Georgia expects to sign a top 10 recruiting class

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia is expected to land one of the nation's top 10 recruiting classes today, but some fans still are on the verge of a major panic.

Because Georgia was extremely active early in the recruiting season and entered January with 20 verbal commitments, fans have had to endure an unusually quiet few weeks leading up to the national signing day.

Georgia received a verbal commitment Tuesday from offensive lineman James Lee of Belle Glade, Fla.  Lee told that he picked the Bulldogs over Ohio State and Florida.

Otherwise, there has been little news the last few weeks, making it more difficult for some fans to remember that Georgia's recruiting class is expected to include such highly rated players as running back Kregg Lumpkin, receiver Sean Bailey, cornerback Paul Oliver, offensive lineman Zeb McKinzey and linebackers Des Williams and Marcus Howard.

Instead, the hot topics have been speculation about decisions that are expected today from more highly rated players still looking at Georgia.

Ernie Sims, a running back and linebacker from Tallahassee, Fla., who is rated by as the nation's top recruit, has been considering Florida State, Georgia, Auburn, Florida and Miami.  

Sims' parents attended Florida State, but he likes Georgia coach Mark Richt and the opportunity to make an immediate contribution at running back, where 2002 starter Musa Smith left for the NFL draft, and linebacker, where the Bulldogs lost all three starters.  

Sims also has given strong consideration to Auburn, but there has been speculation this week that he could sign with Florida, further boosting a Gators' class that already is rated No. 1 in the nation.  

Recruiting expert Jamie Newberg of says this already has been a successful recruiting season for Richt and his staff.  

"How excited would fans be if (Georgia) had five  commitments going into January and they just got Kregg Lumpkin and (offensive lineman) Trey Chandler  and Sean Bailey and Zeb McKinzey  and Paul Oliver?'' Newberg asked Tuesday. "They would be ecstatic.''  

Twenty of Georgia's known 22 commitments are from Georgia high schools.  

Added Newberg: "Name me a battle they lost in state. Name one. They didn't. I've never seen them close the doors on the state as they have this year.''  

Georgia's most notable losses were from out-of-state players. Georgia lost receiver Chad Jackson of Hoover, Ala., to Florida, defensive end Quentin Groves of Greenville, Miss., to Auburn and also had offensive lineman Carlton Medder of Groveland, Fla., slip away after originally saying he would sign with the Bulldogs.  

Georgia is awaiting announcements from linebacker Dana Graydon of Albany, safety John Beason of Hollywood, Fla., defensive end Richard Cook of Washington-Wilkes, Sims and possibly others.  

Cook is wavering on his earlier commitment to Georgia and may instead sign with Tennessee today.  

Georgia's recruiting class is expected to include at least seven offensive linemen and five linebackers, including Rockmart's Danny Ware, who may play fullback.  

"The bottom line is they filled needs,'' Newberg said.

Georgia recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner says linebacker and offensive line were "the two most pressing needs.'' "We were top-heavy at certain positions and we need players at others,'' Garner said. "We feel like we're adding some quality players.''

 The signing class is not expected to include a quarterback, and if Sims does not sign with Georgia, Lumpkin — a Parade magazine All-American — may be the only new running back.

"I know it's not that flavorful because of all the linemen, but this will be a good class,'' Newberg said, adding Lumpkin is "phenomenal'' and that Bailey and T.J. Gartrell are "stud receivers.''

Newberg ranks Georgia's class No. 9 in the nation.

"They've addressed everything,'' he said.

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