Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Georgia Bulldogs [Print without images]

Friday, February 22, 2013
Mailbag: What's behind Garner stories?

By Radi Nabulsi

ATHENS, Ga. -- With signing day in the rear-view mirror and spring practice just a few weeks away, we have decided to bring back our mailbag feature where we can address the topics our readers want addressed. Each week we will take submitted questions from either our premium message board, The Pound, or from Twitter or Facebook.

GAbread: I am curious about your thoughts on Rodney Garner. Quotes coming out lately from recruits have not put him in the best light. Did you hear these rumblings before? Or is this just recent? And how would you summarize his time at Georgia?

Rodney Garner
Garner
Radi Nabulsi: There have been three stories that I recall lately where the recruit we were speaking to mentioned that he either did not have a good relationship with Garner or no relationship with the former Georgia defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. All of those stories came from players whose recruitment by Georgia intensified after Garner left for Auburn.

Yes, Davin Bellamy did not like Garner, but those are only three prospects out of the hundreds that he recruited. He spent 15 years in Athens helping to land perennial top-10 recruiting classes. And yes there are likely other players who did not have a strong relationship with Garner, but that is true of every coach. No one can be in this business and be universally loved, especially if you are a hard-nosed line coach who demands perfection and tells players what they may not want to hear.

BowserDawgs96: Did Laremy Tunsil ever specifically say what put Ole Miss over Georgia in such a short amount of time?

RN: There is a misconception that Ole Miss dropped in at the last second and swiped Tunsil, the nation’s No. 1 offensive tackle prospect, away from Georgia with some illicit form of recruitment. Granted his flip was surprising, considering how Tunsil had silently committed to Georgia and told a number of prospects that he was going to join the Bulldogs. But Hugh Freeze and Chris Kiffin spent hours recruiting Tunsil and his family going back to last summer. In fact, Tunsil told DawgNation in August that he planned to take an official visit to Ole Miss. Kiffin sent hundreds of Facebook messages to Tunsil and his girlfriend. So his change in favorites was sudden, but his recruitment was not. Tunsil actually told Freeze a month before signing day that he was going to Ole Miss. So in answer to your question, Tunsil says it was his relationship with Kiffin that did it.

"Me and Chris Kiffin had a relationship for about a year,” Tunsil said. “He never gave up, he never gave up. I told him that Alabama was on top, then I told him that Georgia was on top, and he still didn't give up."

Milan Richard
TE Milan Richard is being recruited hard by Clemson and South Carolina, but he has a Georgia legacy.
Johnsoc19: With Arthur Lynch graduating next year, Georgia will be looking to pull their next elite tight end into the fold. From what I've read, it seems they like Jeb Blazevich or Milan Richard in the 2014 class. Who is the better prospect, and which do you see more likely to end up in Athens?

RN: Right now I think that Georgia stands a slightly better chance to land Blazevich, since he likes the coaches and the program, and the Bulldogs already have made the first cut on his list. Richard is being heavily recruited by South Carolina and Clemson. His mother was an All-American in track at Georgia, and his uncle was some guy named Herschel Walker, so there is the legacy angle there.

As to who is the better prospect, that depends on what you need. Both are rare talents; Blazevich is more polished, while Richard may have a higher ceiling. Richard might fit better with Georgia's plans because of his high end speed. I have seen both in camp and was impressed by their pass-catching abilities.

Andy Johnson: I would love a detailed explanation of what steps Georgia is doing in order to clear Kolton Houston and what is being done elsewhere.

RN: Funny you ask right after the media went crazy Thursday over the fact that his name was no longer on the roster. Houston is still ineligible to play for Georgia, but he remains on scholarship. Three years ago, before enrolling at Georgia, Houston was given a banned performance-enhancing substance as part of his treatment for a shoulder injury. When he tested positive for the anabolic steroid 19-norandrosterone, he lost a year of eligibility. When he failed a second test, Houston received a lifetime ban from competition. Georgia successfully appealed the lifetime ban, but despite there being no re-use of the banned substance, the 19-norandrosterone levels in Houston’s body are above the acceptable limits. Until the he tests under that level, he cannot play. The last time I asked, Houston was being tested every week. He told me yesterday he is still trying to be cleared.

"He's been tested probably more times than anybody in the history of college football," Mark Richt said. “We're 100 percent certain he has not continued to take this thing, but it's just never gotten far enough out of his system for him to be declared eligible to play."

John Paul Harris: Please explain why Georgia needs defensive linemen and they turned away Kelsey Griffin?

RN: I was in the room when Griffin committed to Georgia, and I asked if he had spoken to the Georgia coaches yet. He said no. That turned what should have been a fun day into something embarrassing. Had Griffin called first, he might have been told that he didn’t really fit the scheme with the Bulldogs or that his spot had been taken. At the time the Bulldogs had commitments from DeAndre Johnson, Chris Mayes and John Atkins. They either led for or were in the top three for Toby Johnson and Montravius Adams.

Griffin is a great defensive end in a 4-3 but not quite the size Georgia wants in a 3-4 defensive tackle. In other words he is similar to Mike Thornton, another player who has not quite found his niche at Georgia.