ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia continued to gain momentum for today's signing day when tight end John Doucette of New Orleans, a former Georgia Tech commitment, said he will sign with the Bulldogs.
Doucette pulled away from Georgia Tech a week ago and became the fourth tight end in Georgia's class of commitments. Georgia also has pledges from Leonard Pope of Americus, Michael Turner of Brookwood High and Martrez Milner of West Hall.
Georgia lost 2001 starting tight end Randy McMichael to the NFL draft. This week's additions of Doucette and Washington-Wilkes offensive tackle Antonio Mercier give the Bulldogs 26 signees, but four on the list will count toward the 2001 class because they already were early enrollees at the University of Georgia.
"We're still waiting on several key players and we're just going to depend on what their decision is as how the class will be regarded through public eyes,'' said Georgia recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner Tuesday. "We feel like we've been able to address some needs and been able to attract top caliber athletes who will be good students with good character.''
Today's signing day drama will come from the decisions of such highly recruited players as offensive tackles Derek Morris and Max Jean-Gilles, linebacker Ricardo Hurley, safety Pat Watkins, defensive ends Marcus Jackson and Chris Bradwell and receivers JeJuan Jenkins and Agim Shabaj. Garner called the high number of signing-day question marks "a major mystery.''
"I don't think you've ever had to wait on this many kids; I know this is the most I've ever had to wait on,'' Garner said. "Generally, they've given some type of indication, but there are several kids who haven't tipped their hands to us and supposedly haven't tipped their hands to anybody.''
It is normal for any team to suffer one or two signing-day losses from its class of commitments but also to gain one or two surprises.
Last year's big surprises were the additions of receiver Fred Gibson and lineman Gerald Anderson of Ware County High School. Gibson, who first committed to Florida, made as big an impact as anticipated — which may be the rarest of all developments from any signing day.
Many high school players billed by the various recruiting services as five-star athletes destined to start as freshmen never crack a starting lineup. Others not expected to be impact players as freshmen are pleasant surprises, as was the case last season with defensive tackle David Pollack.
Perhaps the biggest signing day decision for Georgia will come from Huntersville, N.C., where Morris — rated by some as the nation's top offensive tackle — is expected to decide between Georgia and Ohio State.
Morris says he also still is considering North Carolina State and Florida. Morris visited Florida last weekend.
Jean-Gilles, rated the nation's No. 7 offensive tackle by Theinsiders.com, is choosing between Georgia and Miami.
"We feel like we've signed some good quality linemen already,'' Garner said. "If we're able to get just one of the couple remaining, we'll feel good. If we get two, we'll feel extremely good.''
Georgia has commitments from five offensive linemen, but Mercier was only the second tackle on the list. Georgia coach Mark Richt has consistently said offensive tackle is the top priority on his recruiting list, and it will be important for him to further fortify the position today.
Georgia has only one receiver among its commitments, and Rankins is again considering the Bulldogs after pulling back from his commitment to Oklahoma. Jackson, a defensive end from Norcross High, has scheduled a press conference for 2:15 p.m. today to announce his choice — expected to be either Georgia and Florida State. It would be a big surprise if Watkins, rated by some as the nation's top safety, chose Georgia. Watkins, from Tallahassee, Fla., apparently has Florida State and Southern Cal as his two finalists.
Another big name on Georgia's list is Hurley, a linebacker from Greenwood, S.C. Hurley, rated the top linebacker and the No. 10 linebacker prospect in the nation by Theinsiders.com, has Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State, Tennessee and Georgia Tech on his list of finalists.