Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday.
Recruiting team vs. football team
Between the stellar job Kirby Smart did recruiting his first full class and the excitement around that, the opening of the indoor practice facility to show off to the recruits and the announcement of renovations in Sanford Stadium’s west end zone geared to giving recruits a better game day experience, I’ve seen a lot of discussion among fans about whether Smart and UGA are putting too much of a focus on recruiting and not enough of a focus on coaching a good football team.
It is easy to understand why fans may worry about that. After all, it was Smart’s mentor, Nick Saban, who famously said of the 2013 national championship, “That damn game cost me a week of recruiting.” And Smart himself has made no bones about the importance he puts on recruiting since Day 1 in Athens.
But fans who complain about the focus on recruiting need to understand that being a great recruiter is probably the most important — but far from the only — factor in creating a winning football program. If we step back to a neutral perspective, just as observers of college football, recruiting rankings are proven to give us the best idea of which teams will be good and which teams won’t.
For those folks, I want to point you to Jason Kirk’s “7-step case to proving National Signing Day rankings matter a whole lot” at SB Nation. Read the whole thing, but the first three points should be enough to convince you that recruiting is real important.
1. They matter at the player level. Blue chips are almost 1,000 percent more likely to be drafted in the first round. You can see the star ratings drop throughout the NFL Draft. And five-stars are about 33 times as likely to be All-Americans as two-stars are.
2. They matter at the team level. Matt Hinton broke the country into five tiers of recruiting might, finding the higher-recruiting schools to consistently beat their lessers virtually across the board. Stewart Mandel:
“Power 5 teams (of which there are 65) that consistently recruit Top 20 classes have a 60 percent chance of becoming a Top 20 program and a 35 percent chance of regularly inhabiting the Top 10.
“By contrast, Power 5 teams that finish outside the Top 20 in recruiting have a lower than 18 percent chance of fielding Top 20 teams and just a 6.7 percent chance of reaching the Top 10.”
3. They matter at the championship level. Before 2015, Bud Elliott predicted the champion would come from a tiny group of elite recruiters, topped by Alabama. That’s because every national champion of the ratings era has passed a specific recruiting benchmark.
I don’t want y’all to think that I think recruiting is the only important thing. Of course, player development plays a huge role. I’m not one who says pay millions for upgrades to recruiting facilities and screw everything else, including the fan experience either. (Seriously, do something about those bathrooms.) And I’m also not going to be someone who sits here and tells you that you have to follow recruiting to be an informed fan. You can easily ignore it altogether and focus only on the guys on campus, and I know many fans who do just that.
The fact is that recruiting matters, though. That’s why the program spends so much money on it, and that’s why the media spends so much time covering it. And neither of those is changing anytime soon.
UGA recruiting, 2002-17
Now that we have that out of the way, back to recruiting!
Over at FanRag, David Wunderlich did a deep dive into the history of Georgia recruiting from Mark Richt to Kirby Smart. There’s a lot of interesting info in there about the rise in percentage of blue chips from the state of Georgia and Richt’s steady decline in his ability to pull top guys from Georgia. But the most interesting tidbit, to me, was what Wunderlich noted about the infamous 2013 class.
We all know about the talent that UGA brought to Athens in 2013 that eventually left the program for a number of reasons. Wunderlich points out all the amazing players from the state of Georgia that year that the Bulldogs didn’t sign. And it’s a group of players that could have potentially changed the course of the program, perhaps to the point that Richt would still be in Athens now.
The top seven prospects in Georgia went out of state. Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s top recruit, went to Ole Miss; to be fair, his brother already being in Oxford played a role there. Richt lost out on a pair of defensive linemen after that in Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams, guys who anchored Auburn’s defensive renaissance in 2016.
Fourth was Vonn Bell, who went on to star at Ohio State. Fifth and sixth were Alvin Kamara and Tyren Jones, a couple of guys who went to Alabama but didn’t stay long. Kamara eventually ended up a big contributor for Tennessee. Seventh was Demarcus Robinson, who became one of Florida’s top receivers in 2014 and 2015.
Georgia took a quarterback in 2013 with Brice Ramsey. He ended up a better punter than signal caller. Ramsey’s inability to fulfill his 4-star rating is why Georgia got the Greyson Lambert experience after Hutson Mason graduated. Another quarterback from Georgia who came out of high school that year was Alpharetta’s Joshua Dobbs. If 247 Sports has it right, UGA didn’t even offer Dobbs a scholarship.
Yante Maten out for regular season
UGA’s already miserable basketball season took a turn for the worse on Monday. Yante Maten — the best player on Georgia this season and the best player at the program in some years — is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with a knee sprain.
— DawgNation (@DawgNation) February 20, 2017
“It is a very significant sprain, so it’s a serious injury and I don’t think our medical people or myself have any expectation of Yante returning during the regular season. The odds of that are very slim,” Mark Fox said, according to Seth Emerson.
The loss of Maten is an obvious blow, but in the big picture, it doesn’t hurt the Dawgs. Their tournament hopes were already finished with or without Maten. The only chance is a miracle SEC tournament run like they had in 2008. Luckily, Maten will be back for that stretch and his presence would make that miracle ever so slightly more likely.
Diamond Dogs hit the road to face Mercer
Georgia baseball’s season got off to a rough start with a 1-2 home stand against College of Charleston. On Tuesday, the Bulldogs get their first road test of the season vs. the 3-0 Mercer Bears.
This is a veteran Mercer team that Georgia split with last season, so it will be a tough contest. The key will be pitching. Specifically, starting pitching. Only one of three UGA starters made it more than 5 innings against CoC. The longer the Dawgs can wait to tap into the bullpen, the better off they’ll be. Andrew Gist will get his first start of the season down in Macon, but he did pitch 2.2 innings in relief during the opener. Last season, Gist made 15 appearances and finished with a 5.18 ERA.
First pitch in Macon is slated for 6 p.m. ET.
Dawgs this week
There are 5 chances to cheer on the Dawgs this week. pic.twitter.com/z4xlu0gZgF
— Georgia Bulldogs (@UGAAthletics) February 20, 2017
- OG Solomon Kindley is granted redshirt season (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- Nation’s No. 6 CB Brendan Radley-Hiles wants an offer from UGA (Jeff Sentell, DawgNation)
- Nothing easy about the Mark Fox equation (Chip Towers, DawgNation)
- How does Auburn QB commit Joey Gatewood feel about Georgia? (Jeff Sentell, DawgNation)
- Georgia depth chart analysis: Punters (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- Champ Bailey: Give Georgia 2 or 3 years to get ‘where Alabama is right now’ (Dan Mathews, Gridiron Now)
- 2019 Bulldog commit Nolan Smith puts up eye-popping numbers (MaconDawg, Dawg Sports)
- Crystal Ball: Dawgs have clear lead for elite OL (Jake Rowe, Dawgs247)
Feels good, man.
This dog's face makes me so happy ? pic.twitter.com/euQNg600Xy
— Crawford Collins (@CrawfordCollins) February 20, 2017