Conlin: On Signing Day and the Field, Dawgs Stuck in Reverse

Periodically, we at Parcell’s Football & Robot Emporium like to open up the blog to different voices in an effort to provide a diverse number of viewpoints on the subjects our readers enjoy. Today, we’re proud to host the work of Donald Conlin, sports columnist for The Highland Herald of LaFayette, Ga.

After a Signing Day that brought only 19 signed letters of intent to Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall and the high-profile defection of blue-chip wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers, only one thing is certain about University of Georgia football: I was right. They’re sinking.

The Bulldogs follow up their disastrous 8-5, Shreveport-capped season with a signing class that fell a full five spots from ESPN’s recruiting ranking prediction and plummeted to 16 on’s recruiting rankings. And all I can think is, “Is anyone surprised?”

These kids were in the prime of their lives as they watched UGA lose to Oklahoma State. They were hanging 50 on their Homecoming opponent while the Gators blew the doors off the Dawgs. They were gearing up for a playoff run when Kentucky beat Georgia for the second time in four years. They’re playing the best football of their lives, being courted by national powerhouses and then a middle-of-the-road SEC team asks them to come to their school and be mediocre. It’s practically an insult.

Pretty good, but he's no Da'Rick Rogers.

And though they fired Defensive Coordinator Willie Martinez, who was promptly picked up by Oklahoma (still a good decision, Dawg Nation?), it’s clear that there are still problems in Georgia’s football philosophy. Five-star wide receivers like Da’Rick Rogers only come along once in a great while, and the coaches in Athens know that, yet they still refuse to alter their system to highlight a game-changing receiver. And no, AJ Green is not a game-changing receiver: UGA averaged 204 passing yards per game with him, and 183 without him. In my book, a game-changer accounts for more than 21 yards a game.

And the future doesn’t look good for the Bulldogs. Tennessee is surging forward under Derek Dooley, who Georgia fans will admit has a winning pedigree, and Florida shows no signs of letting off the gas, with Steve Addazio starting his head coaching career by bringing in a top-flight class amidst a major coaching change.

And make no mistake, it is ALL about recruiting. Just take a look at the last few BCS National Title contenders. What do they all have in common? Each of those schools is perennially in the top 10 of recruiting rankings. So, if UGA is willing to let their best prospects slip through their fingers, what does that say about their commitment to national titles?

What it comes down to is this: Georgia is moving backward instead of forward. Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, Alabama and Florida all signed 25 or more, while UGA signed 19. The Bulldogs’ new defensive coordinator is about to install a system devised back in the 1940s. Athens is even called the Classic City! How can any of this appeal to the iPhone-wielding, Facebooking high school seniors this program needs in order to stay relevant?

It can’t.

With the loss of Rogers, Jeff Whitaker, Nickell Robey and Telvin Smith, Richt has sealed the Dawgs’ fate: this class, and maybe even the season, is a bust. And if things don’t change soon – and I’m not afraid to be the first to say it – Richt’s seat is going to get pretty warm.

Don Conlin writes for The Highland Herald of LaFayette, Ga. and teaches Introductory Newswriting at Northwest Georgia Technical College.

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