Only days remain until signing day for Dawgs

ATHENS – As it has for most of Mark Richt's four years as head coach, Georgia enters the final days of the recruiting period with most of its work done.

The Bulldogs have received verbal commitments from 18 of the nation's top high school players. They are expected to sign just 19. Teams are allowed to bring in 25 new players each year, but Georgia is too close to the overall maximum of 85 scholarships to sign that many. Wednesday is National Signing Day, the first day prep players can sign letters of intent, thus making their choice official. Verbal commitments are non-binding.

"It doesn't matter when you get them as long as you get them," said recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg. "Some schools like that late rush at the end like Florida State and Southern Cal. Other schools like to get them and hold them."

Georgia tries to be a get-them-and-hold-them school. The Bulldogs had 14 of their verbal commitments by Dec. 2.

"It's what you hope for," Richt said. "We'd much rather have it this way than the other way."

In comparison, Florida State had 12 verbal commitments and Southern Cal had 14 as of Friday, and both those schools are expected to sign more than 20 players this year. The Bulldogs are where they are because of earlier legwork, Richt said. For instance, the Bulldogs' assistant coaches have spent much of the last 10 days working on prospects for next season. Also, the Bulldogs devote time each Wednesday night during the season for recruiting.

"We earmark time to recruit," Richt said. "Our (coaches) just do a real good job of it. We try to do a very good job of identifying juniors very quickly and even guys younger than that."

In the Richt era, they have steered clear of many signing day press conferences, where a player withholds his decision until the last minute.

Last year, linebacker Brandon Miller kept Georgia guessing until National Signing Day, and offensive lineman Max Jean-Gilles held a signing day press conference three years ago, although he had informed Georgia's coaches earlier that he was headed to Athens.

This year the player they are waiting on is Duke Robinson, a offensive lineman from Washington High School in Atlanta. Robinson, a 6-foot-5, 325-pounder, still is considering Georgia and Oklahoma.

"I hear both ways," Newberg said.

If Robinson gives the Bulldogs good news, that would wrap up their recruiting efforts this year with the bare minimum of last-minute drama.

"I don't think we can go (to 20)," Richt said.

THANKS TO FLORIDA: Since the beginning of the recruiting season, the Bulldogs have been looking for a shutdown cornerback. Thanks to Florida's firing of Ron Zook, they finally got one. Bryan Evans, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., was considered a lock to be a Gator before Zook was fired. That's because Zook hired Evans' high school coach, Dan Disch, a year ago as his secondary coach.

"There's no way he would have gone to Georgia (if Zook were still in Florida)," Newberg said.

Evans also considered LSU before finally telling Bulldog coaches last week that he intends to play in Athens.

"Georgia is just the best place for me," he said. "I have family in Atlanta and Albany, so it will be easy for them to come see me. Also, I love Georgia's facilities, and I feel really good about the school and program."

Zook is now the head coach at Illinois, where he is again assisted by Disch. Evans was expected at one point to make an official visit to the Illini this weekend, but his commitment to Georgia is expected to remain firm.

SLEEPER?: Along with Evans, Georgia added linebacker Tavares Kearney to its class of commitments last week. Kearney didn't get nearly the attention as fellow in-state linebacker Tray Blackmon this season, but Newberg said he might be almost as good.

"That kid is going to be a beast," Newberg said. "He's my sleeper if there is such a thing in this group. They really didn't jump on him until late, and I really didn't understand it."

Newberg said he was more impressed with Kearney than with any other Georgia prep player he saw in person this year.

"He's a Tray Blackmon type of player," he said.

The only downside to Kearney is he may not meet academic requirements.

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