Energized Georgia coaches get their key targets

For a day that often brings drama and can leave a man edgy, Mark Richt was in his element Wednesday morning.


The Georgia football coach appeared relaxed as could be while addressing a couple of hundred fans at the Butts-Mehre building on national signing day, when the Bulldogs officially added 21 new players.

And that was four hours before prized Norcross five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter, the big target remaining, announced he was coming to Georgia.

Never mind Richt’s entire defensive staff underwent an overhaul in the last month and he didn’t have new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt on board until 22 days earlier.

“I’m as excited and energized as I’ve been in a long time,” Richt told the crowd. “This whole thing has turned out to be quite a good thing for Georgia.”

Georgia fans certainly were excited and energized by Carter’s announcement on ESPNU at 3:40 p.m.

The Bulldogs pushed up to a No. 8 national recruiting ranking by Rivals and 247Sports, No. 9 by ESPN and No. 12 by Scout.

Richt said he didn’t know what Carter would do, so he sat in his office while others in the Bulldogs’ football office watched the televised announcement down the hallway.

“I know in our hallway, (there was) a lot of screeching and screaming,” Richt said. “I assumed it was Lorenzo saying yes.”

Seven of Rivals top 10 ranked teams are from the Southeastern Conference: Alabama (1), LSU (2), Tennessee (5), Texas A&M (6), Georgia (8) and Auburn (9).

“Not that the rankings are totally accurate in recruiting — everybody has to make decisions and all that type of thing — but the bottom line is that a lot of the teams in our league are in the top 10 or top 15 every year,” Richt said. “There are great coaches and great support across the board.”

Eight of Georgia’s signees are on the defensive side, where the Bulldogs lost only one committed player and that was due to academic issues.

“I think in the end, we pulled it together very well,” Richt said of recruiting after defensive coordinator Todd Grantham left for Louisville and the three other defensive assistants departed after an 8-5 season. “A lot of things were very solid. A lot of the guys that were on the defensive side of the ball didn’t flinch. Some of them were like, ‘Who’s going to be the next coach.’ Some of them were like coach, `I don’t care who it is I’m coming to Georgia.’ It’s nice to know that we’re at that type of university where guys believe we’re going to bring in great coaches and they want to be at Georgia just because that’s where they want to be period.”

Nine of the 21 players are from outside Georgia.

The Bulldogs got only three of the top 13 ranked players from the Peach State by Rivals in tailback Nick Chubb (No. 3), Carter (No. 4) and cornerback Malkom Parrish (No. 6).

Linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Ohio State) and quarterback Deshaun Watson (Clemson), ranked No. 1 and 2, went out of state. Georgia also missed on a late push for defensive end Andrew Williams (Auburn) and safety Tavon Ross (Missouri).

Richt was dismissive of other schools having success in Georgia.

“We’ve had a lot of success in their states, too, so they might need to be worried about that,” Richt said.

Three of the six top 100 prospects by Rivals that Georgia landed came from out of state: Florida tailback Sony Michel at No. 13, North Carolina tight end Jeb Blazevich at No. 79 and Florida defensive end Keyon Brown at No. 91.

Georgia signed four defensive backs, including Dominick Sanders and cornerback Shaq Jones, who both committed after Pruitt came aboard.

“We focused a little bit on the back end from the time that we got here,” Pruitt said. “The quickest way to be good or bad on defense starts with the secondary. If you’re good in the secondary, you’ve got a chance to be good on defense. When you make a mistake back there, everybody knows it. Obviously there are a lot of guys coming back on defense, but we felt like we needed to start from the back and work forward.”

Six of Georgia’s signees joined the recruiting class since Jan. 20, including returner Isaiah McKenzie from Plantation, Fla., and tight end Hunter Atkinson from West Hall High School.

“We got Isaiah McKinzie too??!!,” offensive line signee Isaiah Wynn from St. Petersburg, Fla., tweeted. “Ohh lorrddyy!!! Ahaaa”

Atkinson was a surprise addition to the signing class who got a late offer. His name didn’t surface publicly until Wednesday morning. He was a Cincinnati commitment.

The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Carter was a priority for Georgia for months.

“He’s definitely got a lot of speed off the edge,” Richt said. “He’s a great kid, great student, just a great person. Their family is unbelievable. He’s the kind of guy that could end up being a captain for you one day. I would expect him to be a leader in his class, but it won’t be long before he takes on some leadership role on the team within the next couple of years.”

Georgia is well underway already on its 2015 recruiting.

“One thing I’m excited about is the guys that are on this staff like to recruit,” Pruitt said. “Hopefully this time next year we can kind of move on up the ladder a little bit as far as the type of class we get.”

Five things to watch as UGA fall camp opens

by Marc Weiszer

Georgia players are hunkering down for an extended camp stay this year as the Bulldogs open preseason practices Friday afternoon. With classes at the university starting a week later than in the last... Full Story

Follow marcweiszer

marcweiszer

RT @DanWetzel: Matthew Stafford on Georgia getting verbal from 5-star QB recruit Jacob Eason. “That’s what I’m talking about. We need more …

2 hours ago