Georgia Bulldogs: Thomas Davis

It has often been said that recruiting is the lifeline of college football, and the BCS era heavily supported that statement. The schools that take home the national championships are typically brimming with former ESPN 300 prospects and highly regarded recruits. But sometimes elite playmakers emerge on the college landscape that were not among the five- or four-star talents that get the majority of publicity coming out of high school. DawgNation takes a look at three all-time greats that were considered unheralded recruits upon their arrival.

It would be easy to include walk-ons in the discussion, and Georgia has had its share, including placekicker Billy Bennett, defensive back Tra Battle, and fullback Verron Haynes. But in this instance only scholarship signees are being considered. Tim Jennings is often mentioned as a low-ranked prospect that went on to star at Georgia and now in the NFL and he almost made this list, but his questionable status as an all-time great for the Bulldogs made his inclusion very difficult.

[+] EnlargeThomas Davis
AP Photo/Donna McWilliamThomas Davis was an unknown, athletic defensive back before becoming an all-SEC player at UGA and a first round draft pick.
David Pollack (2001-2004)
Pollack was recruited as an athlete coming out of high school, and although Auburn and Clemson were in the mix, the AAAAA All-State selection chose to sign with the Bulldogs, even though he reportedly said he “couldn't play for a team that lost to the fighting chickens.” In a 2001 class that included highly regarded defensive line signees Marquis Elmore and Darrius Swain, Pollack would end up as one of the best to ever play for the Bulldogs.

Pollack started out as a fullback and was likely to redshirt since the team already had established players in place. But injuries and attrition caused Richt to switch Pollack to defensive tackle, and after moving from there to defensive end, Pollack made his mark. Three years, three All-American and All-SEC selections and a school record 36 sacks later, Pollack left Athens as one of the most-decorated players in UGA history.

Thomas Davis (2001-2004)
The same year that Pollack arrived on campus, a little-known defensive back named Thomas Davis was signed as well. Not many colleges went to see Davis at Randolph-Clay High School, which had less than 500 students at the time. In fact, the only offer he received was from Georgia after then-defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder was blown away by Davis’ athleticism and size while watching him play basketball. Davis went on to rack up 272 tackles, 18 for a loss, 10.5 sacks, three interceptions, six forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries and was named a consensus All-American after his junior season.

Terry Hoage (1980-1983)
Legendary head coach Vince Dooley has repeatedly called the two-time consensus All-American and two-time Academic All- American the best pure defensive player he ever coached or saw. But while the Bulldogs were signing the top recruit in the country in future Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, they did not have the same expectations for Hoage, a defensive back that was injured his senior year of high school in Texas. Dooley would later state in his autobiography, “Dooley -- My 40 years at Georgia,” that his staff had a spot open and simply wanted a good student that showed potential as an underachiever.

“But I certainly had no idea what we had in Terry Hoage,” Dooley wrote. “As it turned out that year (1980) we got the most sought-after recruit in the country in Herschel Walker. At the same time you could say that Terry Hoage was the least sought-after recruit in Division I-A. Both became consensus All-Americans and both were inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.”

Recruiting flashback: Fred Gibson 

January, 30, 2013
Editor’s note: As we approach national signing day and consider the future of Georgia’s football program, we’ll also look backward into the Bulldogs’ recruiting history. Over the next few weeks, we’ll talk with several former Georgia standouts about their experiences as recruits. Today we feature wide receiver Fred Gibson, who became a star in Mark Richt’s early tenure as coach:

ATHENS, Ga. -- The late surprise in Georgia’s star-studded 2001 recruiting class, Fred Gibson came close to not joining a group that included David Pollack, D.J. Shockley, Thomas Davis, Robert Geathers and Odell Thurman.

In fact, only a flip of a coin prevented the former Ware County Gator from becoming a Florida Gator. But the coin fell Georgia’s way and Gibson went on to become one of the most prolific receivers in UGA history.
Forty-two days remain until Georgia kicks off its season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 1. In the days counting down to the opener, DawgNation will profile, with our “Around the Hedges in 80 Days” series, a Bulldogs player we expect to make an impact. We will review each player’s career thus far and project his long-term potential as we progress through our alphabetical list, from center David Andrews to receiver Rantavious Wooten.

42. Jarvis Jones
Junior, Outside linebacker
6-foot-3, 241 pounds

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MACON, Ga. -- Shawn Williams has one individual goal this fall. He wants to add his name to the lengthy list of All-America safeties Georgia’s defense has boasted during the Mark Richt era.

[+] EnlargeShawn Williams
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireUGA safety Shawn Williams has his sights set on All-America team honors this season.
“I want to prove to people that I can have my picture up in the locker room as an all-American,” Williams said Tuesday at the annual Pigskin Preview at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

Of course, every player wants to earn such recognition, but Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said it is an imminently achievable objective for his senior safety.

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Peach State: Top Tier Recruiting Ground?
California, Florida and Texas are largely considered the "Big Three" in college football recruiting. But national recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to explain why Georgia deserves to be in the top tier and has numbers to prove it.