Bulldogs need to secure Georgia borders

sports@macon.comFebruary 9, 2013 

Laremy Tunsil was supposed to join the Georgia Bulldogs. That’s what everybody told us. Analysts and even players he was being recruited with all said the top high school offensive lineman in the country was going to Athens.

Then he went to Oxford, Miss. It was just a few weeks ago. There wasn’t a game going on. He never went through The Grove. He went on a visit to Mississippi, and, all of a sudden, a player who was penciled in for the Bulldogs was erased.

On Wednesday, Tunsil signed with the Rebels.

This year’s signing class for Georgia was both very good and very bad. Yes, it’s not as clear cut as you might think.

There is no doubt Georgia got a number of players who will contribute immediately and several who will have significant roles in the next few seasons. They filled needs and replenished the defense, and that gave them a solid grade by most recruiting services.

But losing an elite prospect like Tunsil is hard to accept. Yes, they lost him. They didn’t have a verbal commitment, and his name was never on a dotted line. But when you believe for several months you are getting the top offensive lineman in the country, and then at the last minute, he bolts for Ole Miss … you lost him.

That wasn’t even the biggest problem for Mark Richt. Georgia signed only one of the top 10 players in the state of Georgia, going by Rivals.com’s rankings.

That is the biggest problem.

The nation’s best prospect, Robert Nkemdiche of Grayson, also signed with Ole Miss. Georgia was never on his radar. The second best prospect in the country was linebacker Reuben Foster. Although he moved to Auburn High School in Alabama this year, he had played at Troup County, so you could still count him as a kid from Georgia. Foster signed with Alabama.

Montravius Adams, a top-rated defensive lineman from Dooly County, had Georgia high on his list. But he instead followed former Bulldogs recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner to Auburn.

Peach County’s Demarcus Robinson signed with Florida. He bounced back and forth from Clemson to the Gators and never was mentioned with the Bulldogs.

Alvin Kamara of Norcross was the top running back in the state this year. He chose Alabama over Georgia, even though the Crimson Tide’s depth chart was packed at that position.

This is the one that really doesn’t make any sense. Kamara already knew Alabama had three other top-rated running backs (including Derrick Henry from Yulee, Fla., who was committed to Georgia last year for a while until switching to Alabama) and four solid running backs on the roster. But Kamara still signed with Alabama.

Nick Saban has risen to Bear Bryant’s status, not only in winning championships, but in cherry-picking talent. He didn’t need Kamara, but Saban didn’t want Kamara at Georgia. Bryant used to do the same thing -- bring people in even if they were not needed just to keep them away from the competition.

The state of Georgia always has great talent, but this year it had elite talent. The top program in the state, which finished 5 yards from a chance at a national title appearance, should have done better.

Here’s the worry: Other programs will see Georgia as vulnerable. They’ll know Urban Meyer came down from Ohio State and took two of the top 10. Meyer is smart enough from his days in Gainesville as the Gators’ head coach to know the talent in this state, and he’ll probably be back.

They’ll wonder how a 3-9 Auburn team from last season signed two of those top 10 players. And you can bet Garner will try and do for Auburn what he did at Tennessee before he was hired in Athens in 1998 -- get talent in this state to go elsewhere.

Richt said Wednesday his signing day class was the best in the country. That’s just a disconnect from reality. It was a very good class. But missing out on that many elite players in his back yard is not good.

The Bulldogs have won the SEC East for the past two years, so they should attract elite prospects. Instead, Georgia watched five SEC West teams have even better signing day classes.

Fifteen kids from the Peach State signed with SEC West programs, and seven of those players were either four or five-star players.

Georgia is used to others coming into the state to take talent, but with the competition in the SEC growing even stronger, the Bulldogs are going to have to lock the borders in order to keep up.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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