By Matt DeBary
I hear all the time, “Why couldn’t Richt get the best guys in the state?” “How could Kirby Smart let Derrick Brown and E.J Price get away?” “Why can’t Georgia lock up the state?”
The short answer to this is pretty simple. There are too many big prospects and too many big college football programs fighting for the same players. When the Bulldogs are fighting off every major program in the south for in-state players, it’s impossible to sign everyone they want. When teams like Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Tennessee and now USC and Ohio State are recruiting in Georgia, the home-state Bulldogs have to fight for almost every recruit they sign. There will always be cases where a kid from rural Georgia signs with the Bulldogs because that’s what he was raised to do. It doesn’t matter who the coach is, there are some kids who dream to play for Georgia.
But what does “lock up” actually mean? Is it signing 7 of the top 10 in-state players? 5 of the top 10? All of them? It’s a great idea, but it’s naïve to believe it can happen. There are simply too many other successful programs fighting for prospects in Georgia.
In today’s recruiting, if Kirby can annually sign half of the top 10 prospects in Georgia (some of which are elite) that should be considered a success. Signing 7 or more would be incredible.
Another reason it’s impossible is because the state of Georgia is a transplant state. It’s no coincidence that when people graduate from Alabama or Auburn, they want to move away. Most of those people move to the metro-Atlanta area, and they bring their loyalty to their new home. Many of these highly-rated prospects in the metro Atlanta area did not grow up a Georgia fan. They might have lived or grew up in the state of Georgia, but they have no ties to the University of Georgia. It’s tougher for Smart to sell the “stay home and represent your state” pitch when they have no allegiance to the University itself.
Although it’s tougher to “lock up” the state of Georgia than most realize, there have been plenty of times where Georgia has missed on some incredible in-state players.
2016 was different though. Georgia signed Mecole Hardman, Issac Nauta, Ben Cleveland, Julian Rochester, Charlie Woerner and still have a chance at signing five-star athlete Demetris Robertson. That is a very impressive group all from Georgia. Is that considered “locking up” the state? Absolutely not. But to say that Georgia doesn’t recruit their own state well is just ridiculous.
It’s true that Georgia has had some trouble over the years signing the best in-state players, but it’s not like they have missed on everyone. Can you imagine what everyone would say if Georgia had not signed Jordan Jenkins, Isaiah Crowell, Lorenzo Carter or Malcolm Mitchell? The Bulldogs do a much better job recruiting in-state than people give them credit for, but to get them all is impossible, especially when almost every major program outside of the borders have won a national championship since Georgia has.
When Georgia wins a national championship, that’s when we might see them “lock down” the state. Until then, there will be numerous highly-recruited players that leave the Peach State and play elsewhere. It’s recruiting. That’s just how it is.