Want a daily tour through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way this four-star or that five-star might be leaning with a dab of perspective to help folks figure out just what it means.
Let’s talk numbers. Especially one very important number which shows how poorly Georgia recruited its home state of late and how quickly it has begun to avert that trend.
I’m not a snappy marketing whiz, but let’s call it the “Homegrown” ratio.
Baseball fans are trained to know a .300 average means a stellar year. There’s a similar number I keep in mind to gauge how well the Bulldogs are recruiting every year. It is found by scanning the 247 Composite rankings of the Top 15 players in Georgia each year.
California, Florida and Texas are usually the only states which produce more NFL talent than Georgia does. The Bulldogs have the biggest advantage at signing those elite in-state players every year, but those guys haven’t always wound up in red and black.
I’m no mathematician either, so we’ll leave the slide rules and calculators on North Avenue where they belong. The formula spans 230 miles wide and 59,425 square miles in total to be exact. That’s the width and total area for the state of Georgia. If Kirby Smart hopes to win big, his staff must do a much better job of defending those borders.
If Kirby Smart hopes to win big, his staff must do a much better job of defending those borders.
Kirby’s wall? DawgNation would be behind that one regardless of their political affiliation.
Let’s look at how many of the state’s Top 15 players UGA signed over the last five recruiting cycles.
- 2012: 4 (No. 1, 2, 4 and 12) — That led to a No. 8 final national recruiting ranking.
- 2013: 3 (No. 8, 10 and 13) — That led to a No. 11 final national recruiting ranking.
- 2014: 3 (No. 1, 3 and 5) — That led to a No. 8 final national recruiting ranking.
- 2015: 7 (No. 1, 4, 5, 8, 10) — That led to a No. 5 final national recruiting ranking.
- 2016: 5 (No. 2, 8, 12, 14 and 15) — That led to a No. 8 final national recruiting ranking.
Pay close attention to the years between 2012-2015. There is no truer measure that Mark Richt’s staff wasn’t getting it done on the trail than that.
The Bulldogs signed just 28 percent of Georgia’s 60 elite players across those years. It gets compounded to note that another four of those recruits they did sign (Josh Harvey-Clemons, Jonathan Taylor, Tray Matthews, Brice Ramsey) have yet to make a big impact and/or remain in the program.
Georgia’s record in SEC play the last few years hint that a .300 batting average with those elite homestate players just won’t cut it.
Nick Chubb, Terry Godwin, Jordan Jenkins, Malkom Parrish and Trent Thompson have been the only high-value contributors in the program from those classes. Lorenzo Carter, Natrez Patrick, Roquan Smith and D’Andre Walker look to join that group this fall.
Georgia can’t get them all, but it was letting the other guys get far too many.
The Bulldogs only signed 17 out of the Top 15 players each year in Georgia from 2012-2015. Auburn signed eight, Alabama landed seven, South Carolina snatched six, Clemson swiped five and Ohio State even raided three blue chips. There were almost as many top-rated “homegrowns” (15) who signed to play SEC football in Alabama as the Bulldogs kept in-state across those years.
Georgia didn’t sign the most Top 15 players from within its borders in 2012 and 2014. Alabama tied Georgia with four in 2012. South Carolina signed four Georgia boys in 2014. Clemson and Auburn matched the Bulldogs with three signees apiece in 2014. Those four signing classes are singled out because those players should have been the veteran core of the 2015 and 2016 depth charts in Athens.
Another reason why I compiled those numbers was to check the temperature for another trend with this staff. Smart feels he can build a championship program just by keeping the best players in the state.
The “Homegrown” ratio to shoot for is at least 40 percent of the Top 15 players in Georgia. That’s the bar if the Bulldogs expect to recruit with the nation’s best. That’s a .400 batting average among the state’s Top 15 players each year.
As it stands now, here’s how UGA is faring among the Top 15 players in Georgia for this class.
- 2017 (current): 7 commitments
- 2017 (projected): 10 commitments
That’s 46 percent so far. This staff won’t value all the state’s Top 15 players the way other schools do, but that 40 percent ratio seems fair, if not necessary.
The Bulldogs rank fifth in the nation with their 14 commitments as of today and there are 10 in-state players included in that total. Robert Beal, a five-star defensive end, technically would make that 11 since he’s a Georgia native that is playing his senior season for IMG Academy’s prolific boarding school team down in Florida.
It is still early but the current ratio suggests this staff is recruiting on a higher level than the one which preceded it in Athens.
Priority recruit clarifies his timeline
Cairo linebacker Walter Grant generated some buzz lately in reports through other outlets of his decision timeline. DawgNation got in touch with Grant directly on Tuesday night and nailed down the following tenets of his decision:
- He will not commit in September. Look for his decision to come in October at the earliest.
- He has yet to set up any of his official visits.
- Grant does not plan to commit until after those official visits.
- Alabama and Georgia remain as his Top 2 schools and there is no public distinction between those two programs at this time.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder is rated as a three-star recruit and as the nation’s No. 22 OLB for this cycle. I continue to feel he’s very undervalued. His versatility to play inside and outside linebacker and also play winning football at defensive end makes him one of the most vital targets for 2017 in Athens.
That’s an in-state prospect the Bulldogs can’t afford to let slip away to Alabama or to Florida State. The notion that he’s just the No. 34 player in Georgia doesn’t fit a prospect with those recruiting options and this highlight film.
When Richard LeCounte III took the following tumble on Aug. 11 in a scrimmage game against Brunswick High School, it created a stir.
— Chad Simmons (@ChadSimmons_) August 12, 2016
The five-star safety is the highest-rated recruit in Georgia’s class this year. Every precaution was taken with this incident. LeCounte was placed on a board and wheeled off the field. He was transported to a local hospital but cleared in time to return to the sidelines for the second half.
Liberty County coach Kirk Warner said LeCounte suffered a “slight stinger in his neck” and did not enter any concussion protocol by GHSA or NFSHA standards. Warner said LeCounte was cleared to return to the field last Tuesday and will definitely be in action this week against Bradwell Institute.
“When he said his neck was stiff and then, of course, we automatically board any of our kids who complain about back or neck problems. He passed all concussion protocols at the (emergency room) and came back on the sidelines that same night in his street clothes. He had a follow-up appointment the following Tuesday in Brunswick and they completed cleared him.”
Warner said that LeCounte was frustrated on the field when he realized what was going on. He believes that is the first time that the senior had ever been down on the field. He was angry he had to leave his teammates and his ultra-competitive nature left him frustrated by the events.
His coaches saw no need to criticize his technique during film review.
“I told him he actually did a good job in blocking one guy and then when the ball carrier broke free he tried to get to the second level and block another guy. He just tripped and the side of his head hit the defender’s knee. He actually did a pretty good job. I told him to keep hustling on plays like that and not shy away from another situation like that just because that happened.”
The Panthers were also off last Friday.
Warner said to expect a driven LeCounte in 2016.
“He helped the school win a state basketball title last winter and his goal is to be considered the best athlete ever down here by winning a state football title,” he said. “I don’t think anybody in Liberty County has accomplished both. Those are his goals and then going off to Georgia and doing great things at Georgia.”
LeCounte appears stronger and faster for his senior season. He’s bulked up to about xxx pounds. His bench press has gone up 20 pounds to 245 pounds. He’s been clocked at a 4.46 in the 40 this summer.
“He’s gotten so much stronger in the weight room and it looks to me like he’s a step faster,” Warner said. “Then his football IQ continues to get better and better the more he plays. The 2015 model is going to be at least a little bit better than the 2015 model we saw out of him last year.”
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.