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February 10, 2011

Signee Superlatives Part 2

In Part Two of our Signee Superlatives story, we take a look at what programs Georgia beat, who beat the Dawgs for top recruits, what player has the best motor as well as who would be considered the fan favorite. Be sure to check out who had the best senior season as well as who is likely to have the biggest impact on offense and defense. All that and much more can be found here in Part 2. Also, don't miss Part One that we ran yesterday which covered such superlatives as Strongest, Fastest, Biggest steal and Biggest Surprise.

Best interview: Zach DeBell -One thing is for sure, whenever Tarpon Springs offensive tackle Zach DeBell picks up the phone, he does not hold back on his end. The 6-foot-7, 280-pound lineman never fails to give his honest opinion on everything, whether it was when he committed back in July ("The first time I came here I just fell in love. You might say I'm engaged to Georgia. I've got the ring and the date's set for February") or Following the Future after their first win of the year ("They were pretty aggressive and the defense was just killing people out there. It was like a bunch of sharks just killing people"), DeBell gives his all in an interview. Just like he is known for on the field. He has also done sports interviews of his own, and plans to major in journalism at Georgia.

Runner Up: Nathan Theus - Just like Hutson Mason did in 2009, Bolles lineman Nathan Theus can fill up a recorder in a single question. The well spoken Jacksonville native is able to discuss recruiting, his season, and his thoughts on college programs while being genuine, thorough and descriptive. Interviews done with 2010 UGA signee Brent Benedict and now Nathan and John Theus prove that Bolles gets high marks for preparing their students for life after high school. Do not be surprised if Theus is coaching the sidelines after his gridiron career is over.

Biggest impact in 2011 offense: Isaiah Crowell - One of the most talented running backs to come out of Georgia the last ten years, Crowell comes to Athens with an immense amount of hype. Coach Mark Richt did nothing to squelch the excitement by hinting at the possibility of the 5-foot-11, 210-pound five star back taking the first snap in the home opener against Boise State at the Georgia Dome. Crowell brings an electrifying running style currently missing in the Bulldogs' backfield, with elite acceleration, vision and a strong, compact frame. The running game at Georgia has been mostly stagnant since Knowshon Moreno left early for the draft in 2009. After seeing the impact five star freshmen backs Michael Dyer and Marcus Lattimore made in Auburn and South Carolina in 2010, Georgia fans are hopeful the Columbus native can bring a similar impact Between the Hedges.

Runner Up: Chris Conley - Most analysts have pegged Valdosta's Malcolm Mitchell as the wide receiver most likely to make an instant impact at Georgia, but do not count out North Paulding's Chris Conley. The 6-foot-3, 187-pound wideout impressed Southeastern Analyst Keith Niebuhr at the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in December with his route running, hands, yards after contact, and intelligence. Conley caught 61 passes for 1,021 yards and 15 touchdowns his senior year, and had 212 catches for 2828 yards and 27 touchdowns over the last three years. Another big factor that could put Conley at the front of the line for playing time this fall is the fact that he is already enrolled at Georgia. He is one of only six receivers in Athens currently on scholarship, so look for Conley to get his chance to be in the rotation in September.

Biggest impact in 2011 defense: Johnathan Jenkins - As excited as Georgia fans were last Saturday, there may not have been a happier person to see Gulf Coast Community College defensive tackle John Jenkins sign with Georgia than defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. The 6-foot-4, 350-pound JUCO gives the Bulldogs the pure nose guard they lacked in 2010, when they switched to a 3-4 base defense. With Jenkins on board, look for DeAngelo Tyson to slide over to defensive end, where he projects as a better fit. Jenkins is a massive road grader who shows impressive quickness for his size. Recent impact junior college defensive linemen Terrance Cody (Alabama) and Nick Fairley ( Auburn) have shown the kind of potential impact having the right lineman can make. Grantham is hoping that Jenkins can be that final piece of the puzzle that takes his defense to the next level in year two.

Runner Up: Corey Moore - For the second straight year, Georgia signed the top safety in state, as well as one of the best in the country with Griffin's Corey Moore. The 6-foot-1, 198-pound senior has impressed analysts at every camp and competition he has attended, and he did nothing to change their opinion in San Antonio. "Corey Moore showed the ability to cover and break on the ball during the U.S. Army practices," Rivals.com analyst Barry Every said. "What stands out is the fact that he is almost the size of a linebacker." Alec Ogletree and Shawn Williams are currently ahead of Moore on the depth chart, but it would not be surprising if Moore sees more than just special teams duty this year. Moore is similar to Ogletree in that he is a strong safety who excels against the run but also has impressive range. While he does not quite have Ogletree's size, he has shown that he may be stronger in coverage than the former Newnan star.

Team that UGA beat in recruiting: Georgia Tech - Not a single member of Georgia Tech's 2011 class held an offer from Georgia. The in-state rivals did go head to head for a number of targets, with the Bulldogs signing ten prospects that held an offer from the Yellow Jackets. One prospect had reportedly given Georgia Tech a silent commitment in Nick Marshall, but after being reoffered by Georgia on defense, he went public with his intentions to play for the Bulldogs. The battle for in-state talent goes to Georgia in the 2011 class.

Runner Up: Alabama - Georgia went head to head with Alabama for most of their class, beating out the Crimson Tide for Christian LeMay, Isaiah Crowell, Jay Rome, Watts Datnzler, Ray Drew, Malcolm Mitchell, Damian Swann, and Nick Marshall. Three of the toughest battles for the Bulldogs involved the two powerhouse programs battling it out for Crowell, Mitchell and Swann, with Georgia winning out for all three. Assistant Coach Kirby Smart will always make the Peach State a priority in recruiting, but this time the Bulldogs held their ground surprisingly well after the disappointing season on the field.

Team that beat UGA in recruiting: FSU - The Seminoles reeled in another outstanding class in 2011 with some of their members coming at the expense of a hopeful Bulldog staff. Running back James Wilder, wide receiver Rashad Greene, cornerback Nick Waisome and defensive tackle Tre Jackson were all targets for Georgia, but the two that hurt the most were outside linebackers Cornellius Carradine and Terrance Smith. With the early departure of Justin Houston to the NFL, Coach Grantham went all out for both pass rushers, and was not able to prevent either from signing with Florida State.

Runner Up: Alabama - The same criteria that put Florida State on this list applies to Alabama. Seen by many as the top rush outside linebacker in Georgia, Griffin's Xzavier Dickson signed with the school that offered first and will play for Nick Saban instead of Mark Richt and his childhood favorite Bulldogs. LaMichael Fanning was another target at a position of need that Alabama sealed up early. A lat push by Nick Saban was also able to seal the deal with Asheville defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan, an Army All-American many felt planned to sign with Georgia following a decommitment from Clemson in January.

High motor: Amarlo Herrera - A physical, downhill linebacker who loves to hit, North Clayton's Amarlo Herrera will leave it all on the field when he suits up Between the Hedges. The 6-foot-1, 228-pound Rivals250 prospect competed in numerous camps and combines last summer, even though he had long since secured a spot at Georgia. Many times he would jump ahead in line so as to get more repetitions and occasionally had to be asked to let others play. Woe be upon the first opposing player that starts talking smack to Herrara. Once goaded, Herrera will not let up and will get into the head of the opposition. On video, Herrera shows the ability to track down the ball carrier and move sideline to sideline surprisingly well for a player his size. All talent and no hype, Herrera just wants to bring people down.

Runner Up: David Andrews - Early on in his recruitment, Wesleyan center David Andrews drew favorable comparisons to current Bulldog Ben Jones for his fearless demeanor in the trenches. Like the starting center already at Georgia, the 6-foot-2, 288-pound offensive lineman loves to mix it up and never backs down from any defensive lineman. Expect a seamless transition from Jones to Andrews in the next two years.

Best senior season: Nick Marshall - Quarterback Nick Marshall was not able to lead his Wilcox County Patriots to back to back state championships, but the Rochelle star still had one of the more impressive seasons in the southeast. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound athlete had 2,728 yards passing and 41 touchdowns as a senior and set the state record for career touchdown passes with 101. On defense, Marshall had six interceptions and returned two for touchdowns and another one more than 75 yards.

Runner Up: Malcolm Mitchell - First year head coach Rance Gillespie made two key decisions that impacted the Wildcats 2010 season. First he did away with the run heavy offense of the past in favor of a more balanced attack. The he took starting free safety Malcolm Mitchell and moved him to full time receiver. A school record 77 catches and 1,419 yards and 13 touchdowns later, those changes look to have been made for the better.

Top recruiter prospect: Christian LeMay - Immediately after his announcement that Georgia was his leader school, Butler quarterback Christian LeMay was on the phones trying to bring in more talent to Georgia. He made calls to Justin Scott-Wesley and Sterling Bailey, both of whom made commitments to Georgia in the next month. He was also mentioned by Zach DeBell as a reason for him wanting to be part of Georgia's 2011 class. LeMay has a close relationship with Ray Drew, one that begs the question: which one recruited the other to UGA first? Lemay also made numerous visits to Georgia and was continually observed talking to visiting recruits that had been targeted for the Dream Team.

Runner Up: Ray Drew - Well before he even announced his decision to join the Dream Team and play for Georgia, Thomas County Central defensive end Ray Drew was in everyone's ear to join him in Athens. Johnathan Jenkins, Jay Rome and Isaiah Crowell all mentioned hearing from Drew, as did Antonio Richardson and Jeoffrey Pagan. Crowell may have been the key piece to the class, but the Army All-American from Boston Georgia epitomized the focus of the Georgia staff to keep the top talent in state as he worked behind the scenes to bring the best players to Athens.

Top recruiter Coach: Mark Richt - Before the season started, Georgia head coach Mark Richt sat down with the Bulldog coaching staff and devised a gameplan to ensure all of the state's top players did not leave the border. Thus was born the "Dream Team" strategy, which was delivered via new iPad presentations to all of the top prospects in a matter of days. The seed was planted early that if the elite in state talent stuck together, they could win championships in Athens. Almost every commitment story in this top five class involves the prospect mentioning Coach Richt as the deciding factor in the decision to play at Georgia. Coach Richt's in home visits are also known as being a major factor for prospects on the fence about Georgia. The longest tenured head coach in the SEC, Mark Richt has learned a thing or two about what it takes to recruit in the southeast over the years.

Runner Up: Rest of staff - When looking at each of the coaches, two things stood out. First, it seemed each assistant coach was in charge of a major target for Georgia. Whether it was Mitchell and Drew for Bobo, Crowell and Marshall for McClendon, Rome and Theus for Lilly, Jenkins and Bailey for Grantham, or Swann and Moore for Garner, each of the coaches were primary recruiters of record of much needed prospects for the Bulldogs. Second, the Georgia staff worked in tandem in recruiting. They went in groups when possible, and almost always had at least two coaches at any school. If Coach Bobo was going to Valdosta, then Coach Lilly would always be with him. Nick Marshall was seen by Coach Bobo early, then Coach McClendon, then Coach Lakatos later on. The pairing of area coaches and position coaches has done Georgia well, and the staff truly worked as a team in 2011 to secure a top five class in the country.

Fan favorite: Ray Drew - Whether it was sending curve balls on his Facebook account or admitting he was having fun with the process in an interview, Thomas County Central defensive end Ray Drew has entertained the southeast with his colorful depiction of his recruitment. The ordained minister ignited the Bulldog fanbase when he publicly called out Isaiah Crowell and John Jenkins to join the Dream Team shortly after making his own commitment to Georgia known. Drew has been an influential voice in Georgia, with many prospects looking to the five star talent for guidance and advice. In many ways, Drew is an embodiment of the way Mark Richt runs his program, and that connection should make him beloved by those in Athens.

Runner Up: Isaiah Crowell - Running backs at Georgia are often the focus of fanfare, especially with the success of past beloved players such as Herschel Walker, Garrison Hearst, Robert Edwards, and Knowshon Moreno. Crowell comes to Georgia with as much potential as any back in the Mark Richt era, and with that brings the hopes and dreams of a fanbase hungry to climb back atop the national pigskin landscape. Lofty recruiting rankings and praise from virtually every analyst have brought a lot of pressure on the Columbus native to perform at an elite level early, but with that also comes the chance for the 5-foot-11, 208-pound back to carve his name among the pantheon between the hedges. Plus, holding up the greatest singing day prop, a live bulldog puppy, quickly won him legions of new fans.



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