Dawgs ahead of the Recruiting Curve

ATHENS – Through most of the month of January, it would have been tough for Georgia head coach Mark Richt to come up with a downside to all the early verbal commitments his team received.

Instead of running from one house to the next all across the state or even the country trying to convince more high school players to join his team, Richt has leisurely strolled from place to place, every time finding a player who already has pledged to the Bulldogs and simply wants to celebrate.

"We've been just enjoying each other's company and getting to know each other better," Richt said.

Barring any late surprises, Georgia will receive signed letters-of-intent from 24 new players on Wednesday, National Signing Day. Some of those players have been committed to the team for more than a year and all of them have been in the fold for more than a month.

Georgia is ahead of the national early commitment curve but only slightly, and the trend isn't going to slow down, Richt predicted.

"The way things are going, you can't hardly keep it from happening," he said.

Three factors have spurred the early commitment wave – the prevalence of summer camps on college campuses that let coaches get a first-hand look at prospects, the improved quality and availability of game film of players and the increased awareness of parents and high school personnel about how to help along the process.

"Plus," Richt said, "when you begin a cycle of getting your class wrapped up relatively early, then at this time of year you spend a lot more time junior recruiting."

The Bulldogs already have five verbal commitments for that the recruiting class of 2009, according to Scout.com, and that could end up being more than one-third of next year's signing class considering Georgia could have as few as 14 scholarships available. (The Bulldogs will have just 14 scholarship seniors on next year's team.)

Georgia already has made a quarter of the scholarship offers it will make for the 2009 class, Scout.com southeast analyst Miller Safrit said.

Although it has made life easier in Athens this month, there are risks to the new way, Richt concedes.

"The biggest problem I see is trying to see the entire pool of athletes at any one position before you start to rank them in your mind," he said. "Let's say there are 10 guys out there at a certain position, you might have time to evaluate the first five. You believe those guys can all get the job done, but you haven't seen the other five guys yet."

Georgia's coaches must be certain of a player's value before they offer him a scholarship more than a year ahead of signing day, Richt said.

The wave of early commitments has led to some suggestions that college football add an early signing period like most other college sports have, but Richt has long been opposed to that idea.

"I'm afraid you'd spend an awful lot more time recruiting," he said. "We'd like to pay attention to the guys we have."

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