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February 5, 2013

Is UGA Signing Enough of the In-State Elite?

The signing of Georgia native Montravius Adams would
make an already adequate in-state incoming class even
stronger (or as strong as it has been the last 30 years).
As I've mentioned here before, I don't follow football recruiting that closely; however, I am always intrigued with what the pundits have to say regarding UGA's annual prospective incoming class.  Curiously, some of these so-called experts regularly express the belief that the Bulldogs are not signing enough and/or need to sign more of the state of Georgia's elite high school talent. 
Two years ago, there were some in the media partly blaming the Bulldogs' inadequate on-field performance from 2008 through 2010 to not landing enough of the in-state's elite.  On the contrary, I discovered that Georgia had signed as many or more of the state's annual top 11 players during the latter half of the Coach Richt era than ever before.   
Leading up to tomorrow's Signing Day, I've been hearing the familiar outcry of Georgia needing to "keep the best players in the state here" and recently even heard that the Bulldogs needed to "get back" to signing the in-state elite, as if indicating that UGA once signed a lot of talent from Georgia, but no longer does so.
In an attempt to expand and improve upon my signing-of-in-state-elite study from two years ago, I found the TOP 25 players coming out of Georgia high schools according to Rivals.com, and the number of those signing with UGA beginning in 2002 through last year:
RIVALS- 2002 to 2012 (# out of the state's top 25 players)
2002: 10
2003: 12
2004: 10
2005: 5
2006: 9
2007: 10
2008: 12
2009: 9
2010: 6
2011: 11
2012: 5
For the 11-year period, the Bulldogs signed an average of 9.0 of the state's top 25 players on an annual basis.  During the same time, seven other schools averaged signing at least one elite player from Georgia:

1.64- Auburn
1.55- Florida State
1.45- Georgia Tech
1.27- Alabama
1.09- Florida
1.09- Tennessee
1.00- South Carolina
More telling than Georgia signing just as many as the seven other schools above combined, for any four-year stretch from 2002 to 2012, the Bulldogs never averaged lower than 7.8 in-state top-25 signees per year, while never exceeding a 10.0 yearly average. 
As far as the state's elite players prior to the Rivals' rankings, the best I could find before 2002 were rankings/groupings of the top in-state prospects released by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution starting in 1985.  These player listings were not consistent, ranking players similarly to Rivals in '86, '88, '90, '91, and '92, listing them by position without rankings as the "top prospects in Georgia" in a group of 30 in '89, groupings of 34 in '85 and '87, 50 in '93, '94, '96, '97, '98, and '01, and a group of 75 in 2000, whereas I had no luck finding any sort of in-state elite listings for 1995 and 1999:

AJC- 1985 to 2001 (UGA signed x of top y players from Georgia)*
1985: 9 of top 34
1986: 5 of top 25
1987: 16 of top 34
1988: 6 of top 25
1989: 10 of top 30
1990: 13 of top 25
1991: 9 of top 25
1992: 6 of top 25
1993: 9 of top 50
1994: 12 of top 50
1996: 14 of top 50
1997: 14 of top 50
1998: 20 of top 50
2000: 6 of top 75
2001: 14 of top 50
* Although I couldn't find any in-state prospect rankings/listings for 1995 and 1999, all indications were that the Bulldogs' signees for both years (regardless of what state they were from) were considered top-notch classes nationally.  UGA's '95 class was recognized as likely the school's best since 1990, while its '99 class consistently ranked among the nation's top 10.    
For what it's worth, I found with the Rivals' top-50 in-state rankings from 2002 to 2012 that of those top-50 prospects signing with the Bulldogs roughly 75 percent of them on average actually were ranked in the top 25.  With that in mind, the 12 to 14 of the state's top 50 prospects Georgia signed in '94, '96, '97, and '01 would equate to approximately 8 to 11 of the state's top 25 prospects.
According to the current Rivals' rankings for the state of Georgia, seven of the top 25 prospects appear to be heading to UGA (and 10 of the top 29).  If Dooly County's Montravius Adams (No. 3 prospect in state) and Alvin Kamara of Norcross (No. 6) can be added, the Bulldogs would land nine of the top 25 players from Georgia high schools.
UGA's incoming class for 2013 will continue a trend that has persisted over at least the last 30 years: the Bulldogs only occasionally sign a ton of the in-state's elite, like in '90, '98, '03, and '08, but rarely sign just a meager amount, like in 2000 (only 6 of state's top 75) when Coach Donnan declared after Signing Day, "we had a bad recruiting year from the standpoint that we didn't get the players in the state that we went after."  However, if you add up the in-state elite totals of signees for the Bulldogs every three to five years, they more or less come out the same.
In conducting my research, I found the following statement from the AJC the day after Signing Day in 1995, referring to a top prospect spurning Georgia for another school: "For the dozen or so hard-core Georgia fans that showed up at the Butts-Mehre football office complex shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday, national signing day opened with a panic." 
Personally, I've never been to the Butts-Mehre on Signing Day, but isn't a "dozen or so" now more like a hundred or so Georgia fans?
The popularity of college football recruiting really took off during the 1990s and continues to grow steadily to this day.  With this growth comes more scrutiny of the recruiting process from those that think they know how the Bulldogs can improve upon their on-field performance, like by simply signing more elite high school talent from the state of Georgia.  
It would be absolutely wonderful if the Bulldogs could sign 12 or more of the state's top 25 prospects year in and year out, and 18 to 20 on occasion, but it'll never happen... not anytime soon, at least.  As far as "not signing enough" in-state talent, what do you expect from a program that has signed roughly the same amount in four-year stints over at least the last three decades?  And, there is no "getting back" to signing a surplus of the in-state's elite since UGA has been and likely will continue signing the same number of such players as the program did "back" then, whether that's five, 10, or 25 years ago.

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