Georgia’s ringing class endorsement

semerson@macon.comAugust 22, 2013 

ATHENS -- There are differing stories on how much the name is still used. A few members, including one who coined the name “Ring Team,” say it never comes up anymore.

“Once we got here, we kind of dropped all the recruiting hype and started going to work,” Keith Marshall, said of the moniker he and tackle John Theus came up with to describe the Georgia’s football team’s signing class of 2012.

But another member, Jordan Jenkins, said it comes up in trash talk with members of the class of 2011.

“When we get into arguments, the Dream Team -- what’s left of them -- will say, ‘We’re the Dream Team,’ and we’ll say, ‘We’re the Ring Team.’ And we’ll say, ‘Where’s the rest of the Dream Team at?’ It’s all little fun,” he said.

Maybe it’s fun, but Jenkins and his classmates figure to win the argument. The class of 2012/Ring Team has become what the class of 2011/Dream Team aspired to be but has struggled to become.

Back in 2011, a Georgia football program coming off a losing season was re-energized by a highly rated recruiting class, which got the name Dream Team. And while several have had a big impact, it certainly has been a mixed bag. Four of the 24 who enrolled left the program, and only seven are currently first-teamers.

When 2012 rolled around, the members of that class came up with the name Ring Team with the idea they would be the ones to put Georgia over the top. Last season ended up 5 yards short, but that class did more than hold up its end.

And what makes that rather remarkable is that it was such a small class. Nineteen signed but two didn’t qualify, leaving it at a 17-member class. But as the group enters its second year on campus, Georgia is clearly getting a pretty good return:

• Tailback Todd Gurley, who was a consensus four-star prospect, became an immediate star.

• Jenkins was second on the team in sacks as a freshman and sets up to be the star of this year’s defense.

• Out of 17 signees, nine are projected starters: Gurley, Jenkins, tackle Theus, safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, cornerback Sheldon Dawson, fullback Quayvon Hicks, outside linebacker James DeLoach, place-kicker Marshall Morgan and punter Collin Barber. And three have started or are verging on it this year: Marshall, defensive lineman John Taylor and tackle Mark Beard.

• And perhaps just as important, only one has left the program. And tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith, who went to Georgia Military College, might eventually return.

“When I committed to Georgia, I remember people kept saying we had a small class compared to other schools,” Jenkins said. “I was like, ‘Shoot, we’ve got a lot of guys that are ready to shine.’ ”

By the way, the two players who signed in 2012 but didn’t qualify? They were Leonard Floyd and John Atkins. Both got academically eligible, signed a year later and are now factors on the defense. Floyd has been the talk of preseason practice.

That Dream Team class has had its success stories:.Receiver Malcolm Mitchell is the biggest, and a few defensive players (Amarlo Herrera and Damian Swann) could be set to emerge as stars this year. In some eyes, it may be epitomized by tailback Isaiah Crowell, the jewel of the class who was dismissed from the team after one year. But Marshall is quick to credit members of that class.

“Honestly those guys in the other class, some of the guys you’re talking about, they helped our class along,” Marshall said. “It’s unfortunate what happened to some of those guys, but the chemistry was great they took us in. And we’re trying to take the younger class in. That’s why our team has been so successful.”

David Andrews is one of the success stories of the Dream Team, a three-star prospect who is entering his second season as the starting center. He pointed out that even more talent from the Ring Team class could come to the front this year, including Harvey-Clemons and Dawson on defense.

“That class, they had to wait their turn on defense, especially, and now it’s their turn to step up,” he said. “I remember my freshman year a lot of those guys did play sparingly here and there. But nothing’s like playing full-time and being a starter. I know a lot of those guys are excited to be in that position and ready to be in that position. It’s going to be on our class and their class to step up and really lead that defense.”

Andrews finished talking and then saw Marshall walking away. He yelled out at the tailback, “Hey Keith, we going to get wings?”

Marshall nodded. And the Ring Teamer and the Dream Teamer left together for dinner.

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