Dawgs' class makes for "relaxing" January

ATHENS – After a hectic season that felt much like a sprint for the final two months, Georgia's coaches are happy to have a relaxing January.

Those two words – relaxing and January – usually don't mix in college football thanks to the recruiting calendar. National signing day is Feb. 6, and the first month of the year often is the most stressful for college coaches trying to fill their incoming classes.

Not so for the Bulldogs this year, though. If head coach Mark Richt is to be believed, Georgia was all but done with its recruiting when it received a verbal commitment from Jefferson County offensive lineman A.J. Harmon on Jan. 5, more than a month before signing day.

Georgia has 25 players pledged for the Class of 2008, including former Bulldog Akeem Hebron, who has re-enrolled after a one-season suspension. True freshmen running backs Dontavius Jackson and Richard Samuel, offensive lineman Ben Jones and wide receiver Tavarres King also enrolled in classes last week and will participate in spring practice.

Colleges are allowed to bring in 25 new players each August but early enrollees sometimes can be counted toward last year's class, meaning the Bulldogs may have some wiggle room left in their final number. Richt is talking like they won't be using that, though, saying last week that if there are any changes, they will be minor.

That means he and his assistants can spend most of the month celebrating with the players they do have rather than worrying about the ones they don't.

"It's been great, the home visits I've taken so far," recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner said. "Everybody is all happy and excited. You go to the house and eat dinner, hug up and love up. You don't really talk about anything. You just get in the car and go home."

Georgia's class is ranked No. 2 in the country by Scout.com behind only Notre Dame.

"This is probably the best looking Georgia class I've ever seen," said SuperPrep magazine's Allen Wallace, who also works as an analyst for Scout.com. "It's just top heavy with big names, and I also like the balance a lot. You're talking about people who are at some very elite spots at their position."

Ten of the players in this class are rated in the top 12 nationally at their position, including offensive linemen Harmon and Jones, running backs Samuel and Carlton Thomas, defensive ends Toby Jackson and Cornelius Washington, cornerback Brandon Boykin, defensive tackle DeAngelo Tyson, place-kicker Blair Walsh and wide receiver A.J. Green.

"You just don't see very many guys on this commitment list that couldn't have gone anywhere they wanted to go," Wallace said.

The word Georgia now fears most is de-commitment, an increasing trend of players changing their minds at some point in the process. Harmon, for one, has been publicly torn between the Bulldogs and Clemson for months and only recently backed out of a commitment to the Tigers and pledged to Georgia.

Under Richt, the Bulldogs have done a good job of hanging onto their commitments. There have been exceptions, but for the most part, the Bulldogs have built loyalty among their class. Washington, for instance, has been committed to Georgia since July of 2006.

"Some of these guys have been committed to Georgia forever," Wallace said. "That is pretty incredible."

The Bulldogs don't forbid the players who are committed to them from taking official visits to other schools, but they frown on it.

"Anytime a guy does that he takes a risk of losing his opportunity," Richt said. "We're true to our word to these guys and we want them to be that with us. I'm not going to sit here and say if you do this, we'll do that. But if they do that, they do take a risk."

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