ATHENS, Ga. -- The Tar Heel state has been good to the University of Georgia. Many fans need to look no further than the dynamic tailback tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to see what type of impact North Carolina prep stars can have between the hedges.
Over the last four seasons the Bulldogs have only averaged just over two players from North Carolina, but from 2005-08, the previous four years, Georgia averaged six players from across the border.
Players such as Dannell Ellerbe, Mohamed Massaquoi, Daniel Inman, Trinton Sturdivant and Kenneth Harris helped Georgia to a 40-12 record over that span. In 2010, when the Bulldogs only had one player from North Carolina, the team went 6-7. Of course that was just coincidence, but with the amount of talent available there, Georgia need not be in that position again.
Speaking of talent, North Carolina has 11 players ranked in the ESPN 150 for 2014, matching the total of historically strong talent producing states such as California and Georgia. While Florida and Texas have the most players in the ESPN 150, North Carolina has less than half of the population of those states.
That is why Georgia coaches have made multiple forays into the state during the spring evaluation period. Last week defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and defensive line coach Chris Wilson returned to North Carolina to check out No. 10 overall prospect Lamont Gaillard (Fayetteville, N.C./Pine Forest) and No. 34 Kentavius Street (Greenville, N.C./J.H. Rose).
Besides being one of the top-10 prospects in the nation, Gaillard is the nation’s No. 2 defensive tackle and one of the Bulldogs’ primary targets in 2014. He was high on Georgia before Grantham came to visit and remains so for the time being.
"As of now they stand first until someone comes and take their spot,” Gaillard said.
Street on the other hand had Georgia on top back in February, but has since moved the Bulldogs down after visiting NC State. At one point Florida State led for the No. 6 defensive end, so changes to his leader board are not uncommon. Street admits as much.
“I think they [NC State] will be able to stay my leader until I make visits to LSU, Miami and Georgia,” Street said. “I am pretty sure from what I have been hearing that those visits will shake things up, and I am looking forward to seeing them.”
The Bulldogs have already received a commitment from No. 90 Jeb Blazevich (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Christian). The nation’s No. 3 tight end could help with his fellow North Carolinians. Bringing in another pair -- or possibly all three -- would be quite the haul for the Georgia staff.
Georgia’s Director of On-Campus Recruiting Daryl Jones stressed that after looking in-state, the staff will naturally progress to “our perimeter” in an attempt to find the best players.
“We are always going to use Georgia as our primary location,” Jones said. “It is our primary state for recruiting. But then if you take a look at the success rate of the Carolinas, at the guys we have gone to the Carolinas and gotten -- and who have been highly productive for us -- I think we have always done a good job in the Carolinas. And we are going to continue to try to go into those states and find the guys that can help us win SEC and national championships.”
Jones has seen an increase in the number of potential prospects in both North and South Carolina.
“I would say there are parts of the Carolinas that are starting to trend like Atlanta did at one point,” Jones said. “With guys moving from the Midwest they don’t all move to Atlanta; they move to Charlotte or other parts of the Carolinas more so than in the past. By virtue of population and relocation, the Carolinas have a got a bit of traction with people going there. We might as well pursue it from a recruiting perspective. But again, we have had success there.”
With three prospects sitting atop the Bulldogs’ positional wish lists, look for many more recruiting excursions to the Tar Heel state.
“We have made more trips there this year than last year. But then we signed the No. 1 player out of South Carolina last year and before that we got some pretty good running backs that we went to North Carolina for. If you really want to know if Georgia thinks the Carolinas are important, just look at how many guys from the Carolinas come to Georgia and go on to the NFL.”