Georgia had really been building momentum in the last few weeks building up to signing day. Starting with the verbal commitment of Damian Swann, getting elevated to another level with the committments of High School teammates Jay Rome and Malcolm Mitchell, and then streamrolling with the commitment of Ray Drew. Georgia went into today with 23 verbal committments and a few guys left on the board, one in particular, that could really elevate the class.
The main target today was Rivals 5-Star prospect RB Isaiah Crowell. In addition to Crowell, Georgia was in the running today for 4-Star DE Jeoffrey Pagan (who had already de-committed from both Clemson and Florida), 4-Star OL Antonio Richardson (thought to be a long shot), 3-Star LB Kent Turene (who had just de-committed from USC), and 3-Star DT Paul Johnson cast-off Tre Jackson. It's important to close strong on signing day but it's also important to keep all of your guys. I think we all remember last year when Tennessee swooped in at the last minute and offerred 5-Star WR Da'Rick Rogers best friend Nash Nance a scholarship and Rodgers flipped his verbal from Georgia into a written to Tennessee. I'm happy to report that all of Georgia's verbal commitments came through today and signed on the dotted line.
So what about the rest of the decisions today? Georgia lost out on 3 of the guys that I listed above. The one guy they missed out on that I thought they had the best chance with was Jeoffrey Pagan but he decided to take his talents to Alabama after looking like he might have been favoring Georgia early in the week. Antonio Richardson, as expected, stayed in stated and signed with the Tennessee Vols over Auburn and Georgia. The final miss of the day was the newly free Tre Jackson who signed with FSU over Georgia (who made a last second offer to him), Alabama, Miami (Fl), NC State and Florida. So that's who we missed out on. Now let's talk about who we got.
The first un-committed "get" of the day was Kent Turene. Turene had been committed to USC but de-committed and was down to Georgia, Nebraska and Texas Tech on NSD (National Signing Day). Kent and Boyd Anderson teammate Shaun Ward both showed up to their ceremony wearing Texas Tech hats. But luckily for Georgia fans, they were just having a little fun. When he got to the podium Turene pulled out a Georgia hat and said he made his decision two weeks ago but decided to keep it to himself until today. He called USC "Hollywood" and said that Georgia "felt like home". While Rivals has Turene as a 3-Star he had over 40 scholarship offers from the likes of Florida, LSU, Nebraska, Ohio State, and USC. Sometimes you can get a better feel for a guy when you look at who else wanted him and not just at the star rating. Scott Kennedy of Scout.com had this to say about him "Turene has good size to be a run-stopper at middle linebacker, but he's more effective on the field when he has one assignment and doesn't have to read and react, which may make him a better pass rusher, or attacking outside backer or end on the college level. He struggles in space with his change of direction and has trouble taking on and getting off of blocks. A project at linebacker with good size to build with."
Here's what ESPNU had to say about him "Turene shows the playing strength to dominate as a run stopper. Has the size and athleticism for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition. Displays very good flexibility, agility and balance; does a good job with K&D recognition skills against both the run and pass." He seems like a really good fit as inside guy for us in the 3-4. With our shortage of quality depth at LB he could get some burn this year.
In addition to Turene there was some other guy out there that the Bulldog Nation was buzzing about. His name is Isaiah Crowell and he was yet another Alabama/Georgia battle. Crowell was widely considered the #1 recruit in the state of Georgia and some services had him as the #1 RB in the Nation. His decision was broadcast live on ESPNU and about 350 people showed up to see him and his High School teammates make their decisions and sign their letters of intent. Crowell pulled a Georgia hat out of his backpack and one of his teammates ran up and gave him the most adorable little bulldog to hold. Crowell told the audience that it was a close call but that his heart was at Georgia. When interviewed later on ESPN, Mark Richt had this to say about Isaiah's potential impact..."“I expect him to come right in and compete right away...I wouldn’t be shocked to see him run that rock in the dome against Boise State, on the opening play if he does what he's supposed to do.” Mike Bobo compared him to Robert Edwards. Crowell could be a special player for the Dawgs.
Late in December Georgia had just lost a lack-luster game to Central Florida 10-6. The program felt like it was at it's knees. There haven't been any games played since that moment but it feels a lot better right now to be a member of the Bulldog Nation. You really have to tip you hats to the coaches who went out and despite all the odds against them landed a top 10 class (a Top 5 class according to Rivals). Georgia really cleaned up in state where it grabbed the top 3 players on the AJC's Fab 50 list (Crowell, Rome and Drew) and landed 8 of the top prospects on the list (DB/QB Nick Marshall, WR Damian Swann, DB/WR Malcolm Mitchell, WR Chris Conley, OL Xzavier Ward). But this is just the beginning of a hard and long road that will see the season start against Boise State and then South Carolina. And there is one more big target out there that could fill Georgia's biggest need (a NT to clog up the middle). He's JUCO talent Jonathon Jenkins. He's the top un-committed JUCO player left and Rivals has him as #6 overall and rated as a 4-Star prospect. He's 6'4" and 230 and could come in and be a factor immediately. Tune in Saturday to see if he puts Georgia's "Dream Team" over the top.