Georgia Football: Dawgs Need to Adopt the LSU In-State Recruiting Model
(Post-publish edit: I cherrypicked data for simplicity because I have a day job, but am hoping to make a part 2 about what Georgia can do to change this later.)
Despite the recent struggles and Les Miles drama, LSU has consistently been the second-best recruiting program in the country over the Alabama Death Star Dynasty Era. Why have they been able to do this, despite HEAVY coaching turmoil, a slipping defense, and an offense that puts out top-flight NFL talent but struggles at the collegiate level?
They absolutely DOMINATE the state of Louisiana.
Of their current 22 commits (in potentially the first class ever to consist of 20 4 and 5-star talents), a whopping 16 are from the gumbo state. Given the lack of power conference competition in-state, it makes sense. They have border rivals in Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas, and of course always have Alabama lurking for the cream of the crop, but they have been able to lock down the state in a way Georgia hasn’t.
I’m not going to ignore the fact that Georgia has more ‘local’ recruiting rivals. Clemson, Auburn, Alabama, and to a lesser extent Florida State, Tennessee, and South Carolina likely have their primary focus on the Peach State. And the metro Atlanta area is imminently more transient than anywhere in Louisiana– many high school players (not researching these numbers) relocate to Georgia over the course of their lives and don’t feel the pull to stay at home.
It still begs the question, though: why isn’t Georgia keeping more of these guys at home, where a drive from metro Atlanta to Athens for parents is a 90-minute drive?
We all recall the ‘Georgia Dream Team’ from the 2011 recruiting class, which can now be classified as a failure. The fact is, Georgia could build an even stronger recruiting and gameday force if they could keep even half of the state’s top 25 at home. DeShaun Watson and Cam Newton come to mind. But just going back to 2013, you see:
2013: 0 of the top 7, including Robert Nkemdiche, Carl Lawson, and Montravious Adams. #8 was Tray Matthews, so Georgia essentially was shut out of the top 10. Of the top 15, Georgia had one on campus for more than one year: Brice Ramsey.
2014: 3 of the top 5: Carter, Chubb, Parrish. But famously coming in late on Watson indirectly cost Mark Richt his job. Raekwon McMillan is a future first-round pick at Ohio State. And the Dawgs were shut out on players 6-15, losing three each to South Carolina and Auburn, and two more to Clemson.
2015: Richt’s strongest effort in recent memory. 5 of the top 10, including Trent Thompson, Roquan Smith, and Terry Godwin, among others. The losses of Taj Griffin and Clemson’s day-1 starting LT, Mitch Hyatt, though, sting.
2016: Currently, Georgia is shut entirely out of the top seven, with enrolled DT Julian Rochester the highest-ranked Georgia commit.
To compare to LSU:
2013: 8 of the top 15, 7 of the top 8. Sweet Jesus.
2014: 8 of the top 15, 5 of the top 10, and a guy named Leonard Fournette.
2015: 9 of the top 15, including the top three.
2016: 10 of the top 15, including ALL EIGHT current commits ranked in the top 10.
Over the past 3 1/2 recruiting classes, LSU has secured commits from 35 of its state’s top 60 players. Georgia? 17, with the likelihood that they’ll add 1-3 more next week.
All told, LSU has struggled on gamedays due to scheme and being just slightly less Alabama than Alabama. Given Georgia’s recent struggles, we’re in the same boat except with lesser talent. If the Dawgs are to successfully challenge Alabama (which, given the Smart hire, they intend to do), they need to fence the state.
The 2013 class, of which Georgia has zero top-15 contributors, could have been an early sign of Mark Richt’s demise. The 2014 failure to bring in a QB, namely Watson, was the death knell.
There may be a followup to this, but the simple fact is this: LSU is crushing recruiting in-state, and is a schematic adjustment away from being the LSU juggernaut of the past 10 years. Georgia is getting killed by local rivals, and needs to shift its focus to keeping its top players (in the top per-capita state for collegiate talent) at home.