Here’s Kimberley Nash’s perspective on five of the biggest UGA recruiting stories that people are talking about this week:
1. Don’t Worry About “The U”, Worry About “UF”.
The whole Richt-to-Miami storyline was too much. Not only was it, in my opinion, the most overblown bit of UGA news this week, it was based on the fact that Richt said “nobody’s calling” when he was asked about the possibility of taking the Miami job.
Based on that one statement, the sporting world saw fit to make that storyline something more important than it actually was. Even more, it gave traction to unwanted diversions heading into the game against Florida on Saturday.
If UGA loses to Florida, however, and the Miami job remains open into the offseason, speculation will continue.
Speculation breeds a lack of confidence in the coaching staff’s stability, and makes it that much easier for rival schools to negatively recruit a shared target. It could become that much more believable to think key assistants will begin looking elsewhere for employment.
Does UGA need that sort of problem on its hands right now? Nope. The kitchen is hot enough without painting the windows shut.
In a perfect world, UGA goes to Jacksonville, beats Florida, and kills what’s left of the Richt-to-Miami story.
But, the world isn’t perfect, is it?
2. Brian Schottenheimer made an appearance in Washington last weekend
I took in a little bit of a nationally televised game, featuring 5-star UGA quarterback commit Jacob Eason (Lake Stevens, Wash.), last Saturday night. The competition Eason’s team played this year has hardly been impressive. But that ain’t his fault, he’s just playing with the cards he’s been dealt.
As I was watching, I managed a glimpse of UGA offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer watching from the sidelines. He appeared to be enjoying himself quite a bit (he was probably thinking of all the ways he can use Eason next season), and it occurred to me to wonder (jokingly of course) if he was getting ideas for Florida. I mean, Eason was moving the ball well in that game,
and he didn’t have to throw it deep to get the job done.
There was a lot of dinkin’ and dunkin’ going on as Eason relied on his playmakers to move the chains.
Of course, it goes without saying Florida is not a cupcake, and UGA won’t be putting an all-world guy under center. Even so, it has been interesting seeing Faton Bauta get so much press this week, especially considering his high school background.
Bauta was a run-first quarterback, and he’s be more than capable of doing some of the same sorts of things Schottenheimer saw Eason do. Eason plays in a spread offense and Bauta played in a similar version in high school.
Of course such a thing would require Schottenheimer to put down the vanilla frosting for a little while, and think outside the small box of plays he’s committed to memory.
Is he willing to do that? I had my doubts, but if reports about Bauta starting are more than just a smoke-screen, I can’t help but think the fan base will have Eason to thank for Schottenheimer’s sudden change of plans.
3. What would a UF loss mean for UGA?
In short, a loss would mean UGA is basically out of the running for the SEC East. The Bulldogs would also, most likely, end the season at 9-3 or 8-4.
The latter record would mean another average bowl game, the former would mean something a little less depressing, but still not enough to please those who no longer feel Richt should be steering the ship.
A loss could impact the decision of more than a few players who have started wondering out loud if UGA is the place for them.
5-star athlete Mecole Hardman (Elberton, Ga.) has long held UGA and Tennessee in high regard, but he will pay even closer attention to how well UGA finishes the season after its loss to the Volunteers.
Hardman went so far as to say the Tennessee win was “HUGE” in his mind because he was really looking to that matchup to see what separated his two top teams from each other.
And while UGA is hardly out of it, it’s still a long way to National Signing Day.
Another big fish is 4-star defensive end Brian Burns (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Burns was once thought to be a strong lean toward UGA, but the Gators have come on strong enough that he has named the two schools as co-leaders, with Alabama, Florida State and LSU not far behind.
I don’t know that a UGA win would place him firmly back in its camp, but it couldn’t hurt.
Honestly, I don’t know what anyone expects to see from UGA on Saturday, but signs of life (particularly on offense) would be nice. A win would go a long way toward infusing some much-needed energy into the team down the stretch.
4. Help Wanted…Everywhere.
The automatic selling point for any prospect who might be considering signing with UGA is playing time. And if you ask any 10 UGA fans what position needs the most help, the answers may vary.
Most will agree the quarterback position is in woeful shape. The very fact that Greyson Lambert regressed so fantastically since the game against South Carolina, yet still managed to get trotted out as the starter, showed how questionable the depth chart is at quarterback.
However, there are also numerous questions on the offensive line that can’t be answered. And, they’ve been being asked for years.
UGA is still reaching out to offensive tackles who might help fill the void because, right now, the Bulldogs have more to work with at the offensive guard position than anywhere else.
They need tackles, specifically a left tackle. Badly.
The defensive line is also a bit … meh. Trenton Thompson has been wonderful to watch, but they’ve had their share of struggles putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and, at times, stopping the run. The unit played well enough two weeks ago to keep Mizzou from running all over the place, but we’ll see how it holds up against Florida.
Next season looks better, if UGA lands all the guys it hopes to land. But the goal the rest of this season is to pick up the pace and be more a-g-g-r-e-s-s-i-v-e against the run.
If the defensive line could make opposing quarterbacks a bit more nervous, that’d be a good thing too.
Special teams … I don’t even know where to begin. The best player is a kicker whom, I hate to say , makes you cover your eyes no matter where he is on the field. Marshall Morgan has been too unpredictable.
What’s scarier though, UGA can’t afford to spend a scholarship on a kicker this year, or next year … good luck with that.
There’s room for growth at a lot of key positions. That is either a testimony to how poorly UGA restocked after an exodus of talent, or how bad its missed, some years, on the big-time players, at the all-important skill positions.
5. You’re Either With Him or Against Him?
I get it: Richt has evolved into the guy that you’re either in support of, or not.
Both sides of the fan base have plenty of arguments to make their points, and both are capable of convincing you why he either needs to go or stay.
As someone who’s had her share of debates, I know how easy it is to forget how dismal things were before Richt took over: UGA lost to in-state rival Georgia Tech three years in a row, it was barely in the SEC conversation, much less a national one, and recruiting was good, but not great.
I also know there are two sides to every coin.
All of that stuff can be forgettable because, now that UGA has been made into a contender (nationally and in the SEC), expectations are higher. It’s the expectations that have made the argument that Richt needs to step aside and let someone else take UGA to the next level that much easier to justify.
Like I said, I get it.
Does such divisiveness hurt recruiting, though? If it ever gets to the point where it begins to affect revenue, then yeah.
However, that’s not the case…yet.
Kimberley Nash has blogged about UGA Football Recruiting since 2011.