Georgia Bulldogs: Kendall Gant

Georgia has another top-10 class lined up for national signing day, but its final ranking next week could rise or fall depending on how the Bulldogs finish within their own state -- particularly whether they land their top remaining target, Lorenzo Carter.

As it stands, the Bulldogs have commitments from two of the top six players from Georgia, but that's it among the Peach State's collection of elite prospects. Heavily recruited players such as linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Ohio State) and quarterback Deshaun Watson (Clemson) were among those who checked out Georgia before committing elsewhere.

Mark Richt's staff still has a chance to finish on a strong note, however.

[+] EnlargeLorenzo Carter
Miller Safrit/ESPNLorenzo Carter is the top remaining recruiting target for Georgia.
The Bulldogs seem to be in good shape to land five-star defensive end Carter (ESPN's No. 14 overall prospect and No. 3 player at his position). Other targets such as ESPN 300 prospect Wesley Green (No. 120 overall, No. 13 cornerback, uncommitted), Bryson Allen-Williams (No. 162 overall, No. 10 outside linebacker, committed to South Carolina) and Andrew Williams (No. 174 overall, No. 17 defensive end, uncommitted) are among those lurking as possible final members of the class.

Otherwise, this recruiting class -- one that could be slightly smaller than normal -- adequately addresses Georgia's immediate needs. Let's look at how Georgia addressed some of those positions:

Secondary: Georgia's weakest position segment last season could use some immediate help -- and it will get it in cornerbacks Shattle Fenteng (No. 3 overall prospect, top cornerback on ESPN's Junior College 50) and Malkom Parrish (No. 77 overall, No. 10 athlete). Georgia recently added three-star athlete Dominick Sanders at corner. Green -- who is scheduled to join Carter and others on a visit to Athens this weekend -- and three-star athletes T.J. Harrell and Tavon Ross remain as targets.

The possible shortcoming here is that safety was an inconsistent position for Georgia last season and the Bulldogs have only three-star prospect Kendall Gant lined up so far.

With Josh Harvey-Clemons suspended to open the season, senior Corey Moore, rising sophomore Quincy Mauger and oft-injured Tray Matthews might be the only early options, but keep an eye on Harrell and Ross between now and signing day.

Running back: With Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall entering their third seasons on campus, Georgia needed insurance policies at tailback.

The Bulldogs locked that up in a big way with the current headliners in this class, Sony Michel (No. 19 overall, No. 2 running back) and Nick Chubb (No. 63 overall, No. 7 running back). It will be interesting to see how Richt's staff juggles a glut of talented ball carriers just a year after injuries to Gurley and Marshall created depth problems.

Tight end: With Ty Flournoy-Smith getting kicked off the team last summer and Arthur Lynch exhausting his eligibility in the fall, Georgia had a need at tight end. Jeb Blazevich (No. 101 overall, No. 2 tight end/H) could become Georgia's next great pass-catching tight end thanks to an impressive combination of size (6-foot-5) and soft hands.

Offensive line: Replenishing the line of scrimmage is always a priority, and with Georgia losing starting guards Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee, signing a top prospect such as Isaiah Wynn (No. 106 overall, No. 6 guard) will be particularly valuable. The Bulldogs are also set to sign four-star tackle Dyshon Sims and three-star prospects Kendall Baker and Jake Edwards.

Receiver: Georgia has plenty of bodies here for 2014, but Chris Conley, Michael Bennett, Jonathon Rumph and Michael Erdman will each be seniors and Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell will be fourth-year juniors.

The Bulldogs have secured commitments from ESPN 300 member Shakenneth Williams (No. 297 overall, No. 45 receiver) and three-star prospect Gilbert Johnson. They also are set to re-sign Rico Johnson, who failed to qualify after signing with the Bulldogs last February.

Defensive line/outside linebacker: Keep an eye on this group for the future. If Georgia lands Carter to go along with already-committed Lamont Gaillard (No. 55 overall, No. 4 defensive tackle), that could be the foundation for some outstanding defensive lines in the next couple of seasons.

The Bulldogs return almost everyone along the line from last season, so it is not a glaring immediate need. The 2014 line will be stocked with fourth-year players, though, so this is a good time to restock the depth charts for the future. They already have a commitment from the versatile Keyon Brown (No. 185 overall, No. 19 defensive end), with Carter and Williams potentially joining him. Like Brown, three-star outside linebacker Detric Dukes brings some versatility to the crop of commitments along the line.

Georgia's coaches never gave up on Allen-Williams even after his commitment to South Carolina in April. He insists he will still sign with the Gamecocks, but plans to visit Georgia with Carter and the others this weekend. Stay tuned.

Secondary looking to grow in 2014

December, 31, 2013
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Mark Richt painted a realistic picture last week when asked what it might take for Georgia's secondary to improve beyond its dismal showing of 2013.

It's a matter of inexperienced players -- basically the only kind of defensive back on the Bulldogs' roster -- developing confidence, he said.

“We've got to make a play first, then we've got to have a series that goes well, then a couple series, then a half, a game where you start making plays, you start getting better, you start gaining confidence,” Richt said. “But really we did not see that. I didn't see that throughout the year. There's some work, obviously, that's got to be done.”

Obviously.

[+] EnlargeJosh Harvey-Clemons
AP Photo/John BazemoreIt might have been a rough season for Josh Harvey-Clemons and the young Georgia secondary, but 2013's trial under fire should help the Bulldogs next season and beyond.
The stats by now are no secret. Georgia's secondary, which lost four of its top five players from 2012, was the weakest link in a shaky defense this fall. The Bulldogs ranked 10th in the SEC (68th nationally) in pass defense, allowing 232.8 yards per game. They were No. 84 in pass efficiency defense, allowing a 133.99 passer rating. And only two conference teams surrendered more yards per pass attempt than Georgia's 7.6 (Arkansas at 7.9 and Kentucky at 8.2).

It was a rough season any way you view it, although the Bulldogs hope it was only a temporary problem caused by a secondary that ranked second in the SEC in pass defense last season (Georgia's 175.6 ypg allowed in 2012 were just two yards behind conference leader Alabama) breaking in an entirely new group of defensive backs.

“I think every DB we have has played in a game or two,” said cornerback Damian Swann, who along with safety Corey Moore will be the only two seniors in the bunch next fall. “And I think with those guys getting some experience, it's going to be great. Now they know what to expect, now they know how tough it is to play in this conference. I'm really looking forward to seeing these guys get after it.”

Swann's statement is not entirely true. The Bulldogs will also have cornerback Reggie Wilkerson -- who missed the season after tearing his ACL during summer workouts -- and safeties Tramel Terry and Kennar Johnson, who both redshirted this season. They also have commitments from ESPN's No. 1 junior college cornerback, Shattle Fenteng (Loganville, Ga./Hutchinson Community College) along with incoming freshmen Malkom Parrish (ESPN's No. 73 overall prospect for 2014 and No. 9 athlete) and Kendall Gant (ESPN's No. 32 safety).

Add those players to the numerous freshmen and sophomores who played big roles this season -- cornerbacks Shaq Wiggins, Brendan Langley, Sheldon Dawson and Devin Bowman and safeties Josh Harvey-Clemons, Tray Matthews and Quincy Mauger -- and the Bulldogs are well on the way to rebuilding a depth chart that took a huge hit. The losses started coming after the 2011 season, when cornerbacks Nick Marshall and Jordan Love and safeties Quintavious Harrow and Chris Sanders all departed either by dismissal or transfer, followed by the exodus of Shawn Williams, Bacarri Rambo, Sanders Commings and Branden Smith for pro football after 2012.

“Some young guys got thrown into the fire,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “I think it's like I told them, I said, 'When you get thrown into the fire, you can either get hard or you can wilt.' And I think they've gotten harder. I think I've seen a couple guys really improve, probably more than they would've if they hadn't been in that situation. So you've got to play the cards you're dealt and find ways to win games.”

The question now is how they improve to the point where they are not the liability they were this fall, clearing a path for Georgia to win more than the eight games it has won thus far in 2013.

Moore believes progress will be a natural development out of this fall, when Swann was the only regular who entered the season with a start on defense.

“We were pretty young this year and [had a] lack of experience,” Moore said. “Immaturity played a big factor this year and lack of experience and just communication and getting to know each other better on the field. I think that played in big this year. I think next year, we're not going to have those problems.”

That's the plan, anyway, and what Georgia's players and coaching staff will spend this offseason making sure will be the case when the Bulldogs open the 2014 season against Clemson.

It was far from a banner season for Grantham's defense and, while that was not entirely unexpected, the coaches know the secondary must show marked improvement over the next year, starting with the Jan. 1 TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl date with Nebraska.

“Did we have a chance to be pretty good? Yeah. When that's going to happen? I don't know,” defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos said. “A hundred different things, how they turn out, is going to affect that. That's what we had do work through, and we're still working through that, as we get ready for this game.”

Georgia delivers in front of top recruits 

September, 29, 2013
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Georgia made the most of a terrific recruiting opportunity on Saturday.

In a top-10 matchup against LSU, the Bulldogs made a strong impression on prospects in attendance -- and those watching from home on television.

One of the top remaining Georgia targets in the 2014 class was on hand, offensive tackle David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School). The ESPN 300 No. 15-ranked prospect overall was on hand for the second time this season, and he walked away very impressed again.

Lessons Learned: Dawg Night 

July, 15, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- The annual Dawg Night recruiting event at the University of Georgia overcame a couple of early setbacks and wound up being quite the success for the Bulldogs’ coaching staff. Right as the campers were finishing up running of their 40-yard dashes, a thunderstorm sent everyone inside the general use room at the Butts Mehre Heritage Hall. When we say everyone, we mean the 500-plus attendees who came to show the coaches what they could do.

There were way too many campers, but the staff managed the large crowd well. They did run the danger of not being able to spend enough time with their primary targets, but the rain delay and staggered arrival times made for a successful weekend. After watching the commitments roll in and talking to some of the prospects in attendance, here are five things we learned.

Shakenneth Williams
Tom Hauck for Student SportsAs expected, four-star WR Shakenneth Williams pulled the trigger on his Georgia offer early on Dawg Night.
Commitment class grows

The Bulldogs started Dawg Night with 12 commits and ended the evening with 15. Wide receiver Shakenneth Williams (Macon, Ga./Rutland) started the festivities by committing during the rain delay. The four-star receiver almost committed when he received his Georgia offer last month. Williams was quickly followed by Florida safety Kendall Gant (Lakeland, Fla./Lake Gibson). Gant immediately went to work on one of Georgia’s top targets, fellow Sunshine State standout Isaiah Wynn. Wynn, an ESPN 300 member and Under Armour All-American game selection, would wait until Sunday morning to make his commitment known.

Offensive tackle Dyshon Sims (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes) indicated during the rain delay that he was about to commit and would once he found his coach. It took him until the final drills to actually pull the trigger. It helped that Mark Richt called his mother to seal the deal in the meantime.

Georgia did lose one commit over the weekend, as Krenwick Sanders (Jessup, Ga./Wayne County) told DawgNation that he had a “drastic change of plans” and was no longer part of the Bulldogs’ recruiting class.


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Roundtable: Dawg Night developments 

July, 15, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- One of Georgia’s biggest recruiting events of the year has come and gone, and the Bulldogs scored at Friday’s Dawg Night camp with four new additions to their 2014 crop of commitments.

Our Kipp Adams and Radi Nabulsi were on hand to cover the camp, getting a first-hand look at the newest Bulldogs commits and more who likely will join them in the coming weeks and months.

That brings us to this week’s roundtable question for our two recruiting gurus: What was the biggest development out of Georgia's Dawg Night camp in your eyes?


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Three-star safety Gant joins UGA's '14 class

July, 12, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia added another verbal commitment at Friday's Dawg Night camp when safety Kendall Gant joined the Bulldogs' 2014 class.

Gant (Lakeland, Fla./Lake Gibson), a three-star prospect, joins Nick Glass among safety commitments in Georgia's 2014 class.

Listed as the No. 32 safety in ESPN's player rankings, Gant (6-foot-3, 184 pounds) had no shortage of high-profile scholarship offers. He claimed offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, LSU and Ohio State before committing to Mark Richt's club on Friday.

ESPN's talent evaluators decried his lack of top-end speed but said Gant possesses the size and coverage skills to become a solid cover safety in college -- adding that he might even be able to contribute at cornerback in certain situations.

"You cannot coach his 6-3, 184-pound frame or his natural range and athleticism," his ESPN scouting report said. "Scheme versatility adds values as well. Potential Cover 2 corner in aggressive coverage schemes."
ATHENS, Ga. -- The list of visitors for the annual Dawg Night camp at Georgia this Friday reads like a who’s who of the Bulldogs’ top recruiting targets. The coaching staff will be hard-pressed to spend quality time with each of the big-name prospects who have said they will attend. We could write a blurb on the 80 recruits we have confirmed so far, but instead here are the top five storylines to watch.


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