Dawg Night: A Brief History

ATHENS – It's hard to know the exact reason Georgia started hosting Dawg Night.

It stands to reason that Georgia, like many other top programs in the SEC, were tired of the publicity Florida got with its annual "Friday Night Lights". So on July 18, 2008 Georgia hosted their first Dawg Night.

The top names for the first Dawg Night ever?

North Carolina's Brandon Willis and Corey Miller; Former Auburn receiver Antonio Goodwin; Florida's Neiron Ball, LSU's Zach Mettenberger; Oklahoma State's David Paulson; Georgia's Rueben Faloughi, Alec Ogletree, Branden Smith, Dallas Lee, Mike Gilliard, Abry Jones and Rantavious Wooten.

Not a bad haul for a brand-new event.

The night belonged to Glades Central (FL)'s Rantavious Wooten and Newnan safety Alec Ogeltree.

"Some guys just have it, and there's not much more to explain beyond that," I said of Ogletree's performance that night. Ogletree still had another year of high school football. He was one of several impressive 2010 prospects at the camp, and the Bulldogs offered him that night.

Wooten was described this way: "He's not a smooth guy necessarily – he's a snapper." Wooten "could not be stopped". He went on to commit to LSU in August before switching his commitment to Georgia later in the fall.

2008 Dawg Night was a good start to an event that would grow over time, but it was in its infancy. The event took place at Georgia's Woodruff Practice Fields – not at Sanford Stadium, which would have been a better venue. The move Between the Hedges happened a year later.


Newnan's Alec Ogletree at Dawg Night 2008. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

In 2009, the event shifted to Sanford Stadium and into recruiting infamy.

"If nights like tonight are about finding hidden gems I think that happened tonight," I said of future South Carolina standout Ace Sanders. "It would surprise me if Georgia didn't seriously consider him. There was no bigger star on the night than Ace Sanders"

For the second year in a row a small wide receiver from South Florida was the skill player of the day.

Another Floridian – Brent Benedict – stole the show on the offensive line.

"I think Brent is going to be a heck of a player for Georgia," I declared that night not knowing Benedict would suffer an ACL tear later that fall, which sidelined his development and eventually lead to him leaving Athens.

"He's strong… man is he strong. You really need to que up the video once it gets loaded and watch the shot he gives to the defensive end in one particular drill," I went on to say about Benedict.

Also impressive at 2009 Dawg Night? The Carver Tigers.

"I don't want to miss the kids from Carver," I pointed out. "They really – just as a group – looked good. It is going to be tough not seeing them winning the state championship considering the talent they have everywhere. So watch out for Carver… they are pretty stacked."

Dean Legge after Dawg Night 2009..

Carver was stacked, and Georgia did its best to damage its relationship with the Columbus school. Georgia's lack of organization or lack of knowledge (perhaps both) had unintended ramifications later in the recruiting calendar.

What happened? From a Dawg Post article dated February 4, 2010:

"All of this could have been avoided. This was not about coaching changes – it was about a lack of focus in the summer, which had ripple effects months down the road. It happened on a sunny summer day – the day Georgia was having its annual Dawg Night camp.

It was the first time I can remember that Georgia was doing well with players from Carver – one of the most talented high schools in the state. That day Devin Burns, a skilled player, who lined up at quarterback for the Tigers was coming to commit to the Bulldogs. He was going to commit to Georgia, and Corey Crawford was right behind him.

But when Burns went to commit, the Dawgs were flat footed. They didn't take the commitment – because they had pulled the offer off the table – but Burns didn't know that before he drove up from Columbus with a bus full of his friends and his parents tagging along.

Madness ensued. It was a public relations disaster for Georgia.

Later in the year the Dawgs made another run at Devin Burns, but it was all for not. Georgia then turned to Hutson Mason, who committed to Georgia. That's when everything started going sideways for Georgia.

If Georgia had taken Burns in the summer, they would have gotten Crawford as well – and Crawford would be a killer in a 3-4. Having taken Burns, they likely would not have taken Mason later in the year. That means Mike Nance and company would have had very little to get angered about with regards to Nash Nance getting passed over in favor of Mason.

Suddenly Da' Rick Rogers was in play because Nance was upset. Rogers would have never been lured to Tennessee because Nance would have likely ended up at Mississippi State or Vanderbilt – not Tennessee – if Rogers wasn't on the table."

2009 Dawg Night seemed like a normal event at the time, but Georgia's class of 2010, or at least the potential of the class of 2010, seemed to fall apart that night. Not a good memory for fans of silver britches.


Zach DeBell with Mark Richt at Dawg Night 2010. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

Dawg Night 2009 set the gold standard for controversy following a Dawg Night, but it was not alone. The following year was a big night for the Bulldogs, and those of us who cover them.

The night was chock full of top talent – in fact much of the 2011 Dream Team attended the event including Hunter Long, Watts Dantzler, Isaiah Crowell, Chris Mayes, Justin Scott-Wesley, Xzavier Ward, Amarlo Herrera, David Andrews, Christian LeMay and Corey Moore.

Several players who wound up signing with other schools were there, too. James Wilder (FSU) and Gabe Wright (Auburn) were the two most well known.

Younger prospects C.J. Curry, Travis Blanks, Geno Smith, Jordan Watkins, Davlin Tomlinson, Quayvon Hicks, Jordan Jenkins, John Theus, Tyshon Dye, Reuben Foster, Johnny O'Neal and Brice Ramsey highlighted the youngsters at the event.

Meanwhile the story of Dawg Night 2010 was the commitment of out-of-staters Zach DeBell and Nathan Theus. Both committed during the event, but it was DeBell whose post-Dawg Night photos would inadvertently wind up being a NCAA violation and change the way media is allowed to cover camps at Georgia for good.

Following the camp a slew of the committed players gathered for an impromptu photo shoot with their own cameras. That's when the violation, interpreted that way for one reason or another, occurred.

DeBell and former offensive line coach Stacy Searles took a photo looking into the camera of an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter's camera. The image was run online, and Georgia (itself) found the image a violation of NCAA Bylaw 13.10.1: "Presence of Media During Recruiting Contact."

Media are now excused from recruiting events at Georgia 15 minutes before the end of the event seemingly in order to avoid another NCAA photo snafu. Georgia is the only school, which currently employs this practice.

Nonetheless, Dawg Night 2010 was easily the most successful during the three-year run of the event. 12 players who eventually signed with the Bulldogs were in Athens that night. Two more players, C.J. Curry and Quayvon Hicks have also committed to the Bulldogs. In terms of conversion if the Bulldogs can pull in a recruiting load the likes of which they hosted at Dawg Night 2010 they will never lack for talent.

In three years, not without controversy of some sort in two of the years, Georgia has positioned its annual Dawg Night as one of the top events in the country.

Dean Legge, Fletcher Page and Chad Simmons after Dawg Night 2010..


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