Georgia recruiting update

It is down to nail-biting time in the recruiting season for Georgia coach Mark Richt.

ATHENS, Ga. — It is down to nail-biting time in the recruiting season for Georgia coach Mark Richt.

With less than three weeks remaining before the Feb. 6 national signing date, Georgia has 16 verbal commitments and has itself on the lists of finalists for more top recruits.

"It's exciting, very exciting,'' Richt said Friday. "We're on the verge of a great class. I really believe the kids see what a great place it is and what a great opportunity they have to be a part of it.''

Richt said he was expecting "six to eight'' recruits to visit this weekend. The Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday Monday gives Georgia the chance to split the recruiting weekend in half, with some expected to wait until today to arrive in Athens.

Among this weekend's recruits are Oconee County running back Tyson Browning, who originally signed last year but failed to qualify academically. He has spent the year at Fork Union Military.

Also in Athens this weekend is wide receiver and defensive back Bryan McClendon of Mays High in Atlanta. The son of former Georgia running back Willie McClendon visited Auburn last weekend after previous visits to Louisville and North Carolina.

McClendon told Jamie Newberg of that his finalists are Auburn and Georgia.

Another visitor this weekend is linebacker Stephen Nicholas of Robert E. Lee in Jacksonville, Fla.

Richt is putting a late emphasis on adding more receivers and cornerbacks, and McClendon could help either area.

In addition to landing four commitments this week, including three from tight ends, Georgia received good news when running back Reshard Dudley cancelled planned visits to Florida this weekend and Miami next weekend.

In addition to this weekend's visitors, other players Richt and the Georgia coaching staff are hoping will sign with the Bulldogs: safety Pat Watkins of Tallahassee, Fla.; receiver Mario Raley of Independence High in Charlotte, N.C.; cornerback Demario Minter of Stephenson High in Stone Mountain; defensive lineman Kedric Golston of Sandy Creek; receiver John Harris of Americus High; safety Brian Crum of Camden County;  receiver Jejuan Rankins of Windsor, N.C.; defensive end Ray Gant of Hargrave Military; linebacker Channing Crowder of Sandy Springs; safety Olaolu Senni-Osamma of LaGrange; cornerback Devin Hester of Riviera Beach, Fla., and several offensive linemen.

"We're still working hard to get that need (on the offensive line) taken care of,'' Richt said.

Georgia may sign one or two junior college players to provide help at offensive tackle, but such high school recruits as Antonio Mercier of Washington-Wilkes, Derek Morris of Huntersville, N.C., Max Jean-Giles of Miami Beach, Fla., and Daniel Inman of Fayetteville, N.C., could help define this recruiting class.

"A lot of kids are down to their last few visits,'' Richt said. "A lot of them have been leaning toward us that we feel good about, but nothing is sure until signing date. We just have to work like mad to get these kids to believe what a great opportunity they have here at Georgia.''

Since last weekend, Georgia added four verbal commitments — including three tight ends — to its recruiting list.

Michael Turner, a tight end from Brookwood High School, joined two more tight ends — Americus High's Leonard Pope and West Hall's Martrez Milner — as Georgia commitments.

Georgia also received a verbal commitment from defensive tackle Randall Swoopes of Clarke Central High in Athens. Swoopes may move to offensive line. His father, Ronnie Swoopes, played at Georgia from 1974-77 and was the defensive team captain and an All-Southeastern Conference pick in 1977.

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