UGA-Tennessee recruiting battles

This week Georgia coach Mark Richt was discussing recruiting battles against Tennessee, and the first names brought up a reporter -- Cordarrelle Patterson, Jawuan James, Antonio Richardson -- elicited a candid remark by Richt.

“Why are you saying all of the guys we lost?” Richt said. “The guys you mentioned were two of the best-looking offensive tackles I have seen in a while. And certainly Cordarrelle is a freaky ball-player. We tried really hard to get all of those guys.

Just as the Bulldogs have annual battles on the field with Tennessee and others in the Southeastern Conference, they also go head-to-head for some of the top prospects in the country. Quite often, those prospects are from the state of Georgia.

“It is Tennessee, it is Florida, Auburn, Clemson,” Richt said. “So many schools just border our state. So many schools are just closer to our players than we are sometimes. Everybody knows Georgia has great high school coaching and great high school players.

“There are Georgia boys all over this United States of America, but especially in the South. Everybody is looking to snag some of our guys.”

Tennessee has won out several times against Georgia, but the Bulldogs have also taken two of the top prospects out of Tennessee in recent years. DawgNation looks at five high-profile prospects still in college who made the choice between the Bulldogs and the Volunteers.

OT Jawuan James (Suwanee, Ga./North Gwinnett): Chose Tennessee over Georgia on Nov. 10, 2009.

As a recruit: Ranked as an ESPN 150 prospect, the No. 2 offensive tackle, the No. 3 prospect in Georgia and the No. 24 prospect in the country. Selected to play in the 2010 Under Armour All-America game.

How it went down: James originally committed to Alabama in May, but decommitted from the Tide early in September. Both times Georgia tried to convince James to consider playing in Athens, but they would lose out on each occasion. A few days before James was set to start classes as an early enrollee, Lane Kiffin left Knoxville in the middle of the night to take the job at USC. James, distraught and confused, returned home and considered asking to be released from his grant-in-aid package. Georgia, unable to contact James directly, once again waited and hoped he would play for the Bulldogs. A few days later, James decided to return to Tennessee and Georgia was jilted for a third time.

Since he enrolled: James has started all 29 games at right tackle since he enrolled at Tennessee, and was a 2010 Coaches’ Freshman All-SEC selection.

OT Austin Long (Memphis, Tenn./Briarcrest Christian)

As a recruit: Ranked as an ESPN 150 prospect, the No. 5 offensive tackle, the No. 2 prospect in Tennessee and the No. 46 prospect in the country. Selected to play in the 2009 Army All-American Bowl game.

How it went down: Long picked up double-digit offers during the spring of his junior year, but interestingly enough, Georgia was the second program to offer, just two days after Alabama extended an early scholarship. Long took trips to many colleges during the spring, and after two assistant coaches from Georgia visited his school during the evaluation period in April, Long called them up and committed after school.

Since he enrolled: Long sustained a stress fracture in his back just a few weeks before he was set to play in the Army All-American game. Two surgeries, two years of rehabbing, an ankle injury and a staph infection have delayed Long’s progress. He appeared in two games in 2011 and has been one of the first linemen off the bench in 2012.

OT Antonio Richardson (Nashville, Tenn./Pearl-Cohn)

As a recruit: Ranked as an ESPN 150 prospect, the No. 5 offensive tackle, the No. 1 prospect in Tennessee and the No. 105 prospect in the country. Selected to play in the 2011 Army All-American Bowl game.

How it went down: When fellow Army All-American Ray Drew convinced Richardson to take an official to Georgia late in January, many felt it was just to enjoy a free trip to Athens. But what Richardson saw was a thin depth chart, one that offered a strong chance to start from day one. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, whatever chance they had was likely hindered by the departure earlier that week of offensive line coach Stacy Searels to Texas. Richardson chose the in-state Volunteers on signing day.

Since he enrolled: Richardson played in all 12 games as a freshman and has started all four games this season at left tackle.

WR Marlon Brown (Memphis, Tenn./Harding Academy)

As a recruit: An ESPN 150 selection, the No. 3 wide receiver, the No. 1 prospect in Tennessee and the No. 24 prospect in the country. Selected to play in the Under Armour All-America Game.

How it went down: While Georgia made Brown its top receiver target for the 2009 class, newly-hired Kiffin put the heat on him to stay in-state by visiting him immediately after being hired. Brown took his last official visit to Tennessee, just a few days before signing day. It was speculated that Brown’s grandmother, who did not make the trip, was not a fan of a few of the coaches at Tennessee. Just as the departure of Searels might have hurt Georgia’s chances with Richardson, the change in staff so late in the process might have affected Brown’s decision as well. Around 4:30 p.m. ET on signing day, Brown sent shockwaves throughout the state by signing with Georgia.

Since he enrolled: Brown has appeared in 36 games, making nine starts, and has 44 career catches for 646 yards and seven touchdowns. In four games this year, Brown has16 catches for 264 yards and three touchdowns, all career highs.

WR Cordarrelle Patterson (Hutchinson, Kans., Community College)

As a recruit: Considered by many to be the top juco prospect in the country.

How it went down: Tennessee looked like the leader for much of the 2012 recruiting cycle, with many pointing at his former high school teammate already on campus in Justin Worley. But Georgia made Patterson a priority in the class, and following his December official visit to Georgia, the Bulldogs were in the driver’s seat. But Patterson did not enroll early as planned, and by mid-January the Volunteers had the upper hand in Patterson’s recruitment. He chose Tennessee the day before signing day. A few weeks after Patterson signed Tennessee announced the hiring of Hutchinson assistant Brandon Staley, a longtime acquaintance of wide receivers’ coach Darin Hinshaw, fueling conspiracy theories regarding the recruitment of Patterson.

Since he enrolled: Following the departure of Da’Rick Rogers, Patterson has stepped up as the No. 2 receiver for Tennessee alongside Justin Hunter and has started all four games this year. He has four rushes for 102 yards and a touchdown, 19 catches for 259 yards and two touchdowns, and five kickoff returns for 151 yards.