Good morning, DawgNation! UGA and Georgia Tech will engage in another bout of their “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” rivalry on Saturday. While UGA has dominated the series on the field during the Mark Richt era, it has also held a large advantage in recruiting.
Since Richt has been at UGA, the average recruiting class has ranked No. 7 or No. 8 nationally. The highest-rated class for Richt was in 2006 when UGA’s recruits were ranked No. 3. His lowest-rated class held the No. 12 spot in 2013.
Georgia Tech has not been as proficient on the recruiting trail. The average recruiting class under coach Paul Johnson would be ranked between the No. 46 and No. 47 spots. Tech signed its highest-rated class of the Johnson era in his first year with the program. The Yellow Jackets were ranked No. 15 in 2007. The lowest-rated class for Johnson was a No. 76 showing in 2013.
Yes, these rankings are skewed by several factors — offensive scheme certainly being one — but these would suggest the talent pool at UGA is far greater. Therefore, it is no surprise Richt has only lost to Tech twice in his 14 seasons. Yet the average margin of victory against Tech under Johnson has been less than two touchdowns. This is also skewed by a 32-point victory in 2012. Cast aside that result and the average UGA margin of victory has been approximately 10 points.
Johnson has done a great job hiding his team’s talent deficiency behind a triple-option attack, but UGA has had far better recruits. Based on the recruiting rankings, these games should be no contest. Yet rivalry games aren’t played on the paper. They also aren’t played on the web pages of recruiting rankings.
Hold the squirrel, please
When Mark Richt announced he was visiting 4-star offensive lineman Ben Cleveland last Thursday, he did so by tweeting they would be eating fried squirrel. Derek Cleveland, the 4-star’s father, discussed the visit and clarified Richt’s tweet about having fried squirrel for dinner.
Cleveland is a critical part of this year’s class. He’s close friends with 5-star quarterback Jacob Eason and the two are cornerstones of the group. The comments from Cleveland’s father about Richt’s visit sound pretty similar to what has been said about his other two in-house recruiting trips. That’s good news for UGA fans.
Top WR target updated his commitment plans
Tyler Simmons, a senior receiver out of McEachern High School, has been feeling the love recently. After receiving disappointing news from a couple of wide receiver targets, UGA has made it clear to Simmons that he is a priority.
What’s interesting about the senior prospect is the amount of options he has for the rest of his recruiting process. It’s clear that after Simmons’ visit for the Georgia Southern game, he felt wanted. This late in a player’s recruitment, that’s a pretty good sign.
Nation’s No. 1 athlete announced a change in recruitment process
The plans changed for 5-star athlete Mecole Hardman Jr. on Monday. Hardman tweeted that he is no longer going to make a silent commitment before he publicly commits on National Signing Day. Silently committing was something he had always planned to do, but he told DawgNation why the change was made.
His decision may not be good news. UGA and Tennessee have long been considered his front-runners, but Alabama made a big impression on him recently. While he claims one of his original leaders is still high on his list, Alabama and his official visit this week to Michigan may have something to do with him scratching the silent commitment.
Talented freshman received his UGA offer in a pretty cool way
Richt met 6-foot-2, 175-pound wide receiver JaShawn Sheffield at midfield before Saturday’s game with something special in mind. In a move that has become more common in recent years, UGA offered an elite freshman prospect. Now, stories about how a school offers a recruit aren’t at the same level as proposal stories, but that makes for some nice imagery.
Mark Richt kneels down in the middle of the “G.” Looks up into young Sheffield’s eyes and says, “Jashawn, we here at the University of Georgia would be honored to watch you score touchdowns for us. You don’t have to answer now, but we can talk about this more when I stop by on my quest to eat breakfast with every recruit in America. I will be sure to visit you on St. Simons Island in 2019.”
That’s not exactly how it happened, but Sheffield would be worth it.
Top defensive prospect may take an official visit
Antwuan Jackson, a 4-star defensive tackle from Cedar Grove High School (Ellenwood, Ga.), has been to UGA plenty of times but is considering an official visit there, according to Rivals.com’s Jake Reuse. UGA has resided among Jackson’s top schools for a while, but could get another shot at winning over the talented defender before his upcoming commitment.
In an interview with DawgNation, Jackson said that UGA just needed to “be themselves” to potentially jump his two leaders, Ohio State and Auburn. If he does take a final official visit, the coaching staff will get the chance to reflect on a relationship that has developed since Jackson was in 9th grade.
Jackson told Reuse that his relationship with the coaching staff is what would pull him back to UGA for an official visit. We’ve said before that recruiting is all about building relationships. Now the hope for UGA is that its relationship with Jackson will not only bring him back, but keep him there.
William McFadden covers UGA recruiting for DawgNation and is an SEC multimedia reporter for SECCountry. Give him a follow on Twitter for sports news and opinions you probably won’t agree with.