SEC title could be key in Georgia recruiting wars

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If Alabama and Georgia were playing only for a chance to be in the BCS national championship game, Saturday's SEC title game would mean the same to both schools.
But it doesn't work that way. Simply put, Georgia has more to lose.
With a win, UGA has the chance to put a "Beware of Dawg" sign on the Western boarder of the state; the chance to elbow talent poachers from its home turf; and the chance to prove to the trio of recruits who are torn between the schools which program has the best shot to win.
"It is what have you done for me lately in the SEC," said Kynon Codrington, the Southeast regional recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. "And lately Alabama has won the conference and won national titles. Alabama is getting kids drafted in the first round. And so Alabama is winning in recruiting.
"While this game isn't going to make or break either team because they are who they are, it is an opportunity for Georgia to put it out there that they won the conference and they did it over Alabama."
Since Nick Saban took over at Alabama for the Class of 2008, the two programs have gone head-to-head for 22 recruits and split them.
Aaron Suttles covers recruiting for TideSports.com and said that once Saban arrived on campus, the state of Georgia became a priority.
"Saban drew a five-hour circle and made that (Bama's) target recruiting area," Shuttles said. "It put Georgia in a position that the staff was going to go in and get kids."
Since that radius was drawn, Alabama has signed 22 players out of Georgia -- 20 are on the current roster. The Bulldogs have received signatures from only three players from across the state line -- and only one is still with the team.
Jake Rowe covers recruiting for UGASports.com and said that the skew in numbers is largely because Georgia doesn't need to go into Alabama.
"There are more kids and more BCS-level guys in Georgia," he said. "The majority of the roster is in-state kids, and the staff will pick and choose guys from other states; but it is usually Florida and not Alabama.
"They will kick the tires on a few Alabama kids each year but most of them are going to have some kind of family tie to Auburn or Alabama, and they just back off."
Of the 124 players listed on the Georgia roster, 96 are from in-state high schools. Alabama has 48 players on its 114-man roster from its home state.
"No matter how good Georgia does in the state, it will have players leave," Rowe said. "Tennessee, Florida, Florida State, Alabama, North Carolina, Clemson, and South Carolina are all trying to come into the state and land players. There are just so many quality players here that keeping them is impossible."
Mark Richt hasn't had quite the same success as Nick Saban on the field, but the coaches have split 22 recruiting battles since 2008. Much of Georgia's success recruiting against Alabama, however, came in the class of 2011 and before.
Toby Jackson, Griffin (Ga.) High
Cordy Glenn, Riverdale (Ga.) High
Branden Smith, Atlanta (Ga.) Washington
Garrison Smith, Atlanta (Ga.) Douglass
Isaiah Crowell, Columbus (Ga.) Carver
Malcolm Mitchell, Valdosta (Ga.) High
Jay Rome, Valdosta (Ga.) High
Damian Swann, Atlanta (Ga.) Grady
Jordan Jenkins, Hamilton (Ga.) Harris County
Jonathan Taylor, Millen (Ga.) Jenkins County
Brice Ramsey, Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County
John Fulton, Manning (S.C.) High
Blake Sims, Gainesville (Ga.) High
Xzavier Dickson, Griffin (Ga.) High
LaMichael Fanning, Hamilton (Ga.) Harris County
Brandon Greene, Ellenwood (Ga.) Cedar Grove
Kenyan Drake, Powder Springs (Ga.) Hillgrove
Dillon Lee, Buford (Ga.) High
Tyren Jones, Marietta (Ga.) Walton
Derrick Henry, Yulee (Fla.) High
Josh McNeil, New Berlin (N.Y.) Milford Academy
Bo Scarbrough, Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Northridge
Over the last three signing classes, the state of Georgia has produced the fourth most FBS-level signees in each class. It has finished behind only Florida, Texas and California in producing talent.
Georgia had 162 signees for the Class of 2010, 170 in the Class of 2011 and the Class of 2012 had 165 players sign.
Conversely, Alabama produced nearly half as many in each of those classes with 74 in the Class of 2010, 86 in the Class of 2011 and 94 in the Class of 2012.
Codrington said that a Georgia victory on Saturday could be a rallying point to help land its top targets.
"It is a credibility-builder," he said. "Both of these teams are in the SEC, so neither has a problem getting in the door. But if winning becomes a tipping point, then this is the best chance for Georgia to showcase its program."
A chance to become the first choice of the first-tier players in the state would be a major victory for Georgia. Just once in the last four signing classes has Georgia received commitments from more than four of the Top 10 players in the state when it signed seven from the Class of 2011. It is averaging less than half of the Top 10 since Rivals.com expanded its rankings to the state level with the Class of 2004.
That trend is continuing as the Bulldogs have received verbal pledges from just two of the Top 10 Class of 2013 prospects: Newnan (Ga.) defensive back Tray Matthews and Dublin (Ga.) West Laurens linebacker Johnny O'Neal.
They are battling for Vienna (Ga.) Dooly County defensive tackle Montravius Adams, the No. 3 player in the state, with Alabama among others.
The two programs are also in direct competition for Norcross (Ga.) High running back Alvin Kamara, the No. 15 player in Georgia, and Lake City (Fla.) Columbia offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil is the No. 2 player in Florida and the top-ranked offensive tackle in the country.
It is those major battles that Rowe said Georgia needs to win.
"It has been pretty even recently," Rowe said. "Obviously you want to protect your backyard, so of course improving the amount of top in-state kids is a priority."
Suttles said that while he doesn't believe this single game will be a deciding factor, winning is never a bad thing.
"Kids are pretty smart about recruiting," he said. "I don't think many are putting too much stock into one result between two of the top three ranked teams in the country.
"The depth chart, current commitments, academics and student support ... all of those things are going to play a bigger factor."
Tunsil has played his recruitment close to the vest but told Rivals.com that his attention would be on the two teams and that each would get an official visit once his senior season is over.
"Georgia, Alabama and (Florida State) are the teams I'm focused on, but they are all even," he said. "I'm focused on state (playoffs), but I will be taking official visits to Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and USC. I'll probably visit Florida State, that's the plan right now but that's about it."
Kamara has also stayed focused on closing out the season. His team is ranked No. 29 in the RivalsHigh 100 and is scheduled to play No. 16-ranked Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County this weekend.
He said that he will get around to recruiting when everything has settled down.
"They (Georgia and Alabama) haven't put any pressure on me to schedule (an official)," Kamara told Rivals.com. "They've put it out there that I can visit there any time. I mean, Alabama is four hours down the road and Georgia is 45 minutes from me, so I can really do that any time."
Adams has been the most tight-lipped about his recruiting, but he has visited Clemson and Alabama. He has planned on visiting LSU and Oregon, but Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell recently wrote that he believes Adams will end up at Georgia.
Codrington still views this game as more valuable to Georgia in the short term.
"It is a showcase game," he said. "You are on a national stage and those national-level guys are watching.
"Winning this game and maybe winning a national title will be a nice carrot to dangle out there. But trust me on this level: It will only help for this class and until the season starts next year. It starts all over again."
Dallas Jackson is the High School Football analyst for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
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