- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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Continuing our run-up to Georgia's spring practice, this week we'll review the Bulldogs' five best recruiting classes of the last decade.
Today, we'll look at No. 3: The 2006 class that will forever carry a “what-if” label because of massive potential that was somewhat unfulfilled despite posting two top-10 rankings.
The stars: Five-star quarterback and future No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Matthew Stafford was the headliner, but there were many players in this class who had outstanding careers in Athens. Tailback Knowshon Moreno was one of the most exciting players of the Mark Richt era and the breakout performer on a team that finished the 2007 season with a No. 2 national ranking. Defensive lineman Geno Atkins, safety Reshad Jones, linebacker Akeem Dent and cornerback Asher Allen also went on to have productive college and pro careers.
The contributors: There were many valuable role players in this class: names like receiver Kris Durham, fullback Shaun Chapas, cornerback and return man Prince Miller, linebacker Darryl Gamble, offensive linemen Josh and Chris Davis and defensive end Demarcus Dobbs. Several members of that group made it onto NFL rosters at some point after their time in Athens. Durham was the team's most valuable receiver early in the 2010 season, while A.J. Green served a four-game suspension, and finished that season with 659 receiving yards that helped him pop up on NFL radars after his first several seasons on campus were filled with injuries.
The letdowns: Some of the biggest names in the class (linebackers Darius Dewberry and Akeem Hebron, defensive end Brandon Wood, tight end Naderris Ward) failed to become major contributors in college. Ward, Tony Wilson, Michael Lemon and John Miller all left UGA before their careers were over. Safety Quintin Banks was set back by a series of injuries, derailing what could have been a solid career. And Kiante Tripp never seemed to settle into a position, perhaps wasting a career that could have been more productive had he not shuttled from location to location.
The results: With Stafford and Moreno leading the way, Georgia ranked among the top BCS contenders at the end of the 2007 season – one that ended with the Bulldogs hammering Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. Georgia opened the next season as the nation's No. 1 team, although injuries and a disappointing defense helped the Bulldogs finish with a disappointing three losses. Stafford, Moreno and Allen left for the draft after that season, and Jones left after the next. The group was full of high-end talent and the early results were mostly positive, but Florida's dominance (BCS titles in 2006 and 2008, an SEC East title in 2009) overshadows anything that this Georgia class accomplished in college.