With slightly less than six months to go until national signing day, the University of Georgia has 26 verbal commitments for the 2013 class. By next week the Bulldogs could be looking at 30. Of course, not one of those committed players has taken an official visit to Georgia -- but all have been to Athens, Ga., at some point during their recruitment. Georgia’s director of recruiting and assistant head coach Rodney Garner knows the value of those unofficial visits.
“Unofficial visits now are just so critical,” Garner said. “When I first got in it there weren’t many unofficial visits in the summer. You may have had four or five kids come in at some point in the summertime but it wasn’t anything like it is today. Since Signing Day here in February, there have only been two or three weekends where we did not have kids on our campus. It has just totally changed to where it is 365 days a year.”
The constant flow of recruits has helped Georgia pick up a large commitment class, but Garner feels that the pace is unsustainable.
“I think the NCAA is going to have to look at doing some things differently to put some sanity back into it, possibly an early signing day,” Garner said. “I am thinking if you could do something like have an early signing day on August 1 for those guys that are committed. At least you could get those guys locked in and you could focus on them. Because now really a commitment means nothing, it means absolutely nothing. We can say what we want to, ‘We have x number of players committed.’ But how many of them are actually committed? ‘I am committed but I am taking all five of my visits.’ Is that really committed?”
The affable Garner has been recruiting a long time and has seen the process change. He pointed out that the perpetual advancement of the recruiting calendar has caused deterioration in the strength of commitments by recruits who are deciding earlier and earlier each year.
“Committed means, ‘Hey, I like you and I am going to look around and if I don’t find anything better then, yeah, I am going to stay with you,’ ” Garner said. “And hopefully there are some kids that are serious about the commitment. But a lot of times all a commitment does is identify who is the lead right now. And then it just takes all the gloves off where everybody was playing nice with each other.
“Everybody was just recruiting and having a good time but once a kid commits everybody starts attacking the guy the kid committed to. That is all it does. It just identifies who is in the lead.”
The Georgia coaching staff has seen two decommitments in the class already and is working to keep other schools from flipping any of its other committed prospects. That too is a full time job.
“It is insane,” Garner said. “Just from a coaching standpoint -- trying to plan some family time in the summer -- you can plan on being out of town and then we have a kid coming in this weekend so you have to change your vacation. So there has to be something to put some sanity back into it. I think the NCAA will look at doing some things differently because of the calendar and the attention that is paid to recruiting. It will be interesting to see what transpires.”
To help with all the traffic of recruits wanting to visit the Bulldogs’ program, Mark Richt created a new position on his staff. Daryl Jones is now Georgia’s director of on-campus recruiting. As the Bulldogs look to sign one of their biggest classes in recent memory, that hire looks to be a home run. Jones says it is not him but rather Richt and all of the unofficial visits that deserve the credit.
“We really do feel strongly that the unofficial visits do play into our strengths,” Jones said. “Our lead guy, Coach Richt, is very informal when you first meet him. And these unofficial visits are a very informal way of getting to know the University of Georgia program. So it is a perfect alignment of what the prospect student-athlete is after: a very informal approach to finding out more about the University of Georgia and Coach [Mark] Richt’s strength of being very personable, very real. And that is what the student-athletes are after. It is a great match between the unofficial visits and the personality of our program.”