Class heavy on in-state players, not top 10

ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s coaches often mention how the key to a successful recruiting effort is to focus on talent that resides within its home state or a drivable distance from the UGA campus.

And Bulldogs coach Mark Richt made that point once again on national signing day when he reminded those at his press conference that 21 of Georgia’s 32 signees -- a group that ranked 10th in ESPN’s class rankings -- came from the Peach State, which he said was “pretty normal for us.”

“Two-thirds of our team is from the state of Georgia. That’s about how it’s been ever since I’ve been here,” Richt said. “Philosophically when we go after guys out of state, we certainly want to find guys that are special in their ability and their academics and how they carry themselves, as well.”

By and large, Richt’s coaching staff seemed to do that. Of the 20 signees who received a four-star grade from ESPN, 11 came from within Georgia’s borders, while nine came from out of state. The biggest problem the Bulldogs encountered was closing on some of the biggest prospects who decided late in the recruiting process and -- perhaps most painful for Georgia’s fans -- failing to close on the top in-state prospects.

Georgia landed just one player, cornerback Shaq Wiggins, who ranked among the top 10 prospects in the state according to ESPN’s player rankings. The nation’s overall No. 1 and 2 prospects, defensive linemen Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss) and Carl Lawson (Auburn) both reside within the state and signed elsewhere, as did two players that Georgia chased -- defensive lineman Montravius Adams (Auburn) and running back Alvin Kamara (Alabama) -- right up until signing day.

We’ll be more closely examining the importance of landing prospects who rank among the state’s top 10 players next week, as the subject has already become a source of thoughtful conversation among some members on our DawgNation forum, The Pound.

All of the commenters were in agreement that it was a glaring issue in this recruiting class, as evidenced by this comment from user klawson720:

“I think it is a major problem. Especially in years like this when the talent in the state of Georgia is some of the best in the country. The top 2 prospects in the nation were both from the state of Georgia and neither of them were ever really considering Georgia.”

klawson720 went on to add that, “This year was a bit worse than normal, but the main thing is that we can’t consistently miss out on the elite prospects in our state. I don’t know what needs to be changed, but recruiting like we did this year will not cut it.”

Poster clint_b11 pointed out that in-state rival Georgia Tech failed to sign any of the state’s top 10 players. The Yellow Jackets’ top-ranked in-state signee was three-star offensive tackle Shamire Devine at No. 47, while Alabama, Ohio State and Auburn all signed two of the state’s top 10 players. clint_b11 offered a solution to Georgia’s problem: keep winning consistently.

“It’s a problem and I know [there] is always a fix to a problem, but in this scenario the only way to change this process is three things: Continue to win the East, win the [SEC championship game], win the bowl game. This we all know -- only if it was that simple.”

Certainly missing on blue-chip prospects such as Adams and Kamara or offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss) and linebacker Reuben Foster (Alabama) damaged the national perception of Georgia’s class -- a group that was already a top-10 class entering January, particularly with the 13 early enrollees who started classes in January.

That was part of user onetruedawg’s point in evaluating the 32-man class, which is the biggest Georgia has signed in Richt’s 13 years as the Bulldogs’ coach:

“Waiting out the top 10-20 national prospects and hoping to sign them on NSD is a very risky strategy for UGA. Luckily, the staff went ahead and rounded up an astounding 30 commits from three- and four-star prospects in advance so that getting screwed on NSD did not leave them with a bad class. Just the opposite, as the 32 total signees are perfect to solve our depth issue, which is about the only issue we had. And not nearly enough has been made of the presence of so many [early enrollees]. That is HUGE potentially.”

Onetruedawg went on to make a point that we’ll address further next week when examining Georgia’s history in signing the top 10 players in the state. How important is it, really, to sign high school players whom talent evaluators grade among the state’s top 10 prospects when there is such an enormous margin for error in making such evaluations?

“The only top-10 ratings that have credibility are the ones computed after the kids have graduated from college, not high school. UGA may well have landed the lion’s share of the top college football players in the state of Georgia. We’ll know in 4-5 years.”