Class of 2007 shaping up like 2002

ATHENS – When dawn broke on National Signing Day in 2002, Georgia was reeling from the loss of three high-profile players to other schools and no Bulldog fan had ever heard of Tim Jennings.

Sound familiar? Georgia entered today, the first day most high school and junior college football players can sign a binding national letter-of-intent, still stinging from the decisions of Allen Bailey, Cam Heyward and Eric Berry to play college football elsewhere. The question that remains is if this year's class will include a surprise like Jennings.

Four years ago, it was wide receivers JeJuan Rankins (Oklahoma) and Agim Shabaj (Michigan State) and offensive lineman Derek Morris Jr. (Ohio State) who had spurned the Bulldogs down the stretch.

The space left by those late losses gave Georgia room to sign Jennings, who thought he was headed to Division I-AA South Carolina State until the Bulldogs called him the night before signing day to offer a scholarship. When his name popped up on Georgia's list of signees, even the most knowledgeable recruiting fans were caught unaware and searching for information on the 5-foot-8 cornerback.

Jennings left Georgia four years later as a three-year starter with two SEC Championship rings and a first-team All-SEC selection to his credit. On Sunday, he won a Super Bowl ring as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.

Without any surprises today, the Bulldogs are expected to sign 23 players today. That's how many have made public verbal commitments as of Tuesday night, but it's clear Georgia has room to add more if they choose since they were saving room for Bailey, Heyward and Berry.

"That could certainly happen," said national recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg. "The staff has just got to figure out is there a guy or two or three that they want to do that with or do they want to hold on to those scholarships. Georgia at least in the past has planned enough that if they lost player X, they can take player Y, and it could be a gamble that really rewards a team. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see that happen."

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre was a signing day surprise, according to southeast analyst Miller Safrit. When a more highly regarded quarterback backed out of a verbal commitment, Southern Mississippi took a last-minute chance on Favre.

"Coming out of high school, he was actually looked at as a punter by a lot of schools," Safrit said. "He was actually a plan B quarterback, and now he's going to the Hall of the Fame. So you never know what's going to happen in recruiting."

Twiggs County's Chris Little wouldn't fall into the surprise category since he's a name most Georgia recruiting fans know. The four-star offensive lineman is expected to sign with Notre Dame today, but the Bulldog coaching staff held out hope as late as this week that he would change his mind.

There's also a chance that Bulldogs will be victims of a change of heart. Columbus offensive lineman Antwane Greenlee made a verbal commitment to Georgia in August but has continued to express interest in Florida State since then.

Signing day at least will provide some action for news-starved Bulldog fans, who have seen their team land only one verbal commitment since Dec. 10.

"Georgia got off to such a great start, and they were basically done," Newberg said. "You're seeing so many early commitments that signing day is becoming anti-climatic." has Georgia's class ranked No. 16 in the nation, which would be the lowest final ranking since Mark Richt's first recruiting class in 2001.

"From a rankings perspective maybe it's a little below the bar Mark Richt has set," Newberg said, "but recruiting ratings don't mean crap. It's all about filling your needs, getting kids in school and developing them, and Georgia has done that as well as anybody."

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