ATHENS, Ga. -- We’ve heard it. You’ve heard it. And if recruiting analysts’ opinions don’t make it abundantly clear statistics certainly show that the state of Georgia ranks among the most fertile football recruiting grounds in the entire country.
Judging by sheer number of signees, Georgia isn’t quite at the same talent-producing level as significantly larger states, California, Texas and Florida -- yet on a per capita basis, the state ranks with the best of them.
But what becomes of these in-state players once they sign their college scholarships? Many DawgNation readers can no doubt recite the accomplishments of home-grown Bulldogs such as Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, who went on to stardom at UGA. What about the guys who went elsewhere?
Combing through signing classes from the last several years yields a 2012 all-star team of native Georgians to compare against Jones and the other Bulldogs from this past season. From what we see, it looks like a team that certainly would have ranked among the top title contenders last fall.
Here are some of our observations about UGA vs. the non-UGA team:
• Not a fair fight: The point of this exercise is not to determine which side would be stronger. That much is a given since the non-UGA team has an enormous advantage there. The Bulldogs add only about 24 scholarship players per season -- about 15 of whom typically come from within the state’s borders. The state sends many times that number to other FBS schools each year.
The UGA in-state team probably could not hang with the all-star Georgians who went elsewhere -- the latter lineup features five players who earned All-America attention in 2012: Alabama’s Chance Warmack, Stanford’s David Yankey, LSU’s Kevin Minter, Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt and Ohio State’s Bradley Roby, as well as several more all-conference players -- but the in-state Bulldogs still look like a squad that could beat the vast majority of actual teams they might come across during the regular season.
• Proving the point: If anything, the non-UGA all-star team proves the point about the depth and quality of talent available within the Peach State. Georgia sends potentially productive players to every corner of the country -- an average of about 180 players to Division I schools in each of the last two years -- with native Georgians playing starring roles at schools from California to Michigan, Kansas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Florida, Indiana and North Carolina.
And of course Georgians -- led by All-American Jones and other standouts like Ogletree, Tavarres King, Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo (a 2011 All-American) -- formed the backbone of the Bulldogs team that finished fifth nationally and nearly played for the BCS championship.
It all goes to prove the point that UGA coaches make on occasion: If they do an effective job of identifying the right recruits who live within driving distance of the metro Atlanta area, they should be championship contenders annually. Imagine the difference just a couple of these in-state all-stars who wound up elsewhere might have made during the Bulldogs’ championship chase.
• Positions of strength: There is a distinct SEC feel to the positions of particular strength among the players from Georgia. In other words, there is a ridiculous amount of talent available on defense and along the line of scrimmage.
The two offensive lines feature six players who were All-Americans or won some sort of all-conference honor. And both defensive two-deeps are loaded with players who will compete on Sundays.
The UGA defensive front seven was pretty good for a normal team, but the other team’s front seven would have simply annihilated any opposing offense. Our line picks are heavy on defensive ends, but this starting defensive line totaled 51 tackles for a loss and 35 sacks in 2012 and the three starting linebackers behind them averaged 113 tackles and 13 tackles for a loss per man.
• Premium talent from elsewhere: Looking over the Georgia roster, it’s apparent that the coaching staff’s recruiting philosophy of supplementing in-state talent with premium additions at the skill positions remains alive and well.
Hutson Mason was Georgia’s only in-state scholarship quarterback last season, which has roughly been the norm since David Greene and D.J. Shockley left campus. The Bulldogs’ last three regular starters -- Matthew Stafford, Joe Cox and Aaron Murray -- came from Texas, North Carolina and Florida, respectively.
The receiving corps today is actually an exception to that trend, however, as Tavarres King led a productive crew of Bulldogs wideouts who mostly hailed from Georgia.
Nonetheless, the talent featured on these two rosters is exactly the reason so many colleges actively recruit within the Peach State, and why Bulldogs coach Mark Richt regularly maintains that in-state recruiting is his staff’s top priority.
A wealth of star-caliber potential is available at every position. The trick exists in identifying the right players and convincing them to sign up with your program. But if a coaching staff can pull off those two steps, a lack of talent clearly won’t be the obstacle that prevents their team from contending for titles.