Its difficult to start talking about Dawg Night without talking about the crush of folks that were in town. Let me start from the beginning. Dawg Night was a reactionary camp. Mark Richt started the event in the late 2000s as a reaction to Urban Meyer’S Friday Night Lights.
I never thought I would see a day where Dawg Night would eclipse Friday Night Lights, but somewhere about four years ago that’s exactly what happened. I can say that I am not aware of a camp in the South that’s generates more interest these days than Dawg Night.
With that, however, comes a lot of issues (if you are looking forward to the part about where I talk about specific recruits… that’s coming a little further down the article). The number one issue right now at Georgia is space - and it is about to be a little more cramped.
The introduction of the indoor practice facility will take away at least one, but perhaps two, grass fields. Currently Georgia has five total fields - only Sanford Stadium is a full-length field. The rest of Georgia’s practice fields are not 120 yards long.
Is that a huge deal? Not unless you have over 700 kids showing up at a camp trying to get noticed. I’m going to be honest here - it was very difficult to notice anyone besides Mecole Hardman and Jacob Eason. Those two were obvious… everyone else either blended in or got lost in the shuffle of taking many fewer reps than they should have. I’ve seen this sort of thing from time to time at a camp like the MVP Camp that Chad Simmons puts on.
But Simmons does not own the facility that he runs his camp at. He does not have an office yards away. He has to rent a facility and take it from there.
Georgia is in this situation because in one way they’ve decided to be in this land-locked situation and in another they’ve been forced into by NCAA regulations. There was a time when invitation-only events were OK by NCAA rule… at least it was portrayed that way. Now? Can’t do that any more - against the rules.
So Georgia can’t turn away a single “prospect” who shows up on campus. You can do the math: More prospects showed up in Athens on Saturday (more than 1,000) than the entire SEC can sign in three years (1,050).
Those numbers just don’t add up.
Georgia is going to have to figure out how handle this in the future.
They are going to have to separate legit players from everyone else by sending obvious non-SEC athletes to the intramural fields on buses, but that will likely embarrass them and their parents - and no one wants that. They can use the field of the Spec Towns Track facility. They can bus some high-level players to Sanford Stadium, but the Stadium isn’t ideal for a camp setting for a number of reasons - there are no offices there; there are no football sleds or equipment anchored into place; there are no film towers in place; and it is about a mile down the road.
It would be much, much easier for Georgia to just start fresh somewhere else. Move all of football’s operations elsewhere. Again, Damon Evans and Michael Adams’ lack of vision in the middle part of last decade doesn’t always hurt the Dawgs, but this is a good example of a time where is does. If those two had a vision of where Georgia was going to be in the future with football they could have built a baseball stadium on Millage or even in downtown Athens; they could have moved the track (and still could); they could have properly spent millions of dollars in a way that makes sense for the future.
That didn’t happen, and it is a shame.
The crazy crowd made several coaches upset with the machine that Georgia football is becoming. It took forever for players to get through the lines. It was nearly impossible for coaches to “recruit” with so many folks on campus - particularly considering the coaches were actually coaching during the camp.
There simply were too many players. It was crazy.
The good news is that Georgia is getting much better at hosting and holding these types of camps. Giving players who have committed different shirts than everyone else was smart. Players with Georgia offers had different color shirts than other players who were there to be evaluated. It was a smart move.
But, again, the crush of kids meant limited reps for everyone - including the quarterbacks. I’ve watched quarterbacks for a very long time in this setting. I think the thing to remember is that this isn’t a practice as much as it is a barometer as to where everyone is at. But you would have thought that Jacob Eason, Bailey Hockman and Trevor Lawrence were trying to win the 2018 starting job on Saturday night.
All three were all over the place at the start. It was not impressive to be frank. Lawrence, for sure, seemed nervous, but I think all three were that way. Think about Hockman’s situation. He’s standing in line behind the guy that everyone has proclaimed to be the next Joe Montanta, and he’s supposed to go throw-for-throw with him. Meanwhile the guy just after you in line is very well on his way to getting an offer to displace the both of you.
I think Lawrence has the potential to be the No. 1 player in the country in his class. I love that kid - maybe more than other folks. But he’s special. The ball twirls every time it comes out of his hind. Some guys have natural ability… Lawrence has just that.
Eason threw better than Hockman, but all three needed a little time to get going. Eason made me very concerned with what seemed like a changed, lower, throwing motion when I saw film of him at The Opening. That was a major, major red flag for me with him. He’s got nothing wrong with his motion - its a little long, but he’s long - so when I saw him drop his throwing motion it gave me pause.
I didn’t see that as much in Athens. I don’t know if Eason was playing baseball. I don’t know if he had just overthrown in Oregon - which is possible with the never-ending screaming from Donald Trump-like Trent Dilfer. Quarterbacks have to take care of themselves, and that’s something you learn over time.
With all of that said - The next time I hear or read someone say that Eason looks just like Matthew Stafford I am concerned that my head might explode.
THEY LOOK NOTHING ALIKE. NOTHING. Not as people. Not as quarterbacks.
Eason is tall and slender. Stafford was overweight when he arrived at Georgia. Eason is already taller than Stafford was. Stafford had huge legs and had a compact and quick-trigger arm - he could throw from pretty much any angle.
That both are very skilled, out-of-state white quarterbacks who will start at Georgia is what they have in common. Eason, like Stafford and everyone before, still has work to do. My concern is that he’s going to be coming across country and the expectations are going to be through the roof. In my view he’s going to need time to grow into himself. He will need acclimate himself to life in college; the speed of the college game in the SEC (which is something he’s very rarely seen in Washington State).
Eason has tremendous potential and has a wonderful personality, but he needs to be given a chance to grow. Matthew never got that in the first year, and the results were an unmitigated disaster. The good news for Eason is that Georgia will be returning a starting quarterback, so he won’t have the burden of starting like Stafford did after Joe Tereshinski got hurt.
I think Eason will play in 2016, but I doubt very seriously he will start.
Now for some hyperbole.
Scout should very seriously consider moving Mecole Hardman to the No. 1 overall player in the country. He’s better and Jacob Eason right now (keep in mind that Eason would still get drafted higher because he’s a quarterback), and he’s doing stuff that’s just plain stupid out there. Folks can’t keep up with him - as he’s running past everyone on offense and putting the glove on everyone on defense.
I’m telling you right now, and you know I’ve felt this way for a little bit of time, but that kid is going to be a great, great college player. He’s as big a must-get, in my mind, since Mark Richt and company signed Isaiah Crowell. They can not lose him to another school. That he was quietly recruiting for Georgia to fellow prospects earlier this year is one reason I feel so strongly that he’s a guy they can’t miss.
Terry Godwin was the best prospect I had seen for the last two years; Trenton Thompson was the second best. Hardman is playing at a higher level than both right now. Can't lose him; that can’t happen.
Ben Cleveland has gotten better. He’s still a firm, stiff guy, but that’s something you can try to work out of his body over time. He moved well at the camp, and, for me, has improved. I still see him as a guard in the future - at least that would be the ideal place for him to be at.
The running back-quarterback combination was the best I have ever seen at Georgia. That group was Eason, Hockman and Lawrence working with Anthony McFarland, Cam Akers and Elijah Holyfield. I loved McFarland. I thought he was the best back there that night. He moved well. Again, it is difficult to know with running backs at a camp. There are no tackles being made and very little contact, so you just have to go on the eye test and look at explosion. The backs, quite frankly, really did a poor job catching the ball coming out of the backfield. Some of that was them dropping easy balls. Some of that was poor throwing from the QBs (again, all of those QBs have things to work on). But you could see that McFarland, in particular, had tremendous potential.
Socially, its clear that the kids in this class already know one another well. I know a lot of football people are scared to death of football becoming like basketball as it relates to AAU. But that’s already happening or happened. The kids all know one another. They are traveling around the country to camps (Oregon, Maryland and various Nike camps). They are being influenced by the shoe companies (UnderArmor and Nike) in a way that’s never happened before.
The one thing I will give AAU, however, is that at least the kids involved in AAU actually play when they go to events. That’s not happening at college football camps. The best basketball player in the country, Harry Giles, played at Peach Jam and went hard to win. More than a dozen high-level prospects in Athens on Saturday night didn’t compete at all.
That didn’t happen. It would have been fun to see.