Georgia football: Why the Bulldogs now recruit big everywhere, including Brooklyn

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The Bulldogs have gained national attention. That's what the head coach of Paramus Catholic in North Jersey thinks.

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry shares the details of a recent interview that speaks to the national recruiting appeal of the Georgia football program. 

Paramus Catholic is a powerhouse football program in New Jersey. Football is exploding in that region of our country.

Players used to flock to the basketball courts every Saturday by 7 a.m. in the Bronx and Brooklyn.

If a young man didn’t get on a court to get a game that early, he wasn’t playing that day. If not the blacktop, it was the baseball diamond.

Not anymore.

Paramus Catholic head football coach John Whitehead has seen it all change over the last 10 to 15 years.

“More kids in Brooklyn and the Bronx are playing football now than baseball or basketball,” Whitehead said. “If you would have said that 10 or 15 years ago, then people would have laughed at you.”

The city parks have started to swell with more football players on the grass in the summer than the baseball diamonds.

“There’s more Division One talent in football now than basketball in Brooklyn,” Whitehead said.

His Paramus Catholic program has had two NFL first-round draft picks over the last four years. He can classify two former Paladins as NFL starters in Rashan Gary and Jabrill Peppers.

The North Jersey area is now filled with talent. Paramus is 20 miles away from Manhattan. Mass transit allows the parents of his players to reach Wall Street from the school grounds in 45 minutes.

Georgia signed 5-star Isaiah Wilson out of the 2017 class from Brooklyn. He took a redshirt year and then started for two full seasons in the SEC. He’s now slated to go among the first three rounds in almost every 2020 NFL mock draft.

Devin Willock, who played for Paramus in 2018 and 2019, signed with Georgia in the 2020 class. When he sizes up Georgia, he thinks very big things are ahead for Kirby Smart’s program.

“Georgia is right on the verge on knocking Clemson and Alabama out of the box,” Whitehead said.

That comes an interview with a high school coach in North Jersey. Not North Georgia.

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A Jersey view on the national reputation of Georgia football

Whitehead had a very good relationship with former Georgia line coach Sam Pittman. Paramus sent a player off to Boston College a couple of cycles ago.

If the Bulldogs wanted to, then they probably could have signed him, too.

“He wanted to go to Georgia,” Whitehead said. “But he was sitting around number five or number six on Sam’s board.”

How do the Bulldogs now pull players far outside of the SEC’s recruiting footprint? According to Whitehead, the narrative about the Bulldogs working on a national recruiting base is very real.

“Georgia is very popular up here,” Whitehead said. “One thing about Georgia. Georgia is on TV a lot up here. They are on TV all the time. It is not the same way with all the programs down South. Georgia is just one of those programs where it is just a popular program. I don’t know even if I can explain how or why.”

Whitehead brings up areas where Urban Meyer used to scoop up an elite recruit for every one of his recruiting classes. It was the same thing Ohio State did about fifty years ago when Woody Hayes ran that program.

“But now if Georgia came up here and hit this area really hard, they would get a lot of kids,” Whitehead said. “It is just a very popular program. … Georgia would do a killing up here if they really came up here and recruited. It is a popular area here for Georgia. I couldn’t say the same thing about Alabama or Auburn or LSU or Clemson. But I just think that Georgia is something different there.”

What changed?

“Can I nail it on the head why with that?” he said. “I really don’t know. I can’t say that. I just know that they are on TV a lot and if Georgia is on that night and there are four other games on, then everybody I know and the players here are watching Georgia. I can’t explain all the reasons why.”

Isaiah Wilson played for Poly Prep in Brooklyn. That helped. Whitehead said it goes back farther than that. He brought up former Georgia RB great Knowshon Moreno as a catalyst.

“Knowshon the running back started it,” Whitehead said. “When Knowshon was playing at Georgia, those were some awfully fun teams to watch.”

It has extended to the Kirby Smart era. The Bulldogs are seemingly always in big games. Winning their share. Playing in even bigger ones in December and January.

“It is just that popular program now for the kids of this age,” Whitehead said. “When you watch a game here that is played at Georgia on a Saturday night, it is something to see for us up here. If you are at a bar or a restaurant or at home, it really is something special. You guys don’t understand it because you live it. You grow up with it. It is like it is another great Saturday night in the South to all of you. The stands are full. The bulldog. You’ve got the hedges. Everybody stands for the whole game. Can you get a better setting for college football?”

“You see that game in that big stadium and you see that crowd and all that energy, it really is something that drives kids to try to take advantage of a chance to play at a place like a Georgia.”

“When our young kids see that it is like ‘Wow’ with all of that. You guys are used to that in the South, but we see that on TV. You don’t get that at Rutgers or Syracuse or even at Penn State. They kids see that and it is like they died and went to football heaven. It is really something special. Everyone in the SEC has their own thing. LSU has their own thing. Auburn has their thing. Everyone has their own unique niche, but there is something about Georgia. Our kids for years have been like if there is a Georgia game on, then everybody wants to watch it. Everyone wants to see Georgia. It is something different, man.”

You asked for it. We heard you. Our weekly live DawgNation “Before the Hedges” recruiting show is now up on Apple podcasts. Check it out. 

 

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