Dawgs taking JUCOs a rare thing

ATHENS – Since Mark Richt arrived at Georgia six seasons ago, the Bulldogs have stuck only the tip of a toe in the junior college recruiting pool.

That, however, was before the Bulldogs looked into the future and saw the what can best be described as The Matthew Stafford Window. Georgia's freshman quarterback and his seemingly limitless potential have added a sense of urgency to this year's signing class, recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner said.

"You work your whole career to get a quarterback like Stafford," Garner said, "and you feel like you've got some really good running backs and the receivers are coming along, and you need some guys there to protect him and open holes for those backs."

That means signing players who don't need as much time to adjust to the level of SEC football, which is why the Bulldogs (8-4) are expected to sign five junior college prospects – three offensive linemen and two defensive linemen -- in February. That would be five more than Georgia has signed in the last five years.

The Bulldogs take on No. 14 Virginia Tech (10-2) in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 30 in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Among the recruiting community, there's a feeling that the Bulldogs sense something special could be around the bend and they must do everything they can be ready for it.

"I think that is their philosophy," said Scout.com Southeast recruiting analyst Miller Safrit. "When you take a look at the athletes they have on the team, they really could go places, and they're looking at people who can fill in quick. If you bring in some of those guys and they pan out to be a starter, they could be an SEC Championship contender. Two years from now, they could be a national championship contender."

None of Georgia's coaches is talking like that, but Garner acknowledges that they "feel like this is an opportunity."

"We feel like (Stafford) is a special player," he said. "You want to put him out there in a position to perform to his abilities. He has a lot of ability, but he has to be protected and he has to have an opportunity to throw the football."

That's where offensive linemen Joe Blaes (Coffeyville Community College), Scott Haverkamp (Butler Community College) and Vince Vance (Georgia Military College) should help next year. Georgia also added GMC defensive linemen Jarius Wynn and Corvey Irvin to offset a lack of depth at that position.

The last time Georgia signed a junior college player was in 2001, Richt's first season with the team when he signed offensive lineman Kareem Marshall and defensive back Brandon Williams.

"I can promise you I don't see the University of Georgia signing five JCs every year, but you never know in a particular year what a need may require," Garner said. "We needed some guys who could come in and help us immediately."

As recently as two months ago, both head coach Mark Richt and Garner were bemoaning how difficult it was for Georgia to get junior college transfers through the school's admissions office. Richt also added that he'd rather build his team predominantly with high school players. Asked what it took to convince Richt that this was the year Georgia needed to push hard to get junior college players into school, Garner responded "look at our film."

"We just looked at the personnel we had and felt like we really needed to upgrade it with some mature guys," he said.

And some guys who can help Stafford, who started seven games and threw for 1,620 yards in the regular season.

"He's one of the top freshmen in the country, why wouldn't you want to play with a guy like that?" Safrit said. "That's something they're really selling, and they're selling it well."

Stafford occasionally takes an active role in recruiting, he said, when coaches ask him to talk to a recruit who is visiting practice or pass along a cell phone number.

"They've given me some numbers to text some guys and call them, and I've been doing that," he said. "I'll do whatever they ask me to do to try to help."

JUCO Junction

Five junior college players have made verbal commitments to play for Georgia next season.
Player Size School
OL Joe Blaes 6-2, 290 Coffeyville (Kansas)
OL Scott Haverkamp 6-4, 275 Butler (Kansas)
DL Corvey Irvin 6-4, 275 GMC
OL Vince Vance 6-8, 310 GMC
DL Jarius Wynn 6-4, 270 GMC

Dawg Post Top Stories