- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
ATHENS, Ga. -- National Signing Day is like Christmas Day for Georgia’s coaching staff, when they finally lock up players they often spent years recruiting to join their program. Short of signing day, one of the most impactful events in that recruiting process comes today, when dozens of high-caliber prospects arrive in Athens for “Dawg Night.”
Nearly all of the Bulldogs’ committed prospects and many more whom the coaches are evaluating will participate in drills this evening at Sanford Stadium -- providing comparisons that defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said are integral to the coaches’ determination on the players that best fit the program.
“There’s a lot of things that go into evaluating a guy,” Grantham said Friday afternoon. “It’s athletic ability, it’s how they take coaching when you’re out there and you’re directing them, it’s the tools that they have right now, just raw skills. And I think what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to take each individual guy and you’ve got to say from a vision standpoint, ‘What can this guy develop to be?’
“I think there’s a lot of factors that go into that and certainly an event like tonight helps you with your evaluation process, plus it allows you to showcase your program and the things you have to offer.”
That is the second factor for the coaches tonight -- selling the program to elite players.
At last year’s Dawg Night, five prospects -- 2012 offensive tackle John Theus, 2013 quarterback Brice Ramsey, 2013 receiver Tramel Terry, 2013 running back Derrick Henry and 2014 running back Stanley Williams -- all publicly committed to Georgia on a night where the coaching staff and other prospects obviously made convincing sales pitches.
“For it to be successful, it needs to be a good marriage for both in the sense that it needs to be a good fit. I think that’s critical,” Grantham said. “That’s why you always want to be up front in the recruiting process of where they are because it needs to be a good marriage for both in the sense that when they get here, they know what they can expect, but when they get here you kind of know what you’re getting, too. And I think that’s critical as you move forward in the recruiting process.”
However, evaluation from prospect camps, film review and seeing players compete in person only provides so much of an indication of a player’s full potential, Grantham said. It’s not until a player has already signed a letter of intent and arrived on campus to compete full-time that the coaches gain a full understanding of what he can do and whether he will contribute in the way they envisioned when they watched him compete at Dawg Night or on fall Friday nights.
Regarding highly touted signees like outside linebackers Josh Harvey-Clemons and Jordan Jenkins -- who had a spirited pass-rush showdown with Theus at last year’s Dawg Night -- who officially joined the program in February, Grantham will finally begin drawing those conclusions when the Bulldogs open preseason camp in little more than two weeks.
“We have a feel for them,” he said. “That’s the one thing about the evaluation process, even during recruiting, you can get a feel for a kid then as far as some things, but you really don’t get your full evaluation until you get them here and you get to work with them. So that will really start Aug. 1.”
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