Greetings from Butts-Mehre on a freezing cold Wednesday morning. We'll have continuously updated posts here today with as things progress.
-- We already have our first official signing of the day today... Branden Smith is officially a Bulldog. Smith is a five-star DB and could step in and play immediately. While Greg Reid's decision last night was a bummer, Smith's signing eases the sting a little.
-- Also, don't forget to check out Abry Jones' official signing at Macon.com. I'll also have a post here in a minute with the live video link.
-- Montez Robinson became the second player to sign. Robinson is a defensive end out of Indiana -- a huge need for the Bulldogs in the wake of the Toby Jackson fiasco. Robinson appeared headed to Auburn but changed his mind after Tommy Tuberville left.
-- Next name on the dotted line is Jordan Love. Love was a two-way player in high school with great athleticism and speed, not to mention being my favorite New Kid on the Block.
-- Four more signings in: four-star O lineman Chris Burnette, three-star DB Shawn Williams, four-star DT Derrick and four-star tight end out of Massachusetts, Arthur Lynch.
-- Offensive lineman Austin Long out of Tennessee has signed.
-- Stephen Hill is staying with Georgia Tech. Hope he enjoys blocking.
-- If you're one of those folks with 10 browser windows open right now, GeorgiaDogs.com is continuously updating as well.
-- There are probably about 50 fans milling around the lobby of the Butts-Mehre building. That's actually a lot less than I was expecting. I've been playing a little catch-up this morning, but we'll have lots more throughout the day. Coach Richt is scheduled to speak around 2 p.m. I'll try to grab a handful of other dignitaries throughout the afternoon. And I'll be blogging right up until Georgia tips off what could be its ninth straight loss against LSU tonight.
-- Linebacker Chase Vasser is the latest signee, as of 8:43. Michael Gilliard is expected to fax in his paperwork in the next few minutes.
-- ESPN has a good feature yesterday running down the top players yet to commit (although the Greg Reid mention might be a little heartbreaking for UGA fans). It also mentions that Tennessee is the leader for Marlon Brown.
-- 960 the Ref's Dave McMahon (the Mike Wallace of Athens sports radio, in my opinion) chats with new Bulldog Montez Robinson.
-- Rontavious Wooten is in the bag as of 9:08. Wooten will have a lot on his shoulders next year, particularly if the Dawgs can't land Marlon Brown. While A.J. Green should be a stud again next year, the depth at wide receiver -- particularly if Tony Wilson isn't back to 100 percent -- will be a real issue. Kris Durham and Michael Moore are solid guys, but niether has proven they are legit outside threats on a consistent basis. The wild card could be Tavarres King, who has the skill and a year of experience under his belt. Regardless, Wooten isn't likely to see a redshirt. There was also a bit of concern that Wooten may flip at the last minute, so this is a big signing.
-- UGA recruiting guru Michael Carvell is blogging from the seat next to me (in between chicken-and-biscuit bites). If you'd care to catch up with his posts, too, you can find it HERE.
-- OK, don't panic on any Marlon Brown-related news just yet: He's scheduled to announce late afternoon between 3:30 and 4. I'll admit, I'd be shocked if it wasn't Tennessee or Georgia.
-- Don't forget to check out the Abry Jones signing at Macon.com or the post above. Going on right now.
-- OK, I'm posting to this on Marlon Brown because it's being discussed. I'm not saying it's wrong, but I have trouble buying a single-sourced, anonymously-sourced story from one radio station. It's possible, but I wouldn't be 100 percent sure on it.
-- Announcement times for ESPNU are posted HERE over at TotalUGA.com. (Registration -- but not a subscription -- required).
-- Add another name to the list: Running back Washaun Ealey has officially signed. Ealey has the potential to be a stud, but it will be interesting to see how much he plays into things right off the bat. Should be a really good competition for carries this season.
-- We're still waiting on the official word from Abry Jones (who is good to go) along with Dexter Moody and Michael Gilliard.
-- The AJC has the story on Stephen Hill's signing at Tech with some interesting words from Paul Johnson: "It got crazy in the end, and some stuff went on that probably shouldn’t have gone on," Johnson said. "I told his dad this morning, 'This is a 40-year decision, not a four-year decision.' We feel he did the right thing."
-- Ealey's fellow ECI teammate Dexter Moody is now in the bag for Georgia.
-- ESPN is hosting live chats with Greg Reid at 11 a.m. and Arthur Lynch at 1 p.m.
-- Rodney Garner is on the podium now chatting with G Extra. Here are a few quotes...
On the process of getting guys recruited...
"Some of the guys, we've been recruiting for a couple of years. Most of them we've been recruiting for over a year. Last year we started recruiting with the junior day and just had junior day last week. It is watching the fruit of your labor, and it's very exciting to see the kids send those faxes in. And we're still not finished. We're still expecting a few more faxes and hopefully we'll have a couple surprises."
On Branden Smith...
"Obviously Branden, we targeted him as our No. 1 at that position the entire year, so to get his fax in was very exciting. Even though he committed to Georgia, I don't think anyone gave up on him, and I'm pretty sure they were trying to change his mind even until last night."
On the final days of recruiting...
"You'd like for it to be solid and not have to worry about kids changing their mind and all that, but that's not the nature of this business. It's something that everybody's going to keep working and grinding and trying to get that last-minute change. You never know what it might be that pushes the button to actually get the kid to turn, and that does add an element of surprise, especially since our class has been committed for a very long time. There's not many surprises in the class because these kids committed such a long time ago and have stayed true to form."
-- Just spent a few minutes chatting with former Georgia linebacker and current St. Louis Rams star Will Witherspoon. Here's a bit of what he had to say...
On what he remembers from his signing day...
"For me, it was just the excitement of knowing I was going to be coming here. I remember sitting there in my high school gym and doing the whole gambit and thinking, 'Now it can be alright. I don't have all these decisions to make. I can just go ahead and get here.' I think that's what a lot of these guys experience. It's a sigh of relief to say the least."
On how closely he has followed this year's recruiting...
"I haven't really followed it as close as I used to, but Kelin is keeping me on track as close as he can. But you've got to just take it in stride and see how these guys develop."
On what he's looking forward to for himself next season...
"We've got a new coach with (Steve) Spagnuolo in there, and the d coordinator is Ken Flajole, who was with me in Carolina and did some great things there. He and I know how to talk to each other, so that's a great deal there. I'm just looking forward to getting our feet back in the dirt and just digging our shoes in and going back to work and getting off the blocks. That's what we want to do this year is really set a tone. When you look at the entire season last year, yeah, we didn't play well the first half, but those last six games -- five of them came down to the last minute or two. You're like, man, how can we be so close and so far away? But that's the nature of the game, that's the way the system works, and you've got to learn to just throw it in the past and not focus on it or let everybody hold you back and make you think about what you can't change."
-- Michael Gilliard is officially on the books. Abry Jones remains the only "official" hold out, but that is a done deal.
-- Coach Richt is expected to address the crowd (which now numbers over 100) at Butts-Mehre around 11.
-- Looks like it's been a good day for Auburn. You can check out Andy Bitter's coverage of signing day for the Tigers HERE.
-- ESPN reports Darren Myles is headed to Tennessee. That's a big addition for the Vols.
-- This was already done, but it is now official: Abry Jones is a Bulldog. We're done waiting on guys we already know about. Now we'll see if -- as Rodney Garner hinted -- there will be some surprises.
-- I'll have a few Richt quotes in a few moments, but a quick bit of newsworthy info: 1.) Richt recommended fans stick around this afternoon because "anything can happen." He made some allusions to Brown and Charles. 2.) Said Kiante Tripp will move back to D-end. Said the move was requested by Tripp and happened just this week. 3.) Said he highly doubts the season opener at Okie State will be a Thursday game. More to come...
-- Rodney Garner on Abry Jones: "Abry is a very talented kid. He's a kid that does have the ability to help us out on both defensive end positions if he had to as a true freshman -- he and Derrick Lott both. We're recovering from some injuries we have and we'll be able to put the kids in the position that we feel will be best for their future and best for their program."
-- Massie to Ole Miss. Big steal for the Fightin' Nutts.
-- Richt quotes...
On the day's take...
"All the commitments are in at this point -- at least the ones that everyone's been thinking we got. There are a couple out there making their decision later in the day, and we'll see. I think it's worth sticking around and watching what's going to happen. No one knows until it happens because there's some things that every school across America thought was going to happen and didn't. I'm not making any predictions other than it will be exciting I hope."
On the injuries...
"It was over 20 that were not participating in the mat drills. Last year at this time, it was only four. ... If you look at the June list of where we predict everybody being, it's almost 100 percent of our football team by June should be ready to do everything full speed. But this is a crucial time for us in building our football team -- our mental and physical toughness and building team unity. One thing we did do because of the number of players who are banged up, we set an extra station with the injured players to maximize everything they could possibly do. We're going to have a full-time field coach with those injured players to make sure that every body part that does work is strained to the max. They're going to get graded and they're going to wish they were healthy."
On Joe Cox...
"I talked to him in the weight room. Everybody was in there working and I just kind of got in his ear, and I was like, 'Joe, I really believe in you. I know you can get it done.' I talked about a guy I had at Florida State named Peter Tom Willis, who waited until his senior year -- and of course, we talked about Shockley going through the very same thing. We talked about Peter Tom for a minute, and I said, 'You know, Pete waited til his fifth year before he got to play, and he broke every passing record that we had at Florida State.' Joe said, 'Coach, I'm not worried about passing records. I'm worried about winning games.' That's the kind of guy you want."
On position changes and Kiante Tripp...
"Kiante Tripp is going to move back to defensive end, his original position. He came to me with that request, and he looked at our depth chart and saw the issues there with some of the guys that weren't going to be there in the spring and also kind of had a desire to get back in that role. So we welcome it and this happened just yesterday or the day before. That's one guy that will move and I can't think of another guy off the top of my head."
On getting players qualified...
"Technically no one is qualified until they graduate from high school. When we sign these young men, we have every intention of them making it. Every once in a while a guy has to go the prep school route ... but I don't foresee that right now. Right now we feel that everybody has a very outstanding shot at qualifying and being with us."
On possibly opening 2009 on a Thursday...
"I doubt very seriously we go to Oklahoma State on Thursday night. I would be excited about it because it would give us two extra days to prepare for our next opponent, which is South Carolina. But right now I don't know if that's going to happen. But I think it would be good."
-- Some notes from the always lovely and always talented though highly overrated Jay Adams, who covered Abry Jones' signing today...
* Eric Fields, who was widely considered one of the top linebackers in the country, had committed to Clemson last season, but the Tigers withdrew their offer. Fields signed Wednesday with Northwest Mississippi Community College because of academic reasons with the hopes of spending two years there and then signing with Georgia.
"Really, I just want to go (to NMCC) and open up my options," Fields said. "I'm thinking about going to Georgia. I want to go to Georgia. If they give me a chance, that's who I'm going to choose."
* Highly touted Northside defensive lineman Abry Jones walked around campus prior to his signing ceremony chomping his arms up and down as if he was going to change his mind and sign with Florida.
There was little doubt that Jones would follow through on his commitment, however, when he walked into the Northside cafeteria where his parents were decked out in red and black sitting near three Georgia cakes.
As Jones signed his national letter-of-intent, head coach Conrad Nix spoke about the defensive lineman's determination. When Jones arrived at Northside his freshman year, he wasn't exactly what the coaching staff had expected.
"He was just raw and big. He probably weighed about 215, maybe that, probably about 6-1. Just a guy you want to work with and then he grew," Nix said. "He's very coachable. He's like a sponge. He absorbs it. … He was determined. He had that work ethic, he worked. He listened to coaching and really blossomed into a great player."
"He was bad," joked Jones' best friend Anton Williams, who signed Wednesday with University of the Cumberlands. "He was soft, he was lazy, he didn't want to do anything. I don't know what happened over (that) summer. Over the summer, he just came back and became a different person."
Jones arrived his sophomore year bigger and stronger with a more refined game, and that's when colleges started getting after him.
Fielding a bunch of calls for Jones' services, Nix sat Jones down and told him early to narrow his schools down to four. That way, Nix would only accept calls from his four schools and all but ignore the rest.
Two weeks after that initial meeting, Jones walked into Nix's office and told him he wanted to go to Georgia.
Jones and Williams talked extensively when colleges began to call, and Jones never wavered from his decision to play for the Bulldogs.
"It came to my attention I think about 11th grade. He came and told me that he was trying to go sign with Georgia," Williams said. "He held true the whole way out."
Williams added that he became a big Bulldogs fan when Jones penned his name to his letter-of-intent, but Jones, despite being set on Georgia for a long time, will have to work to change his loyalties.
"He's been a Miami boy," Williams said with a smile. "He's always been a Miami boy."
-- Another note from Jay Adams...
Northside head coach Conrad Nix received a call shortly after Valdosta’s Greg Reid announced his decision to sign with Florida State. On the other end was Mark Richt, who called to inquire about the intentions of Northside defensive back KJ Morton. Nix wouldn’t elaborate much on the conversation, saying only that Nix couldn’t guarantee that the 155-pound Morton would be able to bulk up to around 185. Richt didn’t end up extending an offer to Morton and he ended up signing Wednesday with Georgia State.
Morton recorded 51 tackles, five interceptions and two touchdowns during his senior season with the Eagles.
-- Don't forget soccer signings today! Huge news! Exclamation points! Phew!!! (That last one was just for the folks in the Binny.)
-- Word was that Georgia was a long shot for Jarvis Jones, but there could be a late surprise. Check out his announcement live at Ledger-Enquirer.com at 1:30.
-- Shawn Williams from Early County was among the first signees today. He's a great athlete and plays baseball as well as football. Apparently his multi-sport status made him a hot commodity leading up to signing day, but he said he never wavered in his decision...
"I had my mind made up at the end of my junior year," Williams said. "I had football coaches calling me. Baseball coaches calling me. Georgia Tech, Auburn, Florida State. Those were the main ones."
-- Jarvis Jones is headed to USC -- which really comes as little surprise. Joining him is Jawanza Starling out of Tallahassee. Georgia has to be a little disappointed it didn't land either guy, but truth be told, the Dawgs were dealing to an inside straight with both. And, if you're gonna lose out on guys like that, might as well watch them go to the other side of the country.
-- About to head downstairs to chat with Coach Richt and the other assistants. I'll be back with some quotes in about an hour.
-- OK, back from a long series of interviews including -- Get this! -- with Stacy Searels. Rather than simply post all the quotes here, I'll have another post as a notebook a bit later this afternoon. Marlon Brown is on the clock for 3:45, by the way. Just as a note, at the beginning of the press conference, Richt told reporters that he had his phone out waiting for a call and, if it came, he would have to duck out early. No call came though, so probably not a great sign.
-- Marlon Brown picks Georgia! So much for a slow day. I can't imagine what the Brown-A.J. combo will be like next year.
-- Richt will speak about the Brown signing shortly. I'll have an update then.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Greetings from Butts-Mehre on a freezing cold Wednesday morning. We'll have continuously updated posts here today with as things progress.