Back to square one for the Bulldogs. Last year, University of Georgia head coach Mark Richt needed to make a splash in recruiting. Coming off a six-win season in 2010 -- by far the worst of his tenure in Athens -- Richt needed an impact player at running back in the class. The Bulldogs were 73rd in the country in rushing, 10th in the SEC, but Richt was able to put the finishing touches on a top-five class -- one he dubbed the “Dream Team" -- by signing five-star running back and the top prospect in Georgia, Isaiah Crowell.
Friday, following an arrest on felony weapons charges, Crowell was dismissed from the team by Richt, ending Crowell’s career at Georgia after only one season and putting more pressure on his teammates to replace the SEC Freshman of the Year. The latest departure further depletes the overall talent on Georgia’s team, making the 2013 class even more important for the future of the program.
Big class coming in
Richt told DawgNation earlier this month that Georgia could sign up to 34 players in the 2013 class, reiterating a February story that stated the Bulldogs could sign more than 30, one of its biggest classes ever. While the ability to sign that many is dependent upon how much room Georgia has within the 85 scholarship limit come December, as it stands, it looks like that might not be much of an issue.
Twelve seniors are on scholarship, 13 if long-snapper Ty Frix has his scholarship renewed. Several juniors could also leave early for the NFL, including quarterback Aaron Murray, offensive lineman Kenarious Gates, defensive lineman Kwame Geathers and linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree. That could leave Georgia with as few as 52 players on scholarship come February, meaning any additional attrition over the next eight months could provide the room to easily bring in 34 signees in 2013.
Roster casualties adding up
Attrition among the last three signing classes has put Georgia at a disadvantage in terms of roster depth, as Crowell’s departure leaves Georgia with only 70 players that arrived on campus as scholarship athletes. The Bulldogs signed 19 in 2012, 26 in 2011 and 19 in 2010, but only 50 of the 64 are on the team.
2012 linebacker signee Leonard Floyd (Eastman, Ga./Dodge County) still has a chance to qualify if he is able to pass a course this summer. Another signee, Under Armour All-American defensive lineman John Atkins (Thomson, Ga./Thomson), was deemed a non-qualifier earlier this week after failing to make the necessary score on his ACT. He is unlikely to enroll this fall.
Crowell’s departure is the sixth for the heralded 2011 class. Nick Marshall, Sanford Seay and Chris Sanders were dismissed in February after allegations of theft from teammates arose. Linebacker Kent Turene was unable to qualify via the NCAA Clearinghouse and enrolled at Marshall as a partial qualifier. Defensive lineman Chris Mayes did not qualify either and enrolled at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, but hopes to return in January.
Linebacker Demetre Baker, offensive lineman Brent Benedict, defensive lineman Jalen Fields, juco safety Jakar Hamilton, wide receiver Lonnie Outlaw and cornerback Derek Owens are no longer on the team from the 2010 class.
In 2002, Alabama, accused of double-digit major and minor violations surrounding the recruitment of prospect Albert Means, self-imposed a 15 scholarship reduction over three years. Georgia has now lost 14 signees during the last three years.
Early returns in recruiting
With only 16 of the 19 signees counting toward the 2012 class, Georgia is able to bring in up to nine early enrollees and count them backward. Luckily recruiting has been going very well for the Bulldogs so far in the 2013 cycle. With 19 commitments to date, the class of 2013 -- rated No. 5 in the country right now -- has double-digit prospects saying they plan to enroll in January. Quarterback Brice Ramsey (Kingsland, Ga./Camden Co.), offensive lineman Aulden Bynum (Valdosta, Ga./Valwood), offensive lineman Josh Cardiello (Buford, Ga./Buford), defensive lineman Chris Mayes (Griffin, Ga./East Mississippi Community College), linebacker Ryne Rankin (Orlando, Fla./East River), cornerback Steven Nelson (Warner Robins, Ga./College of the Sequoias), athlete Tramel Terry (Goose Creek S.C./Goose Creek) and athlete J.J. Green (Kingsland, Ga./Camden Co.) have all said they plan to enroll early at Georgia. Cornerback Reggie Wilkerson (Citra, Fla./North Marion), safety Tray Matthews (Newnan, Ga./Newnan) linebacker Reggie Carter (Snellville, Ga./South Gwinnett) and linebacker Naim Mustafaa (Alpharetta, Ga./Alpharetta) have said they are trying to enroll early in Athens as well. Cornerback Shaq Wiggins (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) says he will find out in August if he will be able to enroll early.
Bad timing for Henry decommitment
While things are going well on the recruiting trail, a recent change of heart by running back Derrick Henry (Yulee, Fla./Yulee) could not have come at a worse time for Georgia. The news of the loss of Crowell puts an even greater emphasis on bringing in at least one elite running back in the 2013 class, possibly making it necessary to bring in two. Henry, who originally committed to Georgia last July at Dawg Night, made the decision to decommit two weeks ago, following a visit to Alabama. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound ESPN 150 prospect has also taken two trips to Tennessee during the spring, and felt the need to do more research before making a final decision. Alabama, UGA, Tennessee and USC are the schools mentioned by Henry, who plans to make his decision following his senior season and enroll early shortly after that.
Many feel Henry is headed for Tuscaloosa to play for Alabama, but don't count Georgia out. The new opportunity for playing time, as well as the relationship with the coaches and other commitments, means the Bulldogs are still in the hunt for the big running back.
Kamara remains undecided
Another outstanding running back that Georgia hopes to add is Alvin Kamara (Norcross, Ga./Norcross). The No. 56 prospect in the country, Kamara has been a priority for the Bulldogs staff since the beginning of the year. And the battle for the 5-10, 190-pound Under Armour All-American is becoming more heated by the day.
Once thought to be between Alabama and Georgia, Auburn and Clemson have joined in the race. Kamara is visiting Clemson this weekend. Interestingly enough, Auburn, Alabama and Georgia commitments have begun recruiting each other to switch their commitments, with Wiggins stating plans for all of them to go to the same school.
“Reuben Foster (Auburn, Ala./Auburn), Alvin Kamara, Bo Scarborough (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Northridge), Trey Johnson (Lawrenceville, Ga./Central Gwinnett), Naim Mustafaa (Alpharetta, Ga./Alpharetta), Tray Matthews (Newnan, Ga./Newnan), Montravius Adams (Vienna, Ga./Dooly Co.), Earnest Robinson (Pinson, Ala./Pinson Valley) and Dee Liner (Muscle Shoals, Ala./Muscle Shoals) all got a plan,” Wiggins said. “I just know we are all going to play together.”
Kamara plans to be in Athens next month for Dawg Night, and hopes to make his decision before his senior season. Georgia will have to fight off Alabama, Florida State, Alabama, Clemson and possibly Auburn if they want to add the top available running back in Georgia.