Georgia's Mark Richt counting on immediate help from 32-man signing class

Bulldogs add six linebackers, eighth deefensive backs

Georgia head coach Mark Richt watches as time expires in the fourth quarter during the Bulldogs' last drive.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Georgia head coach Mark Richt watches as time expires in the fourth quarter during the Bulldogs' last drive.

In 2011 Georgia’s football recruiting class was deemed a “Dream Team” by coach Mark Richt, and last year’s haul included the 1-2 rushing punch of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, with Gurley earning first team All-SEC honors.

And this year?

“I really don’t get too caught up in ranking recruiting classes,” said Richt, who met with the media on Wednesday despite having undergone hip replacement surgery on Saturday. “As far as I'm concerned we got the No. 1 class in America. We took care of things in the areas that we needed to take care of and that’s what really matters the most.”

In reality UGA’s 2013 National Signing Day harvest was low on buzz and lacking any five-star prospects. And while schools take pride in keeping in-state players to themselves, several Georgia targets got away. Home grown linebacker Reuben Foster and defensive tackle Martavius Adams both strongly considered Georgia but went to Alabama and Auburn, respectively.

But there was no shortage of numbers in the Dawgs’ signing class. Wednesday saw 32 players commit to the school while 13 other newcomers are already enrolled and on campus.

“It’s the largest class we've signed since I've been at Georgia,” Richt said. “We’re absolutely thrilled about all the young men that we have. I really don’t have any disappointments. Once signing day hits we’re excited. Today is a day of celebration.”

The yield brings depth and competition to a roster that already has plenty of talent and experience, and that aspect of the class seemed to please Richt the most.

“You need help from every class you sign,” Richt said. “This will be one of those classes where we’ll need to get a boost. We don’t know who’ll play as a freshman. These guys know they’ve got a great opportunity to come in and compete.

“There’ll be a bunch of them that’ll have to come through and play for us. The best man plays.”

Georgia recruited heavily on defense, landing six linebackers, eight defensive backs and four players to man the defensive line. Replacing All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones, as well as other defensive standouts such as Bacarri Rambo, John Jenkins, Alec Ogletree and Kwame Geathers, was the primary focus of the Georgia staff.

And when defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was asked about the Bulldogs “missing” out on some top defensive targets, he strongly disagreed.

“We’ve got at least three defensive linemen right now,” Grantham said. “Two of those guys are actually here right now working in Chris Mayes and John Atkins and that really puts us at the number we can take at the defensive line. So I think that’s an inaccurate statement. I think the guys we’ve got here right now have some ability to them.”

It’s no coincidence that UGA’s highest ranked prospects were on defense, including linebacker Ryne Rankin, corner Reggie Wilkerson, defensive back Tray Matthews and linebacker Tim Kimbrough.

Rankin, Wilkerson and Matthews are mid-year enrollees.

With the offense deep just about everywhere except wideout and offensive line, UGA signed four receivers and added four offensive linemen.

None generated the kind of hype Gurley and Marshall generated a year ago, but at least one freshman who enrolled early isn’t worried about that.

J.J. Green was recruited as an athlete and will be used some at receiver and other positions.

"Just because you're a three-star guy, that doesn't mean you can't beat a five-star guy out," Green told the Associated Press. "We're going to be out there playing with a chip on our shoulder."

Richt adds that after Wednesday, fans will be concerned with larger issues than National Signing Day.

“We know as coaches we got a great class,” Richt said. “Somebody invented these rankings and decided to make a big deal out of them. But what our fans care about the most and what we care about is what the players do when we play Clemson. That’s what matters.”

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