It’s just another day in the SEC when Georgia supporters dub the country’s 12th rated class a failure. But in the eyes of national contenders, the Dawgs 2013 recruiting campaign was viewed as nothing short of a disappointment, whose negative effects are still manifesting themselves today.
See, Mark Richt and staffers (primary recruiters: OC Mike Bobo and DC Todd Grantham), saw what most of the country did for the 2013 class: an abundance of talent located in UGA’s backyard. But, the inability to put so much as a picket fence around the state proved detrimental in the 2013-2015 seasons.
Top in-state talent sets the foundation for the entirety of the recruiting class. That means, as the flagship school of a state, if missed out on, that year’s class will most likely suffer. In addition, the following years’ on field performance will reflect onto it.
During the 2012 cycle, Georgia only signed 17 players, prepping for an influx of talent in the following year’s class. That’s not to say that class was not memorable, in fact, their freshman contribution was more remarkable than in years since.
Seeing Mike Davis and Geno Smith head elsewhere was tough, but UGA managed to nab three of the state’s top four players. Richt reeled in the states only two 5 star prospects (Josh Harvey-Clemons and Jordan Jenkins) as well as other big time contributors like Josh Dawson, John Atkins, and Quayvon Hicks. All the while signing out of state prospects Keith Marshall, Todd Gurley, John Theus, and Marshall Morgan.
As the 2013 cycle came around, the abundance of talent on the home front had coaches in the southeast drooling. With EIGHT scholarship spots left over from the year before (every FBS school is given 85 and most power schools sign 25 per year), adequate preparations were being made for what was poised to be a nationally elite recruiting class. Coming off of a season which ended just short of an SEC Title, it seemed as if Mark Richt was finally about to build a class to take the program to new heights.
But, in the weeks leading up to National Signing Day, and on the first Wednesday of February, Dawg fans were once again left scratching their heads as they witnessed the state’s top SEVEN players leave home. In fact, Georgia managed to only sign THREE of the top fifteen players from their home state.
UGA’s coaching staff had to watch the likes of Robert Nkemdiche, Montravious Adams, Carl Lawson, Vonn Bell, Alvin Kamara, Josh Dobbs, Wayne Gallman, and others put on the hats of close rivals. After receiving 32 Letters of Intent, yes 32, you read that correctly, (23 from Georgia) here are the only 4/5 star players that ended up in a Dawg uniform:
None. All four ended up elsewhere. Two, Adams and Lawson, ended up on The Plains, set to play the Dawgs every year.
Tray Matthews (#8 state, #79 national)- S – kicked off the team for a violation of team rules. Shockingly, he ended up at Auburn as well.
Brice Ramsey (#10 state, #100 national) – QB – many think his inability to grasp the offense was the reason Greyson Lambert was brought in. While neither succeeded last season, Ramsey did show promise punting the football. He will be battling Lambert and newcomer Jacob Eason for the starting QB spot in 2016.
Shaq Wiggins (#13 state, #128 national) – CB – after an electric beginning to his career, he followed former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to Louisville after his freshman season.
Brandon Kublanow (#16 state, #185 national) – OG – solid production as a two year starter on the offensive line, but development seemed to be stunted by Rob Sale last season. He looks to be a fixture on the Dawgs offensive line in 2016.
Brendan Langley (#17 state, #195 national) – CB – after flipping from CB to WR back to CB, Langley determined that his time in Athens had run its course. He transferred to Lamar before the 2014 season.
Johnny O’Neal (#20 state, #264 national) – ILB – sitting behind Armalo Herrera and Ramik Wilson as a freshman and sophomore, then Jake Ganus and Tim Kimbrough last season, O’Neal is likely to not see much playing time in 2016.
Reggie Carter (#22 state, #290 national) – ILB – Carter was slated to start at middle linebacker until Jake Ganus’ play made him too difficult to keep off the field. After battling injuries for the majority of the 2015 season, Carter looks to compete for an ILB position along with Natrez Patrick, Roquan Smith, and Tim Kimbrough.
Davin Bellamy (#25 state, #313 national) – OLB/SDE – after a breakout season in 2015, Georgia will be looking to Bellamy as one of the defensive leaders for 2016 along with Dominick Sanders, Trent Thompson, and Quincy Mauger (a surprising 3 star in the 2013 class).
So, from the 2013 class, UGA ended up with 0/4 five stars and of the 8/21 in state four stars. Of those eight, three have transferred, three have ridden the bench, and only TWO (Bellamy and Kublanow) have made a noticeable impact on the field. That is an unacceptable turnover rate for a program that wants to contend for national championships and a large part of why Georgia has lost 11 games in the past two seasons and has not won the East since 2012.
Georgia is still suffering lingering effects from the misses of this class. There was not proper depth on the offensive and defensive lines over the last 3 years and after Tavarres King and Marlon Brown left in 2012, there are holes at wide receiver that have yet to be filled. Also moving forward, this plays a large role as to why there may be two freshman offensive tackles with a true freshman quarterback under center this upcoming season. To the football inclined, that does not smell like a recipe for success.
For those that question the effect that recruiting has on a program, ask any national championship winner of the last 20 years. All but one have had at least two Top 10 recruiting classes in the four years before they won the title. Locking down the state is pivotal to building productive classes, and productive classes are the key to consistently competing for championships. Nationally powerful programs cannot “miss” during a year of recruiting. That ends up being the difference in the College Football Playoff and the TaxSlayer Bowl come January. The inability to capitalize on one of the country’s most fertile recruiting grounds was a driving factor as to why the Mark Richt era ended in Athens.
In such a talent rich state, that consistently produces over 10-15 players of the Top 100 players in the country, grabbing a handful should not be the expectation. Players like Robert Nkemdiche, Raekwon McMillan, and DeShaun Watson cannot end up in the hands of direct competition.
With less than two months to recruit, Kirby Smart seemed to do a solid job of establishing a presence with the state’s top talent. Missing on Derrick Brown, but snagging Isaac Nauta, Mecole Hardman, and hopefully Demetris Robertson within the coming days, Smart has shown a renewed commitment to the most important part of the recruiting process.
This is Kirby’s job now. The expectations are daunting, but they have been made abundantly clear. The University of Georgia should not be losing games every year to players that come from their state. Ten win seasons will no longer cut it in Athens.
It’s either shape up or ship out.