Georgia looking to close strong with recruiting class

semerson@macon.comFebruary 4, 2014 

Jeremy Pruitt, left, and Mark Richt address the media at a news conference Wednesday in Athens.

SETH EMERSON — semerson@macon.com

ATHENS -- Football recruiting is a big enough deal at Georgia that, within the complex housing the program, the recruiting staff has its own office. And within that office sits a fax machine, which although used with less frequency by the year, will be the featured appliance in Georgia sports Wednesday.

Its usefulness, however, might be running out. If players want to email their signed national letter-of-intent, the school said it would accept that, too.

Either way, there are expected to be around 20 letters-of-intent that whir through the fax machine or e-mail on Wednesday. That’s about one-third less than last year for Georgia, which in 2013 banked on quantity and saw its class ranked just outside the top 10.

This year the class is sitting at No. 10, at least according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, and several key signings could push the Bulldogs much higher.

Georgia will begin the day with 18 commitments. By the end of the day it is hoping to rein in at least four key targets:

• Lorenzo Carter, a five-star defensive end/outside linebacker from Norcross, who is announcing at his school in the afternoon.

• Andrew Williams, a four-star defensive end from McDonough, who is set to announce earlier in the afternoon.

• Isaiah McKenzie, a four-star receiver and kick returner from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who received an offer Monday from Georgia. McKenzie’s high school teammate, tailback Sony Michel, is among the current Georgia commitments.

• Safety Tavon Ross of Bleckley County has long been committed to Missouri, but Georgia made a late push.

Georgia is regarded by analysts as the heavy favorite for Carter and also has a good shot at Williams and McKenzie.

“The only way I would look at it as a negative signing day or a less than positive signing day for Georgia is if something happened and they lost Lorenzo Carter. I don’t expect them to,” said J.C. Shurburtt, the national recruiting analyst for 247Sports. “And then if you can get Isaiah McKenzie, which is great late get ... and if you happen to make a great run and get Andrew Williams, then it’s superb, from a perception standpoint.

“But even just getting Carter, it’s another top-10 class. It’s another class where if you look at the guys top to bottom, there’s a lot of talent to Georgia once again.”

If Georgia does finish well, it’s a credit in part to the smooth transition on the coaching staff. When defensive coordinator Todd Grantham bolted for Louisville, he was replaced within 48 hours by Jeremy Pruitt, who hit the recruiting trail right away, with Carter among his first visits.

“I think there are so many good players in the state of Georgia that probably the hardest thing to do is to just take 25,” said Pruitt, who was Florida State’s defensive coordinator last year and worked at Alabama the prior three years. “I promise you from being outside of the state and recruiting the state of Georgia that they all want to go to Georgia. A lot of them do. You have to figure out who are the best 25 that fit your program.”

The timing of late-deciding prospects often skews the perception of signing day.

Two years ago, Georgia’s attention was fixated on a series of defensive players making their decisions that day, including Josh Harvey-Clemons and Josh Dawson.

The signing of Todd Gurley the same day was an afterthought because he had been committed for a month.

This year, Georgia is expecting early letters-of-intent through that fax machine from a number of four- or five-star prospects who have been committed for quite some time:

• Michel and Nick Chubb are both elite-level tailbacks, say analysts, who argue about which one is better.

• Cornerback Malkom Parish of Quitman could provide immediate help to a beleaguered secondary.

• Defensive tackle Lamont Gaillard and defensive end Keyon Brown could play right away. And linebacker Detric Dukes, rated just a three-star, is the “sleeper” of the class.

• Tight end Jeb Blazevich is comparable to former Georgia starting tight end Aron White, according to Shurburtt.

• Quarterback Jacob Park, who is already enrolled, could eventually push to be the starter.

• Offensive linemen Isaiah Wynn and Dyshon Sims have a chance to develop into starters eventually.

As for the other players rated just three stars, they need only look to the litany of former three-stars players who have turned into college stars. Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson and kicker Marshall Morgan were both three-stars recruits, and this year were first-team all-SEC players.

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