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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Protecting Their Turf

The mood from fans yesterday seems pretty mixed. On one hand, you have the fans who are calling Signing Day a major fail for Georgia. On the other hand, you have fans going out of their way to defend what happened. As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in between.

The fact is, Georgia did land some very good players, and particularly on defense, a lot of solid depth for 2010 and stars for the future will enter the program in June. That's good. And Da'Rick Rogers is just one player -- and maybe even one who has the old Nuke LaLoosh attitude to boot -- so his loss probably won't make or break Georgia's claim to future SEC titles.

On the other hand, I think there were two very big areas of concern, and both were addressed by a couple of commenters.

First, from Muckbeast, who wrote:

"Also, look at how few of the top instate players we signed."

And this is the one thing that bothers and concerns me more than anything else.

It seems like this was a HUGE year for GA High School players. Why did we lose so many of them? :(

Indeed, Georgia didn't exactly protect its turf to the fullest. We talked about this at length a couple of weeks ago in one our in-depth recruiting posts, if you'll recall, and yesterday's results really underscored what might have well been considered a concern beforehand.

Of the top 10 recruits in the state, according to ESPN's rankings, Georgia landed just one -- Alec Ogletree. Now, to be fair, the Bulldogs did manage to snatch up four of the next 10. And to be even more fair, the No. 30 recruit in Georgia is roughly the same as the No. 2 recruit in, say, Arkansas.

So to say Georgia landed just one of the state's 10 best recruits certainly isn't the same as saying Georgia didn't ink a lot of very good players from the state -- 13 in all, to be precise, and just one of fewer than three stars.

But there is something to be said for protecting the borders and bringing in the best of the best that Georgia's very fertile recruiting trails have to offer. And when you stack the Bulldogs up against the competition, it really doesn't look like they did too well and keeping their best and brightest close to home.

To wit:

# of State
Top 10
# to other
SEC schools
Georgia 1 5
LSU 8 1
Tennessee 2 4*
Florida 6 0
Alabama 3 4
Auburn 2 5
South Carolina
5 3

* State still has one uncommitted player among its top 10 recruits.

None of the big guns in the SEC did a worse job of keeping its top 10 recruits than Georgia this year, and only Auburn allowed as many to land at another SEC school. And, to be fair yet again, Alabama and Auburn were the only schools on this list competing with another SEC school within its state's borders.

Even if we look at some other top national schools, Georgia comes up lacking.

# of State
Top 10
# to other
conf schools
Ohio State
4 1
Texas 7 2
Oklahoma 4 2*
USC 4 2
Penn State
4 2

* State still has one uncommitted player among its top 10 recruits.

Again, the only school we've looked at with as much trouble keeping top talent at home has been Tennessee -- and the Vols lost their head coach just weeks before signing day. That's not exactly the company you want to keep.

And yes, I know the argument that was brought up the last time that Georgia has a lot of border schools hoping to poach the state for prized recruits. That's true. But it doesn't mean it should be acceptable, and this year Georgia had the double whammy of missing out on a number of the best and brightest and instead seeing those players go to the Dawgs' main rivals.

Oh, and speaking of rivals, that brings me to the next point that a reader made that seems to be one of the more salient arguments that there shouldn't be much joy in Dawg-ville today.

Posted anonymously:

We can spin it all we want but this is a day that I would rather forget! I ask one simple question: have we made up ground on Florida or have we lost ground? Dawg Nation needs to wake the hell up! I'm tired of the spin machine that is Richt and Garner on "they got who they were targeting". Give me a break..we got taken behind the woodshed today and spanked. All is not well in Athens.

OK, perhaps "salient" was too strong a term. But the commenter has a point. Did Georgia make up ground on Florida yesterday? It's pretty hard to make the case that it did, and given the fact that the Gators have two of the past four national titles and have beaten Georgia in four of the last five head-to-head games, that's a problem.

And when it comes to protecting borders, it's hard to argue that Florida didn't do it as well as anyone. The Gators have a pretty talent-rich state chock full of poachers, too. And yet, they landed six of the best 10 players in the state, and not a one got away to another SEC school. That's dominating the recruiting trail. And if Florida's goal is to dominate, it should be Georgia's goal, too.

And the bigger problem? Urban "I'm risking my life to coach you!" Meyer didn't just dominate his home state. He was pretty dominant nationally, too.

Another somber rundown: Florida pulled the No. 6 player from Connecticut, the No. 6 player from Georgia, the No. 3 player from Alabama, the No. 1-ranked players in Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland, and the No. 1, No. 4 and No. 8 players out of California.

In other words, there were eight states in which Florida got as many top-10 recruits as Georgia got in its own state.

In other other words, Florida dominated California -- a state on the other side of the country -- far better than the Bulldogs recruited Georgia.

In the end, recruiting rankings don't mean everything, but they do mean something. And whatever that something amounts to, Georgia fell behind by a good bit of it to the one team it needs to start catching up to.

(Side note: Yes, I realize this was a fairly negative post, so I'm sorry to bum you out. I'll conclude then, with this note from Firebrand, which I think also offers some good perspective on things:

"What gives me hope is that we went through a lot this off-season. And we had a bad year on the field, as well. Hopefully this season sets us up for a huge 2011 in recruiting. I think the 3-4 should excite Athletes across the state to come play some attacking football."

Indeed. Anyone who wanted coaching changes had to know the risks involved.

What happened yesterday was, in part, due to those risks. But the future has potential, as Mark Richt said: "We’re very confident and trying to do the right thing. We’re also confident in that a lot of NFL teams and college teams are moving toward this trend, so we’re moving to the front end of this trend.”)


Anonymous said...

Speaking of Recruiting..
It appears that at least one of Lame Kittens targets had an epiphany...

NCAA Cage Match Smackdown!! special West Coast appearance starting Feb 19th..

MoDawg said...

People need to take the Da'Rick Rogers thing with a grain of salt. First, we have no idea how good the kid is going to be. He showed out at the Under Armour practice and "wowed" everybody, but in the game itself, he was relatively silent and even missed a couple of the catches he made in practice. Not saying he won't be great, but the jury is out on him. Also, consider that his situation with the Nance's was very unique. Nash decommitted to Vandy (while the Vandy coach made the trip down to visit, which I thought was a little brash. I'm sure a phone call would have been appreciated by Coach Johnson) and committed to UT. All of a sudden, his best friend and "brother from another mother", with pressure from Nance's dad, no doubt was in a tough situation. As long as Nash was going to Vandy, Da'Rick was coming to UGA. The Nash/Da'Rick combo "platter" was enough to make UT put the hard press to get both, and they did.
Nash may never play a down as QB, but they got Da'Rick which is what they really wanted.

Nobody would be groaning and moaning so much if we had gotten Da'Rick, but we didn't so let's move on!!

Go Dawgs!

dvansant said...

David - great blog but I think your working off the wrong facts. For most recruitniks, Rivals and Scout are the two most respected services. ESPN can only offer broad, generalized coverage.

Accoring to Rivals we nabbed 4 of the Top 10 and Scout has us with 5 of the Top 10 (would have been 5 and 6 respectively had Da'rick not jilted us at the alter)

I'd say that's doing a pretty good job. There's also one consensus Top 10 in state player that UGA refused to offer due to major character issues (he signed with Kiffin, go figure)

Keep up the good work but I think your premise that we aren't protecting the borders simply isn't true.

Sloan said...

The thing is, we got the players we got. Nothing we can do about it now. Now we just have to see what Richt and Grantham and Bobo can do with them. "It's not the cards you're dealt, it's how you play your hand."

Anonymous said...

It wasn't a banner recruiting year, but that has to be somewhat expected given the circumstances.

I think one of the biggest factors that influences recruiting success has to be on-the-field success. As you mentioned, Florida has 2 out of the last 4 national championships, is consistently playing for the SEC title year in and year out, and is beating Georgia on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, Georgia hasn't achieved that level of success yet and so we are immediately at a disadvantage on the recruiting trail.

That's not going to change until we take the talented players we have and translate that into consistent championship-level play on par with the other teams in our league.

We still brought in some great talent and I'm optimistic that improvements to our defense will help close the gap on the field and, in turn, future recruiting classes.

Chris said...

David - I think this is a great post in the fact that you bring up the negative comments made by people like the "Anonymous" poster. Most of the negative people are the same ones that were at the forefront of the "Fire Willie" campaign. Most of these people aren't smart enough to figure out that when you have a major overhaul like that, it takes time to re-establish yourself. So what if you lose a few 5-star recruits this year if your overall program has taken a step forward, which I believe it has with the hiring of Grantham.

The fact is there are people that are going to be negative unless you're winning championships every other year. The fact is I'll take 85 3-star recruits (ala Rennie Curran) who have a desire to prove they are better than what some recruiting site says about them, and have them coached up by a guy like Todd Grantham. Those guys will be more successful than a lot of 5-star recruits who have been told for 3 years how great they are. I love seeing guys like Rambo and Hamilton talk about how they are going to welcome Mr. Rogers to SEC play. I'll take those guys all day.

joeski said...

There is one statement that stands out from the rest to me: "Anyone who wanted coaching changes had to know the risks involved."

And yet, I'd feel comfortable in thinking that those fans (and I use the term loosely) who demanded that Martinez be fired are the exact people who are complaining so bitterly about the recruiting class, the exact people who don't seem to remember the halcyon (COUGH) Goff and Donnan years, who seem to think that we've always enjoyed the level of success that Coach Richt has brought us, while nothing could be further from the truth. In other words, ignorant, immature, spoiled idiots who somehow believe they are entitled to this level of success, and who are either dumb or deluded enough to think that they know better than professional coaches, each with a lifetime of experience in the game. Classy people who will sling venom on blogs, yet lack the courage to put their name next to their statements. Without a doubt, they are the worst element of the Dawg fan base.

Look, I'm an Alumnus, and I don't care about where the recruiting services rank us. As the AP reported "Georgia's signing classes were rated among the nation's top 10 by Rivals each of the last eight years." And yet 'what ground have we gained on Florida' with all those great classes? Negligible ground, at best. Games are not won on the first Wednesday in February. Period. See: Boise State and TCU. In fact, I would be more than willing to 'lose' in February, provided we're winning in the Fall.

No, the issue is that while our Offense has essentially maintained its level of performance, the Defense had degraded markedly in the past few years, and at this level of success in the most competitive conference in the country, that is going to result in a step back. However, Richt has taken action to reverse that trend, but as you pointed out David, the price we paid for it was that we had a down year in recruiting (even though we're still in the top 25 in the nation.)

And yet it's not good enough for these armchair coaches... and why not? Because their problem isn't in Athens at all, it's in their mirror.

jferg said...

I think your post title "protecting their turf" and the substance of your post go hand-in-hand with CTG's statement a few weeks ago.
Paraphrasing here: "I want to put a fence around the state of Georgia. If we can get all the top players within a 5 hour radius of our school, we'll win championships".

He knows it, we know it, high school players and coaches know it. Georgia is not the #1 and only option for in-state players. And that needs to change.