Dawgs finish up recruiting this week

ATHENS – For the growing group of fans who follow Georgia's football recruiting closely, the last seven weeks have been the equivalent of the game their team played against Tennessee last season.

On that October day, the Bulldogs opened up a 24-7 lead only to see the Volunteers storm back and eventually win 51-33. For nearly two months now, Tennessee, not to mention Florida, LSU and a host of others around the nation, have been doing the same thing on the recruiting trails – sprinting past the Dogs.

Georgia's recruiting class was considered No. 2 in the nation when Scout.com released its initial rankings in the first week of December.

"I think a lot of people may have seen that No. 2 class ranking and said, ‘Hey, we're going to finish Top 5,'" said Miller Safrit, Scout.com's southern analyst.

Uh oh. Since Dec. 10, the Bulldogs have received one verbal commitment -- from punter Drew Butler, the son of former Georgia kicker Kevin Butler – and have fallen to No. 16 in the country in Scout.com's rankings.

In the same time period, their biggest SEC rivals – the Vols, Gators and Tigers -- have taken commitments from 11 five-star and nine four-star players combined. On top of that, Georgia has lost three of the top players in its state -- Suwanee's Cam Heyward (Ohio State), Fairburn's Eric Berry (Tennessee) and Darien's Allen Bailey (undecided but has eliminated Georgia) – in the last seven days.

"From the Georgia fans perspective, I can see them being upset, but all things being equal, this is a good class," Scout.com national analyst Jamie Newberg said. "(The fans) have just been bored."

Even Newberg and Safrit admit recruiting rankings are extremely subjective and can be swayed based on how a class finishes rather than its overall worth.

"In all actuality, the perception doesn't mean squat," Newberg said. "Whether you get them all in the spring and summer and don't close with any, as long as you get them all on signing day, who cares?"

Georgia's class still has plenty of gems, he said, such as Norcross running back Caleb King, ranked No. 4 in the nation, Columbus offensive lineman Antwane Greenlee and Tifton wide receiver Israel Troupe.

"Caleb King and Troupe and Greenlee, what if they had waited until this week and Georgia went 3-for-6 this week instead of 0-3 (in losing Heyward, Berry and Bailey)? The perception would have been better, but who cares because King and Troup and Greenlee are all in the class," he said.

Coaches pay attention to the final product, not the order in which its put together and do get a little annoyed when others don't see things the same way, Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer said.

"It can be a pain in the butt a little bit," he said. "Everything in this day and age is about perception. We try to deal in realities. Did you fill your needs? How much can a two-star guy or a three-star guy develop? All those things, but at the end of the day, people will say, ‘Well they finished well,' or ‘They didn't,' and that'll be the talk on the Internet for two or three days and somebody will give you grief about it one place or another."

If Georgia's class doesn't pick up some momentum between now and National Signing Day on Wednesday, Bulldog coach Mark Richt can expect a little of that grief to come his way.

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