ATHENS -- Keith Marshall slumped himself in a chair in a meeting room Wednesday at the Georgia football team facility. He grinned and shook his head when the subject of his local notoriety came up.
“It’s kind of weird,” said the freshman tailback, looking straight ahead. “I don’t even like going out, because whenever I go out, everybody wants to say hey and start taking pictures. … Hopefully it’ll die down, but if I get established, it will get worse.”
Such is the reality of college recruiting these days. Marshall couldn’t sneak onto Georgia’s campus without everyone knowing it, and another of the Bulldogs’ major recruits had to have his family drama play out in public.
That player was Josh Harvey-Clemons, the outside linebacker from Valdosta, who finally signed with Georgia on Thursday morning. That was almost 24 hours after the prospect, rated a five-star player by Rivals.com, announced a commitment to the Bulldogs on national cable television.
The fact that Harvey-Clemons didn’t send in his national letter-of-intent Wednesday became the team’s story of signing day. It likely will also draw an NCAA secondary violation for head coach Mark Richt, who commented on television about Harvey-Clemons before the signature was in.
In any case, the drama ended at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday when the player’s letter came over the fax machine at Georgia. That gave the team 19 signees, wrapping up a class that nationally was ranked anywhere from fifth (ESPN) to 11th (Rivals) to 21st (CBSsports.com).
“It’s a good class. I wouldn’t say great,” said Mike Farrell, the national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. “They hit some home runs. They hit some home runs along their defensive line. The running back tandem (Marshall and Tudd Gurley) is arguably the best one-two punch in the country. And even though they didn’t get enough of them, I liked what they did on the offensive line. And now you’ve got Josh Harvey-Clemons added to the mix at linebacker.”
But Georgia also only signed one receiver and didn’t sign a true quarterback, in Farrell’s estimation. He thinks Faton Bauta, the prospect out of West Palm Beach, Fla., will end up at linebacker or tight end.
Bauta, who like Marshall enrolled early, disagrees.
“Of course, I hear it. My teammates even say it. My coaches are even bothering me about it. It’s definitely motivation,” Bauta said. “I’m just gonna take it in, do what I’ve gotta do and show the rest of these guys I can actually play quarterback. Because I know I can. I’m not here for no reason. I definitely do have a couple non-believers, especially on the team already. It’s gonna be fun to show them I can actually play.”
Georgia does have a commitment from a quarterback for the 2013 class -- Brice Ramsey from Kingsland. There are also commitments from safety Tray Matthews from Newnan and tailback Derrick Henry from Yulee, N.C.
The attention was already on the 2013 class, even as Richt and his assistants were unveiling the 2012 class:
During a talk with Georgia fans Wednesday, Richt had to step away to take a phone call, and he indicated it involved a recruit for next season.
And with as many as 10 defensive starters perhaps leaving after next season, Georgia will be aiming to take advantage of another fertile year for in-state prospects.
“There’s a ton of talent in Georgia next year,” Farrell said. “They’ve gotta keep it home, and they’ve gotta keep it rolling. … Alabama’s just real tough to beat right now, not just for Georgia but for everybody. But there’s enough talent in Georgia to have a good class.”