No More Bridges

ATHENS – The warning sides were there from the start in 2010.

Recruiting, that season, for the Georgia Bulldogs and its staff was an uphill climb. Some recruiting seasons are easier than others organically, but sometimes staffs make recruiting more difficult than it has to be – and that's what happened in 2010.

A staff change at the end of the season made matters more complicated for Georgia, but the truth was Mark Richt and his staff were not properly recruiting the class of 2010. The results showed on Signing Day that year, and two years later the class of 2010 looks even worse than it did that day.

Consider: Alec Ogletree, who will likely be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft, was the highest-rated player Georgia signed that year. All of the other four-star or better players Georgia signed that year have had non-existent careers at Georgia for one reason or another save defensive end Garrison Smith.

4-star Kolton Houston has never played a down; 4-star Brent Benedict didn't play much and left the program; 4-star T.J. Stripling has battled injuries from the start of his career; 4-star Michael Thornton hasn't played much in three years on campus; 4-star Demetre Baker was dismissed from the team; 4-star Ken Malcome couldn't get past injures or the depth chart and transferred; 4-star Jalen Fields never arrived in Athens; 4-star Jakar Hamilton never did much of anything in 2010 and transferred at the start of 2011.

That's pretty bad results.

The rest of the list, players Fox Sports Next considers three-star or less, has had mixed results, too.

Dexter Morant hasn't played a meaningful snap; Derek Owens transferred; Brandon Burrows hasn't played a meaningful snap; Hutson Mason has backed up Aaron Murray for three years; Marc Deas has played a big role on special teams; Michael Bennett was hurt in 2012, but is a very, very good receiver; Kenarious Gates is a multi-year starter on the offensive line; Zander Ogletree has emerged as an option at fullback; and Lonnie Outlaw never stepped foot on campus.

Most recruiting classes end up with mixed results - that's how recruiting goes. But even with that knowledge, the class of 2010 might be the worst Georgia has signed in the last 20 years.

As I suspected as such and wrote in the 2010 Dawg Post Recruiting Guide that Georgia's 2010 haul was going to need to be pretty much perfect to be a good class:

In recruiting retention problems occur. Every player you sign is not going to be productive – it happens. But in recruiting, like much of the rest of life, you need to have a wide margin of error. That didn't happen in 2005. I am worried that didn't happen in 2010 – particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Time will tell just what to make of the class of 2010, but the margin of error, unfortunately, is thin.

That was followed up by writing that Georgia needed to get its recruiting act together... which it did.

Georgia is going to have to change the way they do a few things in order to take advantage of a banner class in 2011. They need to fight out-of-state intruders. They need to be far more aggressive than they already are. They need to lock down several top-name players… before G-Day, which will create a ripple effect in the state for other top recruits. They need to reclaim South Georgia – home of what I consider the most passionate Georgia fans (the Dawgs did not sign a player from south of Albany). They need to reclaim South Georgia in a very aggressive and powerful way.

Recruiting classes like the 2010 class can be overcome… sometimes overcome more easily than expected. One recruiting class does not make or break a program – good or bad. But two sub-par classes in a row can crush a program. The ditch will be too big in the future with two sub-par classes in a row.

2010 is an example of how not to recruit; 2011, 2012 and 2013 are examples of how recruit, and the results on the field are starting to mirror Georgia's better job in recruiting.

It's amazing how far Georgia has come in such a short time. Part of the problem with 2010 was the small class size the Bulldogs were going to take. Small recruiting classes almost always equal problems eventually. Because recruiting is about providing a program a particular margin for error, signing a small class means there had better be very few mistakes – but there were plenty of mistakes in 2010.

The problem, it seemed at the time, was that Georgia was working under the assumption that prospects were going to go to Georgia because it was "Georgia". That's the wrong way to look at things. That thinking was corrected in time to reel in one of the better recruiting classes in Georgia history a year later. It was the class, no matter how much Georgia fans might not want to admit it, that had to have Isaiah Crowell in it. Crowell is gone now, but he served as a bridge to get Georgia to 2012.

The Bulldogs don't need to get into situations any more where they need a bridge to get to the next year… that's the point of recruiting. They certainly seem to have gotten that message loud and clear.

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