February 3, 2010

Richt, Garner proud of class they signed

No, Georgia didn't sign all the players it had hoped to accrue during National Signing Day on Wednesday.

But instead of complaining about the ones that got away, both head coach Mark Richt and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner made it a point to highlight the 19 players that did sign their name on the dotted line.

"We're very happy with this class, I don't want any mistake to be made about that," Garner said. "I can't tell you how pleased I am with these guys we have coming to the University of Georgia."

Richt agreed, but admitted closing out this year's class of players proved inordinately challenging, especially since it came during the middle of the various coaching changes on the defensive side of the ball.

Rivals.com currently ranks Georgia as having the nation's 16th-best class.

"Recruiting is a lot about relationships and anything there is a change on the staff for whatever reason, the relationships that have been built throughout the recruiting process were broken," Richt said. "I think the timing of the hires taking as long as it did put a strain on some of these young men that we had committed. Some guys changed their mind, but it drives the point home that it is very much about relationship."

The Bulldogs did technically lose four verbal commitments - wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers, cornerback Mikell Robey, linebacker Deon Rogers and defensive end B.J. Butler - who signed with other schools.

However, both Richt and Garner could not be more pleased with the class that did sign, one highlighted by four-star standouts defensive tackle Garrison Smith, safety Alec Ogletree, defensive end T.J. Stripling, defensive tackle Mike Thornton and offensive tackle Brent Benedict.

Linebacker Demetre Baker, wide receiver Michael Bennett, defensive end Brandon Burrows, safety Marc Deas, defensive end Jalen Fields, defensive back Jakar Hamilton, quarterback Hutson Mason, running back Ken Malcome, defensive end Dexter Morant, linebacker/fullback Alexander Ogletree, cornerback Derek Owens, offensive tackle Kenarious Gates and wide receiver Lonnie Outlaw round out the rest of the class.

"We had some defections here at the end. But you now, hey, we've always stressed, that hey, we want people who want to be at the University of Georgia, who want to be a part of this program," Garner said. "We're really looking forward to helping develop these young men and to being the future stars of this program. We have no question, no reservation, no anything about how anything turned out."

Although Richt never mentioned of Georgia's de-commits by name, he did speak to how recruiting has changed over the years, including how schools continue to go after verbal commitments long after their choices have been made.

" I think that's part of the game. Even on our side, the kids who are committed to us, there are some we feel are very solid and you have peace about that because you know they've done their homework, you can tell your sincerity. Some kinds are a little more mature than others, they know what they want and they know that their word means something," Richt said. "But there are a lot of things going on. Let's face it. You've got a kid who is 17-18-19 years old, and coaches that are anywhere from 25 to 65 trying to convince them that one school is better than the other, it can be confusing and difficult at times."

But Richt said as long as he's at Georgia, his strategy when targeting recruits won't change.

"That's why our policy has been very straightforward from the beginning; we don't say something that won't come true in the end. I don't want to say something to get a guy to come to Georgia then when he gets there finds out it's different than what we represented, then all of a sudden he doesn't trust us," Richt said. "We don't want to start doing that now because trust is the only thing we have to hold us together."

NOTES: Richt confirmed that Richard Samuel would be moved to linebacker this spring. Garner does not believe he will have to redshirt to learn the position. … Garner neither confirmed nor denied that offensive lineman Justin Anderson would be moved to defense. "We're going to be looking at a few guys to see if they can play other positions," he said. … Richt said that Logan Gray is still listed as a quarterback.

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