UGA football notebook: McClendon rated the nation’s top recruiter

Bryan McClendon’s work on the recruiting trail for Georgia’s signing class was punctuated by the Bulldogs landing top-40 national recruit Norcross defensive end/outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter as the capper.

“Boom!!! #Gata#GoDawgs,” McClendon tweeted Wednesday afternoon moments after Carter’s announcement.

The running backs coach’s haul included the Bulldogs highest-rated prospects: Carter and running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb as well as six other signees that he took the lead role in recruiting.

“Hey, this guy is a heck of a recruiter, isn’t he?” coach Mark Richt told Georgia fans when ushering McClendon over to answer a question late morning in the Butts-Mehre Building.

McClendon wasn’t around to comment on his work after Richt’s mid-afternoon news conference, perhaps going to wait on Carter’s big announcement.

Others talked about how he closes the deal.

“He relates well with the guys and that’s not because he’s young, but because he works at it,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said of McClendon, who turned 30 in December. “He’s always working at recruiting, he’s always on the phone and not just with the kids, but he does a great job with the parents and the coaches.”

They now not only keep track of the recruits but the recruiters.

McClendon was picked as the best in the land as determined by 247Sports, which named him national recruiter of the year.

Richt on coaching opening, change to D-line role

Richt introduced new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and assistant coaches Kevin Sherrer and Tracy Rocker to the fans on hand Wednesday for signing day, but he still has one spot to fill on his staff.

“Are you going to try and get a new special teams coach?” one boy asked Richt.

“Who brought that kid in here?” Richt asked laughing. “Who’s dad put you up to that? There he is. … You came up with that yourself? Well, I’ll say this: When the dust settles, I think we’ll be excited about what’s going to happen with special teams next year.”

Richt said he expects the new hire to come “pretty soon.”

Former Southern California linebackers coach Mike Ekeler told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he interviewed for the vacancy and Richt would “talk to a couple of other people.”

One of those people was believed to be former Georgia defensive line coach Jon Fabris, who worked with Ekeler at Indiana.

Pruitt said Richt will make the decision on the last hire but he’s provided input: “We’re looking at the right fit.”

Meanwhile, the defensive line coach’s duties are expanding under Rocker.

“Philosophically, we’re going to change a little bit where our D-line coach in the past was coaching the front three, we’re going to make it more of a front four situation with coach Rocker,” Richt said. “What we have been calling that will linebacker position is really an outside rush guy. Sometimes that guy would drop but for the most part he’s rushing. He’d be in a two-point stance, but a lot of people run the same defense and put the guy in a three-point stance. It was very natural for coach Rocker to take on that fourth guy and it made a lot of sense for us.”

Some of Georgia’s best pass rushers could work with Rocker, the Lombardi and Outland award winner at Auburn.

“Say for instance Jordan Jenkins or Leonard Floyd, who knows?” Rocker said. “They are rushers but they could possibly be pulled into the room for certain situations.”

McKenzie’s got return ‘swag’

Georgia lists Isaiah McKenzie as an athlete.

He played some receiver and running back at American Heritage, but Bobo said he was recruited primarily for another reason.

“The main thing we offered him for is returns,” Bobo said. “I think he’ll be a guy that you’ll have to try and find a way to get the ball in his hands. The No. 1 thing we expect him to do next year is to try to be that return guy.”

Richt called the 5-foot-8, 175-pound McKenzie a “very dynamic return man. That’s what jumps out at you the most, just his ability to make people miss-one, two, three times in the same play-sometimes. Just got a lot of speed, quickness. I don’t know what you’d call it, swag. He’s got some swag. He really believes in himself.”

McKenzie played the hat game when he announced Wednesday with two hats, none for Georgia. Teammate and good friend Sony Michel, the five-star tailback also signed with Georgia, walked around a table and gave him the Bulldogs hat, according the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. He was going to sign with Ole Miss before a late Georgia offer.

Quick hits

Age is just a number for Richt, who turns 54 Feb. 18.

No, it isn’t to the point where recruits ask him if he will be there all four years.

“No, I look so young there’s no way,” Richt said. “If it weren’t for the extra 30 pounds I’m toting around I’d probably look about 40. I’m just kidding. Coach (Bobby) Bowden went to 80. … I could probably coach (the recruits’) kids.” … Bobo had just about lost his voice by mid-Wednesday afternoon. It wasn’t due to recruiting but the completion of the second day of early morning offseason conditioning “mat” drills. … The first fax that spit out a letter of intent Wednesday at Georgia came from defensive end Keyon Brown at 7:03 a.m. and the last from Carter around 4 p.m. The tight ends must be on the cutting edge. Jeb Blazevich and Hunter Atkinson along with offensive lineman Kendall Baker scanned and emailed in their paperwork. … One fans asked Richt, who lost defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to Louisville: “Did you send coach (Bobby) Petrino an early Valentine’s box of candy?” Said Richt: “Well, I won’t answer that.”

Marc Weiszer: twitter.com/marcweiszer

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