Going back one season, three players have left the Georgia football team only to return days later. This week linebacker Brandon Burrows followed in the steps of running back Ken Malcome and safety Marc Deas when he returned to Athens after asking for a transfer. Some players have transferred and not returned, while others have been dismissed for disciplinary issues. Add to those players the ones who have left early for the NFL or failed to qualify academically and Georgia heads into the season with just 75 players on scholarship. Five of those players are former walk-ons. With that in mind, we asked our staff and our readers the following DawgNation Roundtable discussion question:
"What in your opinion has led Georgia to having only 75 players on scholarship?"
David Ching: Georgia easily could have remedied its roster shortages under old recruiting rules that allowed a team to sign as many players as it wanted as long as it stayed under the 85-player limit. Over-signing rules introduced another element to the equation that made determining the size of signing classes more difficult. That made an impact at Georgia, as the Bulldogs have lost several players from their last several signing classes for various reasons (academic, disciplinary, playing time).
The Bulldogs could have remedied that situation somewhat on national signing day, but Mark Richt's coaching staff took something of a gamble by signing 19 players -- only 17 of whom have qualified as I type this -- instead of the allowable 25. Truthfully the senior-laden Bulldogs aren't desperate for more true freshmen in a season during which some believe they can win a national title. But depth will be more of a concern at some spots in 2013, and it looks like the coaches are attempting to address those concerns -- and rebuild their scholarship numbers -- with a plan to use early enrollment allowances to build a 2013 signing class that will include more than 30 players. That would be a major step in getting Georgia's numbers healthy again.
Radi Nabulsi: While the coaches might not be to blame (at least not completely), the trouble for Georgia is that the perception among fans and recruits is that the Bulldogs are down 10 scholarships due to arrests. A talented rising junior told me recently his father didn’t like Georgia because of the arrests that have occurred in Athens. Perception is reality, and when people hear that Georgia had eight arrest two years ago and are down 10 scholarships this year, they naturally think there is a causal relationship.
Richt’s detractors want to lay all of this at his feet. They say he is too lax in his punishments and therefore players feel they can get away with anything. Richt’s defenders say that he is too strict, booting kids off the team and applying much harsher punishments than those doled out by other coaches. To me, the lack of scholarship players has little to do with the ones who have been dismissed.
By my count, Georgia has lost 32 players in the last four years. Seven players were dismissed for breaking team rules. Six players did not qualify academically coming out of high school, while another one, Caleb King, failed to maintain academic progress. Twelve players have transferred, while three took medical exemptions. Orson Charles left for the NFL and Xavier Avery went to the MLB.
The transfers far outnumber the dismissals. Many of those who transferred found they could not break into the depth chart, which tells me that the coaches recruited better players. A number of the prospects who did not qualify were close, so there was no reason to cut ties earlier in the recruiting process and go after someone else. Richt has taken players as grayshirts only to find a scholarship for them due to attrition.
The real reason the Bulldogs are so far down in numbers is that they just haven’t signed enough players to keep up with the attrition. Programs lose players all the time, but a couple of small recruiting classes have magnified this attrition for the Bulldogs.
Kipp Adams: Tough to pin that on any one factor.
Without covering the team on a day-to-day basis, it is difficult for me to quantify whether the culture in Athens has had an effect on any off-the-field issues for Georgia in the past three years. For that matter, I have not seen numbers that show the attrition at Georgia is different than that of other prominent programs.
Replacing almost the entire defensive staff in 2010 resulted in Georgia having to recruit for a different defensive scheme. It also made several on the roster a bad fit for what Todd Grantham & Co. are looking for.
Add in the loss of recruiting assistant Charles Cantor, and the evaluation process was set back several months. His position was only recently filled via the hiring of Daryl Jones, director of on-campus recruiting. The lack of a full-time employee on staff to gather film and help set the recruiting board made it difficult for in-depth evaluations during the 2011 season, which in turn might have kept several senior prospects in the 2012 class from being considered for offers. With only 19 signees, 17 of which have qualified and enrolled so far, Georgia was unable to restock the roster as it would like.
Fortunately, SEC rules and one of the best in-state groups of talent in the last five years have provided Georgia with an opportunity to bring in up to 34 prospects in the 2013 class. Now we wait to find out whether the Bulldogs can counter the shortage on the roster with one of the biggest recruiting classes -- if not the biggest class -- in its history.
Jonathan Griffin: This is just a shot in the dark, but it appears the players really respect Mark Richt -- as does most of the Dawg Nation -- but I see very little fear of him. I think a little more fire and brimstone and a little less grace is needed.
Dimitri Cassini: I think it is a bit of roster mismanagement. Mark Richt hates to oversight with the fear of being over the 85 limit, but the fact is he has attrition every offseason. Yet they act like they will have zero. Couple that with some boneheads getting in trouble, and there you have it.
Want to see your opinion in the next DawgNation Roundtable? Visit The Pound every Tuesday for the Question of the Week and write a brief response. Each week we will choose one answer to be included. Responses that appear in the Roundtable will be edited for clarity. We look forward to hearing from you.