Garner: UGA recruited 3-4 Penn Staters

ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner joked with reporters after Sunday’s practice about recent reports showing that the Bulldogs coaching staff informed Penn State that it was interested in 19 Nittany Lions players.

Yes, Georgia’s coaches were interested in all 19 players on some level, Garner said, but they only contacted three or four players on the list. He did not reveal their names.

“I don’t remember. We can’t say anyway,” Garner said. “I’m like, ‘Well, where’s everybody else’s list at? Did they have to do that?’ ”

After the NCAA announced severe sanctions against Penn State on July 23, the organization announced that any Nittany Lions player could transfer to another program without sitting out the season. It informed colleges that they simply must officially inform Penn State of any players they might be interested in recruiting to their program.

That same day, Georgia sent Penn State a list of 19 players -- a list that UGA released four days later to reporters who sought any communication between the two schools in open-records requests. Few colleges have released such communication to the public.

“Georgia’s got some open record laws,” Garner cracked. “Call Nick [Saban, Alabama’s head coach] and see what list they sent in.”

Garner said there was widespread misperception about how accepting Penn State players would affect schools’ scholarship numbers against the 85-player maximum limit and 25-player initial qualifiers allowed each year.

“I just think there has been some false reporting about how it all works,” he said. “They said you could take a Penn State player and it not count against you. That’s not true. It’s going to count against you. It counts against your 85, it counts against an initial. The only thing was if you had 25 initials and your 85 this year and you took one, next year you had 24 initials and you had to be at 84.”

Garner believes the misperception that schools could easily add Penn State players without upsetting the recruiting apple cart might have led observers to question why Georgia -- whose total of scholarship players is hovering in the low 70s -- wouldn’t add as many Nittany Lions as possible.

“I know everybody’s saying, ‘Why didn’t Georgia take them? Roster management da-da-da.’ Well it was going to affect what our wish would be if we could get everything right in January and February by what we could take,” he said. “But there were a couple guys where we felt, ‘Hey, if we could get these one or two guys, then hey, that would offset and be fine.’ If they were to say, ‘Hey, you could take them and the only thing it counts against is the 85 and them not count against the initial, being able to count back, count forward, all that, you’d try to get all the seniors you could. But that’s not the way it was.

“Unfortunately nobody’s ever come out and just said that, unless we were given false information about how it counts, which I think we’ve got a good compliance staff.”

Roster management is a touchy subject these days for Georgia after nine players have left the program by transfer or dismissal since last preseason. However, Garner defended the players still in the program, whose character has come into question because of the numerous departures and disciplinary issues that have generated headlines in the last several months.

“Some of the guys that we’ve lost -- and we’ve lost a lot a guys -- you wish you could have been able to save a few of those and they definitely would have helped your situation,” said Garner, also Georgia's defensive line coach. “But a lot of those guys we made the decision to cut and move on. It wasn’t a university decision or whatever, so you know it’s just, ‘What do we want this program to be?’ I know it’s a double-edged sword, but what do you want? You could sweep everything under the rug, you can have this, you can have that, but is that really what you want?

“Just like I told my guys, ‘Who do you want to be teammates with? Do you want to be around this guy when you get old, that you enjoyed being around? Or are you going to be around a bunch of whatever?’ So it’s the way Coach [Mark Richt] wants to run this program, and I think he does a heck of a job running it. I think he does a good job. I think just because of our philosophy, sometimes we take undue criticism because I really do in my heart believe we have good kids.”