"It's kind of like going to Christmas, but you already know what your parents got you, and you just want to make sure they didn't change their mind at the last second," said Bulldogs' fan Don Taylor.
Taylor, 34, graduated from Jones County High School and now lives in Raleigh, N.C., but he drove to town for the action, or what passes as action in the new age of signing. In what Taylor calls "the old days," the fans arrived with unanswered questions, wondering who would say "yes" or "no" at the last minute.
The Bulldogs took all of that guesswork, and drama, out of this year's signing day by having their class all but done for more than a month before it became official Wednesday, the first day high school players were allowed to sign letters-of-intent. All but one of the team's 23 new players had been publicly committed to Georgia since the middle of November.
"Three or four years ago, you would come up here and you wouldn't know exactly what was going to happen," Taylor said. "You had that sense of, ‘Oh my gosh, what's going to happen?' Times have changed a little bit, and you have to take it for what it is. It's more of a celebration, looking forward to what is coming, but it has changed."
The day's only drama was provided by Dwayne Allen, a fickle tight end from Fayetteville, N.C., and that news was bad for the Bulldogs. Allen, after calling a press conference Monday to confirm his commitment to Georgia, called Richt on Wednesday morning to say he was headed to Clemson. (Richt got the call while he was at Prince Avenue Christian School to watch his son sign a letter-of-intent. Jon Richt, a quarterback, signed with Clemson.)
Allen's defection clearly stung Richt. ("I could have handled things differently," he said.) But it did little to dampen the enthusiasm for a class that ended the day ranked No. 4 in the country by Scout.com.
"You only miss (the drama in) the years where you win in the end," Richt said. "I don't need all the drama quite frankly. More and more high school coaches, they don't like the drama. The more attention (recruiting) gets, the tougher it is on a high school coach, the tougher it gets on the parents, the tougher it is on the prospects."
The tension-less signing day is the wave of the future, recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner said.
"There really weren't a lot of question marks about what was going to happen on signing day, but we are extremely excited about this class," he said. "We feel like we were able to sign a class that addressed all the needs we identified after last year's signing day."
The class is highlighted by Parade All-Americans A.J. Green (a wide receiver from Summerville, S.C.), A.J. Harmon (a defensive tackle from Louisville) and DeAngelo Tyson (a defensive tackle from Statesboro).
Four of the newcomers – running backs Richard Samuel and Dontavius Jackson, center Ben Jones and wide receiver Tavarres King – already have enrolled in school and will participate in spring practice this year.
The Bulldogs had to turn away prospects after filling their class so early, Richt said.
"This year probably more than any year we had a lot more folks that wanted to come than we had space for," he said. "People tell me that's a good problem. I guess that's a good news about how things are going at Georgia to sign a class like we have and still to have to tell some really good guys near the end that we didn't have any room."