The Cherry on Top of a Top 10 Class

ATHENS -- A National Signing Day that started poorly for Georgia ended on a high note at 5:49 p.m. Wednesday when graduate assistant coach Will Friend walked to the third floor of the team's complex carrying a piece of paper with Brandon Miller's signature.

The rest of the Bulldogs' 2004 signing class had been completed for more than three hours and Georgia's full-time coaches had dispersed for other duties, leaving Friend to man the fax machine at the Butts-Mehre Building.

"It's an awesome way to end the day," Coach Mark Richt said once the ink on Miller's national letter-of-intent way dry. "We were hoping he was Georgia-bound all along, but we never felt comfortable. If he'd like to play poker, he'd be good at it because I couldn't tell what that dude was going to do."

Wednesday was the first day high school football players were allowed to sign with the school of their choice, and the Bulldogs signed 20.

Miller, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound athlete from Miller County who is considered the nation's best defensive end by TheInsiders.com, picked Georgia over Georgia Tech and Florida State. He announced his decision at a 5:30 p.m. news conference in Colquitt.

"He said he felt at home at all three places, but he said he talked to more players at Georgia and he felt more at home with them," said Miller County defensive coordinator Alan Ingram. "That's what it came down to."

Miller was hosted by Georgia safety Thomas Davis on his visit, Ingram said. Although Miller is listed as a defensive end, he could end up playing a position very similar to the safety/linebacker hybrid Davis plays. Miller played wide receiver, tight end, fullback, defensive end and outside linebacker for Miller Country.

"He's so talented he could fit a lot of different positions," Richt said. "The No. 1 thing is going to be where does he want to start out at, and if he doesn't have a preference, by the end of the spring, we may have a better idea where to use him."

Richt is glad his team is the one stuck with the decision.

"Losing him would have been a big blow because he's considered one of the best in the state and rightfully so," Richt said.

The Bulldogs lost a top in-state player first thing in the morning when Atlanta lineman Michael Brown signed with Florida, but Miller's signing all but erased the memory of that snub. His signature assured the Bulldogs a spot in the national recruiting top 10. TheInsiders.com considers it the fifth best in the country.

Recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner identified defensive back, wide receiver and fast defensive ends as Georgia's primary needs and said the school filled all of three. Ten of the Bulldogs' signees fit in those categories.

The class is headlined by Miller, running back Thomas Brown of Tucker, quarterback A.J. Bryant of Fort Valley, cornerback Michael Grant of Stone Mountain and defensive end Charles Johnson of Hawkinsville.

"There are a couple guys (in the class) who if they had decided at 2 p.m. today, people would have been going crazy, but because everybody has know for months, it takes some of the glamour out of it," Richt said.

"Overall, it's a speed class," Richt said.

The Bulldogs signed only two offensive linemen -- Chester Adams of Luverne Ala., and Seth Watts of Sandersville.

"Other than that, these guys can run," Richt said. "I'm looking forward to our guys running the 40."

The NCAA allows schools to bring in 25 new players each fall, but the Bulldogs couldn't fit that many in because they were too close to the total maximum scholarship number of 85. The 20 Georgia signed probably will put them over 85, but it's possible two or three from the class won't qualify and some current Bulldogs may have to leave the team due to injury, Garner said.

Richt declined to discuss which players might have to take medical disqualifications.

"We feel like we're right at the cusp (of 85 scholarships)," Garner said.

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