Richt: Draft not a verdict on UGA’s talent

semerson@macon.comApril 26, 2012 

ATHENS -- On the eve of the NFL draft, Georgia head coach Mark Richt was asked if he looks at the event as an evaluation of the talent his program had on hand.

“No, not really,” Richt said. “I look at the draft as a time to hopefully celebrate with some of our former players, guys that have been dreaming to do this and getting an opportunity to do this. Hoping and praying they get drafted by the right team and in a good round.”

Others, however, are free to draw conclusions. Here are three from the Georgia football program’s standpoint:

1. Georgia has had talent, but not as much as others in the SEC.

At least that’s the conclusion you draw after looking at the various mock drafts.

Alabama, which has won two of the past three BCS championships, could have as many as five first-round picks. (running back Trent Richardson, safety Mark Barron, cornerback Dre Kilpatrick, linebacker Don’t’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw).

LSU, last year’s BCS runner-up, has two probable first-rounders (Morris Claiborne and Michael Brockers) and receiver Rueben Randle has a shot to go in the first.

South Carolina, which has two straight wins over Georgia, sports two sure first-rounders (Melvin Ingram and Stephon Gilmore) and another possible one (Alshon Jeffery).

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier agreed that his 2011 team “probably” had the best collection of NFL talent in his seven years there.

Then there are the Bulldogs, who seem to have one sure first-rounder: offensive lineman Cordy Glenn. Then, according to a mock draft on NFL.com, the Bulldogs are projected to have a second-rounder (cornerback Brandon Boykin), a third-rounder (tight end Orson Charles), a fourth-rounder (center Ben Jones), and three in the seventh round (punter Drew Butler, defensive end DeAngelo Tyson and kicker Blair Walsh.)

One player in each of the first four rounds is pretty good -- but it’s clearly not at the level of the teams that have been beating Georgia.

2. If you’re a potential pro, choices matter.

Last year Glenn and Boykin each seriously considered turning pro as juniors. Boykin said he had decided, then changed his mind. A year later, their choices seem to have been vindicated -- especially Glenn.

Had he left last year, Glenn’s ceiling was probably the second round, and even that’s a stretch. As a senior, he played left tackle for Georgia, improving his stock via his versatility and skill.

Boykin also probably helped his stock, despite the injury.

As for Charles, his decision seemed a no-brainer when he was projected to be a second-rounder at worst. But his DUI in March, and changing agents, did not help. Charles could still end up having a very pro career, but it appears he cost himself some money on his initial contract.

Richt, however, pointed out it only takes one team to overlook Charles’ mistake.

“I would say if you ask me, me knowing Orson the way I know him -- way out of character, and a guy who I know has learned an awful lot from it already,” Richt said. “I don’t think anybody’s ever gonna have to worry about him getting out of line again because he lived through it and doesn’t ever want to live through it again.”

3. Recruiting rankings are a good guide, though not always accurate.

Coming out of high school, Glenn, Charles, Boykin and Tyson were all four-star prospects, according to Rivals.com.

But Jones was only a three-star prospect. So was Bacarri Rambo, an All-American safety who decided in January to return for his senior year.

The 2008 and 2009 classes are dotted with four stars who didn’t work out (Xavier Henry, Marcus Dowtin, A.J. Harmon, Akeem Hebron) and three-stars who have (Sanders Commings, Shawn Williams, Kwame Geathers.)

So basically, some players carry those lofty rankings from high school to college and pros – while others either get overlooked or rise to the occasion. The story is similar across the SEC, as Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley pointed out this week.

“When you look at the investment that the SEC schools put into our programs and developing our athletes, No. 1 it attracts a lot of athletes in wanting to come here,” Dooley said. “And No. 2, the resources we give them to improve as athletes, students and people, it allows them to develop at a different pace.”

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