolverines are the team to beat. He's explosive, versatile and great in both the run and passing game.
'Bama going big
It's hard to imagine, but Alabama could end up signing the top prospect from Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. It's not going to be easy, but right now the Crimson Tide are in the mix for five-star recruits LB Tony Steward (St. Augustine, Fla./Pedro Menendez), Crowell and DE Jadeveon Clowney (Rock Hill, S.C./ South Pointe).
Alabama is playing catch up with the No. 1 linebacker in the country, Steward, who has long favored Florida State and Clemson. However, he was in attendance for Alabama's impressive win over the Gators.
Crowell is deciding between Alabama and Georgia. For a while he has been leaning to the Dawgs, but it now appears the Crimson Tide have regained the lead. This will be a battle to the end and it could see-saw a few more times before it's all said and done.
Clowney, the nation's No. 1 prospect, has called South Carolina and Alabama his co-leaders for some time. What he does in the end is anyone's guess at this point and it could very well come down to his official visits.
It's so impressive what coach Nick Saban has done on all fronts during his short time in Tuscaloosa and it's scary how well the Crimson Tide are recruiting. They may not land all these recruits, but Alabama has taken over as the supreme recruiting power in college football.
Another prospect at Menendez
Everyone knows about Steward from Menendez High School in St. Augustine, Fla., but Menendez has another big-time recruit that's finally healthy and his stock could blow up over the next few months.
DT Ryan Bryson tore his hamstring late last season and the injury was so bad he didn't return to action until last weekend.
"It was really bad. I mean it was a real tear," said Menendez coach Keith Cromwell. "He rehabbed it pretty hard, but his strength just wouldn't come around. Ryan was finally ready last week and was absolutely dominating. We are a different defense with him. Ryan is so powerful that he just runs over people. He moves the line of scrimmage and has a long wing span and knocks down a lot of passes."
According to Cromwell, the 6-4, 285-pounder has scholarship offers from Kentucky, Memphis, Arkansas State, Troy and several other schools.
This weekend's official visits
• North Carolina will host QB Jacoby Brissett (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer).
• NC State will host TE Drew Owens (Charlotte, N.C./Ardrey Kell).
• West Virginia will host LB Anthony Harrell (Tampa, Fla./Freedom).
• California will host S Avery Walls (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Christian Academy).
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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