Georgia’s recruiting “Dream Team” that signed up on Wednesday includes deep roots in South Georgia.
The Bulldogs landed six players from that part of the state: tight end Jay Rome and receiver Malcolm Mitchell from Valdosta, outside linebacker Ray Drew from Thomasville, offensive lineman Xzavier Ward from Moultrie, receiver Justin Scott-Wesley from Camilla and receiver Sanford Seay from Leesburg.
“I was excited about this year – after we did all of our evaluations – about having a big number of guys that we were going to offer from that area,” said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, a Thomasville native who recruits that part of the state. “Being from that area always helped and having a lot of relationships with those coaches down there.”
Before signing day, Georgia’s existing roster included only five scholarship players from South Georgia: Baccari Rambo, Shawn Williams, Mike Gilliard, Israel Troupe and Justin Anderson.
Among Scout.com’s top 30 available in-state players, six were from South Georgia, and the Bulldogs signed five of them. The one exception was Cook High School linebacker Shannon Brown, the No. 21 player who signed with Alabama.
“You could argue that the class was built on the South Georgia triangle – Thomasville, Valdosta, Albany, a very tradition-rich area,” said Dean Legge, publisher of DawgPost.com, the Georgia affiliate in the Scout.com network. “They really nailed it this year.”
Three of Georgia’s top four recruits in Scout’s national rankings are from South Georgia: Drew at No. 33, Rome at No. 68 and Mitchell at No. 90.
“There’s always good football in South Georgia,” Bobo said. “Sometimes those kids don’t have qualifying grades. This is a year where there were a lot of good players and had the grades, and we decided to offer them. We were fortunate enough to get the majority of them and are excited about a lot of those guys coming here and playing.”
While Georgia’s recruiting of a player can involve several assistants coaches along with head coach Mark Richt, coaches have primary recruiting areas.
Bobo recruits Thomas County Central in Thomasville, where Drew starred. Bobo played quarterback at rival school Thomasville High, where his father George was the coach.
“There’s a lot of kids in this vicinity, so when he comes down, he’s able to hit all at one time,” Thomasville County Central coach Bill Shaver said.
Out-of-state schools hit South Georgia just as hard as the Bulldogs with schools like Florida State, Florida, Auburn and Tennessee plucking prospects.
Alabama went head-to-head with Georgia for Mitchell and Rome at Valdosta.
Bobo and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart – friends and former Georgia teammates – had lunch together in Valdosta before Mitchell’s announcement on the night of Jan. 20.
“We kind of didn’t talk,” Bobo said. “Most people there were talking. We just sat there in silence.”
Georgia already felt good about its chances with Drew, who also committed publicly that day, but the Bulldogs’ recruiting class got a big boost when Mitchell announced that he would sign with Georgia.
Bobo said it was the most excited he’s been about landing a recruit since he got a phone call that quarterback Matthew Stafford was coming to Georgia.
“I think Malcolm, of all players, kept the secret better than anybody,” Richt said. “We didn’t know until it happened.”
With Mitchell and Rome on board, the Bulldogs finished up their in-state haul with announcements from Drew and finally on signing day from running back Isaiah Crowell from Columbus.
“At the end of the day, we just did a good job of promoting keeping the in-state talent at home and getting these guys” Bobo said. “If we get these guys in state, we’ve got a chance to compete for championships.”