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July 3, 2009

Recruiting Recap: June Juggernaut

The month of June was nothing short of amazing for Georgia in regards to football recruiting. The Dawgs ended May with only four commitments, and no one had any idea how the class would shape up.

With schools like Florida and Texas hitting double digits in their 2010 class rather quickly, the Bulldogs were waiting patiently on some key targets to make their decisions. Four weeks and an astounding eight commitments later, there is talk that Georgia may now be putting the finishing touches on this class.

How did the coaches in Athens pull it off? The answer may lie in Calhoun, where the highest ranked player in the Peach State stars.

Wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers, the 22nd best player in the country, was set to make his decision Tuesday June 9th. He was, like most prospects it seems, down to Florida and Georgia. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound marvel was coveted by schools across the country for his unique blend of size, speed, strength, and ability to beat defenders for the ball in the air. In the school media center in front of a few close friends, family, and coaches, the four star receiver spoke about what was important in his decision, which was his relationships with the coaches.

Rogers chose the school he felt at home with, picking the Bulldogs in what seemed to be the turning point in the recruiting cycle for Georgia.

A week later, another decision was made that sent shock waves throughout the recruiting world.

On Monday, June 15th, Bolles offensive tackle Brent Benedict decided to end his recruitment and again chose Georgia over Florida, amongst countless other schools. While Benedict had said all along that he would could commit when he knew he had found the right place for him, most felt he would wait until the season began to take a few official visits.

Like Rogers, Benedict is a physical freak who shows rare athleticism on the offensive line. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound four star prospect could be the most talented lineman coming to Athens in the Mark Richt era. Like Rogers, a big factor in why Benedict chose Georgia was the relationship he had developed with the coaching staff, especially offensive line coach Stacy Searels.

With that, the offense had two championship caliber building blocks in place.

While the coaches in Athens could easily spend the rest of the month being excited about getting that immensely talented pair of targets, that was just the first quarter of what would become a juggernaut of June additions. Less than 24 hours after getting Benedict, not one but two more prospects accepted scholarships from Georgia.

Late Monday night, Alpharetta wide receiver Michael Bennett called receivers coach Tony Ball to let him know he wanted to be a Bulldog. The fast rising prospect had just received an offer two days before, after the latest in many dominated performances dating back to the National Underclassmen combine in March. The 6-foot-3, 186-pound receiver, who national recruiting analyst Barry Every compares to former Georgia wideout Mohamed Massaquoi, has been tearing up the camps ever since.

As Bennett was going public with his decision that Tuesday, another emerging talent was making his first visit to Athens.

Orange Park outside linebacker Demetre Baker, a 6-foot, 200-pounder whose explosion as a prospect is a microcosm of his play on the field, needed less than an hour on campus to know he was at home. He surprised the coaches by making his commitment early in his visit, and gave Georgia their first true linebacker in the 2010 class. Baker chose Georgia over schools like Michigan State and South Carolina, while Miami and Florida were also recruiting the speedy, undersized linebacker.


The month of June was halfway over, and likewise the Bulldogs had only gotten half of the commitments they would haul in during the 30 day period. While some prospects like to have press conferences or make their announcement on television, there are others who just seem to come out of left field.

Andrew Jackson cornerback Derek Owens had hinted he might commit before his senior year, his decision to choose Georgia came with no notice at all. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound athlete said he knew right away his home would be Athens, and Owens said that he did not get that feeling anywhere else, and that the coaches and players all felt like a family. Owens filled a key position for Georgia, as they could be set to take as many as three cornerbacks this year.

With the way the month was going, the six day stretch until Georgia's next commitment can only be described as a lull in recruiting. But the following Thursday brought on another surprise for Bulldog fans, as a somewhat new prospect, albeit a teammate of a well known one, let Georgia know he wanted a spot in Athens while there was still room.

Treasure Coast (Fla.) high school was already famous for having the number one linebacker in the country, Jeff Luc, but it was another linebacker who made national headlines that afternoon. Deon Rogers was a relatively unknown prospect before the Mark Richt camp earlier in the month. Showcasing his athletic ability in person, the 6-foot-3, 197-pound prospect earned an offer from Georgia on the spot.

A new name to most, Rogers did have 12 sacks last year, but it was from the defensive end spot. Other schools like North Carolina and Ohio State were showing interest in Rogers, but he decided he wanted to get it over with quickly and gave the Bulldogs their tenth commitment for the year.

June started off with a bang, with two of the top targets on the Bulldogs' board choosing Georgia. The month ended in similar fashion, with a couple of critical targets joining what is shaping up to be another outstanding class for Mark Richt and company. That Friday, the Bulldog Nation was stunned as Newnan safety Alec Ogletree came out of nowhere and chose Georgia over longtime favorite Miami.

In remarkable fashion, Georgia went from being off of Ogletree's radar six months ago to being where he will play his collegiate career. Fans were delighted to see the number one ranking next to his name as Ogletree is the nation's number one safety.

Compared to former Bulldog and current NFL standout Thomas Davis, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Ogletree is another key cog in securing the top in-state talent. Many prospects admit that seeing a fellow marquee player choose a particularschool makes them want to join them, and the coaches in Athens have to love the fact that running back Mack Brown happened to be in attendance when Ogletree committed. Brown is expected to decide sometime in the next month or two, likely between Florida and Georgia as well.

On the last day of June, Southwest Dekalb's Kendrun Malcome, another top running back in Georgia, made the decision to cap off the Bulldog's incredibly successful month by again choosing them over the Gators.

The 6-foot, 215-pounder is a powerful runner who just punishes would be tacklers, but also shows the speed needed to break long runs in chunks. Malcome will be much needed in the Bulldogs' backfield, as running the ball is a key component in the pro-style offense employed by Georgia. Malcome told UGASports on Monday that offense was a major factor in his decision, as he said he saw more commitment to the run than in Athens than in Gainesville. Malcome was the eighth and last player to commit to Georgia in June, capping off one of the most successful recruiting runs the University of Georgia has ever seen.

Georgia added four players on each side of the ball, with one running back, two receivers, one offensive tackle, two linebackers, one cornerback, and one safety all coming on board. Their recruiting outlook should be much easier to project now, which should help the Bulldogs key in on their remaining senior targets, while also getting an early look at some juniors in what is shaping up to be a talent laden class of 2011.

Thus Georgia fans and coaches are going into the 4th of July weekend no doubt excited about the top talent added to the team in the last 30 days. When the reviews of the class for 2010 come in, analysts can point to June as the month that delivered.



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