College football recruiting has hit the homestretch before Wednesday’s national signing day when players can officially sign with schools.
Georgia’s remaining targets include more than its usual share of recruits already on commitment lists at other schools — Sandy Creek receiver JaQuay Williams pledged to Auburn, Tucker defensive end/outside linebacker Josh Dawson to Vanderbilt, Cedar Grove offensive lineman Brandon Greene to Alabama, Martin Luther King linebacker Kenderius Whitehead to N.C. State and Memphis defensive back Sheldon Dawson to Memphis.
Those verbal commitments are non-binding. Georgia can only hope that the ties that ultimately bind will belong to the Bulldogs.
Josh Dawson gave a commitment to the Commodores last summer.
“Georgia never gave up on him,” said Franklin Stephens, who coaches Dawson at Tucker.
Georgia typically doesn’t continue to try to recruit players committed to other schools unless the player lets the coaches know that they still have an interest, according to Chad Simmons, recruiting analyst for Scout.com.
“All those guys have left that door cracked a little bit for Georgia to come in, and they’re trying to capitalize on it,” Simmons said.
It’s a two-way street of course.
Georgia lost tight end commitment Dwayne Allen to Clemson in 2008 and receiver Da’Rick Rogers to Tennessee in 2010, the same year when offensive lineman Kenarious Gates switched late from Kentucky to Georgia.
“It’s a competitive business that we’re in,” Georgia recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner said on signing day in 2010. “It’s like gameday. They’re not going to give up until the process (ends). You have to have respect for that.”
Sheldon Dawson committed to Memphis before last season, but the school fired coach Larry Porter in November.
“He was pretty solid when Porter was there, but once they fired him, he just opened it back up,” Ridgeway High coach Duron Sutton said.
Georgia offered Dawson before the season and began its pursuit for him again after he was looking elsewhere, Sutton said. He is also considering Ole Miss.
“I think these guys are their A-list guys,” Simmons said. “Brandon Greene was always a priority. Josh Dawson had an early offer. Jaquay Williams was never a Plan B. He didn’t get the offer (earlier) because he had academic questions. Once he had that first semester and he got back on track, Georgia went in and offered him.”
Josh Dawson told Scout.com after a Saturday night visit from Georgia coaches: “It is really split down the middle between Vanderbilt and Georgia right now.”
Georgia is also in the running for uncommitted targets: Lowndes linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons, offensive tackle Avery Young from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and junior college receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
Simmons said he’s seen more committed players switching or taking official visits to other schools while committed. He’s also seen coaches be more aggressive in their pursuit of committed players because of the competitive nature of landing top talent.
“If you’re a coaching staff worth your salt, you are recruiting to the bitter end,” ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said. “Whether you are recruiting players that have yet to commit, players that have already committed to you or players that are committed elsewhere, the good ones are recruiting everybody.”
Georgia this month stepped up its recruitment for tight end Sean Price, who committed to South Florida early this past football season.
“With Orson Charles coming out early and (Aron White) graduating, that sort of put them in a spot where they were down some tight ends,” said Craig Damon, Price’s coach at North Marion High in Citra, Fla. “He went from being, ‘a top kid that we’re not going to recruit and can’t offer’ to, ‘Well, we’ve got to try and go get him now.’ ”
Price ultimately decided against an official visit to Athens this past weekend. He previously visited Oklahoma.
“I almost wish they would go to an early signing period, so some kids sign and not have to deal with the decommitting,” Damon said. “It would make it easier on the schools, too, so then they would know exactly who they have and what they need.”
Another player at North Marion, receiver Latroy Pittman, pretty much shut down his recruitment by other schools after he committed to Florida, even with the coaching change from Urban Meyer to Will Muschamp, Damon said. Pittman has enrolled early at Florida.
“I think it has a lot to do sometimes with the kid,” Tucker’s Stephens said. “Sometimes schools will back off. Sometimes schools will continue to pursue kids. I think you know more about it now just because it’s reported. In the past before we really got deep into the Internet age, kids would take their final official visits in late December or January and make a decision then. Now you have kids committing sophomore year, junior year, that’s a long time to hold a commitment.”