Georgia hired Coach Mark Richt for one reason and one reason only.....a history of dominance as a coordinator for one of the most storied programs of the past couple of decades. Richt had to hit the ground running last season. He accepted the job about a month before national signing day. Despite the late start, the UGAs managed a respectable class, but let blue chip in-state player of the year Jabari Davis slip away to rival Tennessee.
This season Richt had a full season and the momentum of a successful rookie campaign in his favor. Richt signed a lion's share of talent. Last year, UGA filled some skill positions, especially with the emergence of David Greene as the team's QB. This season Richt had to hit the trenches and hit 'em he did!
Georgia inked 8 defensive linemen. That's right 8. The 2 deeps of the future are led by wall banger Aaron Scranton (6-6 230). Scranton has the frame to really add some bulk and has a nose for the ball. Dale Dixson (6-3 270) could see action this season if things go well. UGA had to replace 2 great ones last season and had some difficulty. Most teams were able to run the football on the Bulldogs most of the year. Depth was a huge concern. It appears going forward that depth shouldn't be a problem along the forward wall.
Georgia will probably start 5 seniors on the offensive line this season. That will be great for this season, but next year it could pose a problem. Richt landed 6 big uglies that may be forced into action this season as building blocks for the future. Antonio Mercier (6-6 335) seems destined for greatness at tackle. He should see plenty of action this year. Max Jean Giles (6-5 340) is another behemoth to be wary of.
It looks like the depth issue in the secondary was addressed as well. Demario Minter (5-11 180) could be a sleeper in this class. Bryan McClendon (6-1 180) is drawing a lot of attention and may push for playing time in the fall. There are some good athletes in this group, but not any real big hitters. Expect most of these guys to play in nickel situations or special teams if they don't redshirt.
Michael Turner (6-5 250) and Leonard Pope (6-7 238) will both compete to replace the departed All-SEC tight end Randy McMichael. With McMichael leaving for the NFL, the Dawgs will have to count on one if not both of these youngsters to help fill the void.
Joe Tereshinski, III signed as the QB signee of the year. I haven't heard too much about him, but unless he red-shirts, he may never see the field. With Greene a sophomore, it appears the Dawgs are set at QB for at least 3 more years. That certainly makes it difficult to draw top notch prospects at QB. Nobody wants to ride the pine if they can play elsewhere.
I like UGA's class, but with only one true WR signed it seems to be missing something. Terrance Edwards replacement should have come out of this class. With a young QB like Greene and a good back like Musa Smith, you would think a few good WR's would be easy to come by. This to me is the only real big weakness of the class. They signed depth at RB, DB, OL, and DL. This young bunch could be part of some big things before they leave Athens.
3-8. That's a pretty tough sell if you ask me. We don't have a Playboy All-American QB with a family pedigree that can help close the sale either. We aren't the media darlings even in our home state, but somehow Jackie and Company pulled out the best high school class since they've been at State. It's simply amazing. With all the possible negatives, we still signed BY FAR the best talent in the state of Mississippi.
During the past three seasons, MSU has signed 42 defensive players compared to 34 offensive and 4 special teamers. That works out to 17 DL, 8 LB, and 17 DB on defense. The offense added 11 OL, 1 TE, 9 RB, 6 WR, and 7 QBs if you count Ray Ray as a QB. He was listed as one when he signed. Of course some of these folks aren't on campus anymore and some never made it, but there are some interesting numbers to look at.
Take the DL for example. We signed more at DL than anything else. We've got 17 DBs too, but that includes Dapoo Williams who may play just about anywhere before he is done. One of the biggest concerns of fans since 1999 has been the defensive line. I think it's pretty obvious that the coaching staff has done their best to address the situation with the signing of so many. I am extremely excited to see the 3rd McKinley, Markell, join the team. I know he is just a high school kid, but he has a huge upside and should help stabilize the D side of the trench in the next few years. He, along with Deljuan Robinson, should be stars before they are done.
Considering that some of our LB signees actually play end it's not surprising that we've signed 8 in the last 3 years. As sad as it sounds, we must find a future replacement for Mario. Kenny Kern and Marvin Byrdsong both have tremendous potential and should contribute early in their careers. I don't know how confident the staff is in our current depth, but one or both of these guys could see a redshirt. Byrdsong may see action much like Jason Clark did.
We will always sign a bunch of DBs. As hard as we hit the Juco's last year, I was glad to see some premium high school talent signed this year. Darren Williams is obviously the jewel in the crown, but our other signees aren't 2nd rate by any means. We have a host of DBs on the roster, so most of these kids should redshirt. Williams is really good, so I won't be surprised a bit if he plays a lot as a freshman. With most of the secondary leaving at season's end we need these kids to develop quickly.
I won't harp on the kicking game as many have done, but it truly was a factor for us last season. I guess we had gotten a little spoiled after Hazelwood and Westerfield. Marlin struggled most of the season in his role as place kicker. He has a strong leg, but was erratic in crucial situations. He is young and has some growing to do. With Smith walking on and with Shurden and Andrews hitting the scene in the fall, you can rest assured that the kicking game will improve. Reports are that the competition has helped Marlin improve.
You can never have too many offensive linemen. We picked up three good ones highlighted by stud Richard Burch. Considered by many the best high school offensive line prospect in the state, Burch leads a very solid group. Monte Collins should be the next Pork Chop Womack. At 6-7, 360 Collins has the frame, but may be a bit heavy. James Cochran (6-6, 280) from Memphis should eventually play the tackle opposite Collins. These three should give the Dogs much needed depth and a foothold on the future.
With Justin Griffith moving on at season's end, the Dogs need to sign a fullback or two. It got a little slim last year when Griffith went down. Willie Evans and Bryson Davis both come in at a little over 250. A year in the weight room wouldn't hurt either one of them, but I like the direction we are headed. With some big tackles on each side of the line and some studs at fullback our recruiting class jewel Jerious Norwood should have a great career. Norwood is flashy and has the ability to go the distance any play. We will certainly miss the solid play of Zo Miller, but Norwood adds a little more fire to the lineup. Zo played with more heart than most players I've watched in my days, but he wasn't a track star by any means. Norwood is as good as any back in the nation coming out of high school. With D. Walker finishing up this year, it appears that Norwood and Reid are our 1-2 punch of the future.
Nobody is really talking about him, but I am excited about Tee Milons. He comes from good stock and grew up a State fan. He has good size and runs good routes. He should turn into a good one, but we should be set at WR this season. More than likely a redshirt is in store for Tee and Brandon Wright. Wright at 5-9 168 could be another Kevin Prentiss. He is very elusive and has good speed.
I'm excited about this class. The future looks bright for Mississippi State football.
Until next week,
Steve Robertson is a free-lance correspondent who writes The Robertson Report for the premium site portion of Gene's Page. Steve's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.