ATHENS — The assumption is that even though Mark Richt is gone now, Georgia will recruit just as well as it did with him at the helm. That won’t be determined for a while. But for out-of-state players, and players from Florida in particular, Richt was definitely a big part of the attraction for coming this far north.
“I can’t say for sure,” said senior place-kicker Marshall Morgan when asked if he would’ve come to Georgia if Richt had not been there. “I’ve loved my time at Georgia. He was definitely a big part of it. I came here for the school, too, and Coach Richt. I’m not saying my decision would have changed but it could have been different.”
If there was one thing Richt did extremely well while he was at Georgia, it was recruit the state of Florida. A native of Boca Raton in South Florida, Richt graduated from the University of Miami and recruited the state for Florida State University for a dozen years. So he has long and strong relationships with many of the high school coaches in that area of the country.
Not coincidentally, the Bulldogs have 16 players on their roster from the state of Florida heading into the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville. Many of them are from South Florida and more than a few of them are exceptional talents.
Tailback Sony Michel and receiver/kick returner Isaiah McKenzie both attended American Heritage, same as Morgan. Freshman linebacker Juwan Taylor hails from Hollywood, Fla., near Miami. Receiver Shaquery Wilson is from Coral Gables. Defensive back Deandre Baker is from down that way as well.
At one point shortly after Richt was dismissed, Wilson told one media outlet he intended to leave Georgia to move closer to home in Coral Gables. But interim head coach Bryan McClendon said this past week the 6-foot-1, 190-pound athlete is going to remain with the Bulldogs.
Quarterback Faton Bauta, who is from West Palm Beach, is leaving. A redshirt junior, Bauta is taking advantage of the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule to transfer to Colorado State to play for his former position coach, Mike Bobo.
Others could follow, but it appears the great majority are standing pat and will play for Kirby Smart.
“It’s something that happens all the time across the country … change,” said Michel, the Bulldogs’ starting tailback. “Yeah, it’s a loss to our team, but we’re going to just leave that behind us and just waiting to see what happens in the future.”
Michel said it was important to him to hear that his position coach, Thomas Brown, is going to remain with the team.
“That’s who I spend most of my time with, off and on the field,” Michel said. “I probably won’t see too much of a difference.”
But not having Richt around has been hard for Michel to get used to.
“Yeah, it’s weird because he’s been here for so long,” Michel said. “But you kind of get used to it after awhile. And we’re kind of at that point now.”