June 17, 2009

Ask Jamie: Bulldogs make a recruiting run

Jamie Newberg is a football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags:
June 4: Orr makes a big impression
May 28: Cowboys raise profile
May 21: Can Gators get a big-time back?
Georgia had a great last week or so on the recruiting front. How high can the Bulldogs finish in the SEC recruiting race?

Can Vanderbilt sign a few four-star prospects?

Does Oklahoma have a good shot at signing running back Roy Finch from Florida?

Speaking of the Sunshine State, what's going on in the Panhandle?

LSU recently landed Justin Maclin from Memphis, Tenn.; just how good is this defensive prospect?

We answer these questions in this week's recruiting mailbag.

Jamie's Mailbag
Barking Dawgs

How about my Georgia Bulldogs! They are rolling. Can they land the top class in the SEC?

-- Mark from Denver
We have been talking about how Florida and Alabama would run away with the SEC in terms of recruiting. Then you have Auburn and Tennessee making some serious noise. Meanwhile, Mark Richt's Georgia Bulldogs hadn't been making much noise, but now they are barking loud.

Last week, Georgia landed Da'Rick Rogers from Calhoun (Ga.) High. He's a big, athletic receiver who could emerge as the top player at this position in the entire 2010 class. He has size (6 feet 3/206 pounds) and speed, great hands and incredible concentration. Rogers is terrific in the air and should be a dangerous red-zone threat in Athens. Rogers picked Georgia over Florida.

Georgia also landed wide receiver Michael Bennett from Alpharetta (Ga.) High. Bennett was the most underrated prospect in Georgia and arguably the region. He has good size (6-3/186), speed and terrific hands, and he and Rogers should be a formidable duo for the Bulldogs in years to come.

What's interesting about Georgia is what it has done in Florida. Typically, Georgia has landed a great percentage of its prospects from in-state. But Richt and his coaches slowly have drifted outside the state. Matthew Stafford was from Texas and Knowshon Moreno was from New Jersey. In the 2009 class, the Bulldogs hit Florida hard and landed quarterback Aaron Murray and wide receivers Rantavious Wooten and Orson Charles. In the 2010 class, Georgia already has four commitments from Florida. The biggest is offensive line prospect Brent Benedict from The Bolles School in Jacksonville.

His commitment was significant for a few reasons. First, Benedict is one of the top offensive line prospects in the nation; he could've named his school. Second, he's a nasty lineman with great feet and athleticism who meets a huge need for Georgia. Third, Georgia beat Florida and many, many others for his commitment.

The other commitments from Florida are Orange Park High linebacker Demetre Baker (6-0/200), who may be a tad on the small size but can run and hit, similar to current Georgia 'backer Rennie Curran, and Kissimmee Osceola teammates B.J. Butler (linebacker/defensive end) and Marc Deas (safety/linebacker).

So while many of its SEC counterparts were making noise all spring, Georgia was laying the groundwork. Now, Bulldogs coaches are starting to see some results.

Everyone expects Florida, Alabama and LSU to be at or near the top of the national recruiting rankings. But Georgia will be right there with all the recruiting powers. The Bulldogs always are. We should never forget that, and the past week or so is a perfect illustration of what Georgia can do.

Four-star focus

Does Vanderbilt have a chance to land any elite four-star prospects in the Class of 2010?

-- Jim from Nashville, Tenn.
At this point, I think Vanderbilt is in good position with four-star prospects James Stone and Rashad Knight.

Stone, from Nashville (Tenn.) Maplewood, is the No. 4 offensive tackle in the country. The Commodores will battle Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn and others to keep him at home. Knight is from Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian and is one of the most sought-after players from that city.

Waiting game

Do you think Florida eventually will offer Niceville (Fla.) High running back Roy Finch? What are the odds Oklahoma gets both Finch and fellow running back Giovanni Bernard out of Florida?

-- Nick from Parts Unknown
I don't know if Florida will offer Finch. The Gators are awaiting word from Mack Brown from Lithonia (Ga.) King and are fighting Georgia for him. If they lose Brown to the Bulldogs, there's a good chance they will offer Finch. If that happens, Florida is the team to beat for Finch. If Florida passes on Finch, I think there is a good chance he could end up at Oklahoma.

Bernard, from Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, lists Oklahoma, Florida State, Florida, Notre Dame and Alabama as schools that stand out. Bernard has close to two dozen scholarship offers and hopes to narrow things to a more manageable 10 schools at the end of the summer.

Why is he so open at this point? Part of the reason is that he hasn't had a chance to visit schools, so a key for OU will be if Bernard visits the Sooners.

Running back is a primary need for the Sooners this year, and they already have a commitment from one of the top backs from California in Brennan Clay of San Diego Scripps Ranch.

Down year

Tallahassee and the surrounding area in Florida's Panhandle has been a hot bed for top talent the past couple of years, but there doesn't seem to be that same talent pool this year. Are there any players who are being overlooked in the area?

-- A.J. from Tallahassee, Fla.
While it's an up year in Florida overall, it's a down year in the Tallahassee area.

The top prospect in Tallahassee right now is three-star quarterback Clint Trickett from North Florida Christian. Trickett (6-2/175), the son of Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett, is the city's highest-rated prospect.

By comparison, the Tallahassee area in the Class of 2009 was extremely well-represented among the state's elite, with six prospects in the state's top 23. Nine players from the area were in the Rivals250.

One prospect to watch this fall is defensive tackle Jericho Lee from Tallahassee Godby. Lee doesn't have ideal height for the position he's 5-11 but he makes up for it with raw power and aggression, great hands and quickness off the ball. Lee doesn't have any offers at this time, but he will be a real steal for someone down the line.

Big pickup

What do you think of LSU commitment Justin Maclin?

-- Scotty from New Orleans
I think this is another terrific pickup for the Tigers. Maclin, a 6-4, 215-pound linebacker from Memphis (Tenn.) Ridgeway, is a big-time athlete with size and speed. He could play outside linebacker or defensive end at LSU; I think he may have the most upside by bulking up and putting his hand down.

Jamie Newberg is a recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his mailbag.

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