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November 26, 2008The NCAA's official three-week contact period for meeting potential football recruits begins Sunday and according to Georgia recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner he and the rest of the Bulldog staff have their work cut out.
No, Garner's concerns have little to do with the recruits themselves. The Bulldogs currently have 16 verbal commitments with approximately five more spots to fill, perhaps more depending on whether or not underclassmen like Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno decide to leave early for the NFL.
Garner's biggest worry is the time he and the rest of the coaches will actually have to get on the road.
"The contact period starts on Sunday so we'll hit the road on Sunday but our schedule is still pretty chopped up because by being in school this week it pushed back when our kids get out for the end of the fall semester," Garner said. "So, our bowl practice schedule is chopped up, it's really chopped up compared to what it's ever been. We'll play Georgia Tech on Saturday and actually have our first bowl practice next Thursday."
It doesn't stop there.
After practicing Thursday, Friday and Saturday of next week, the Bulldogs come back and work out Tuesday (Dec. 9), Wednesday (Dec. 10), Saturday (Dec. 13) then return the following week when final exams end and practice Wednesday (17th), twice on Thursday (18th), Friday (19th) then Saturday the 20th.
"We feel bad about it being chopped up that way but graduation is the 20th," Garner said. "We really don't have any choice. We had to do it this way."
Players will be allowed to go home for Christmas after practice on the 20th and reconvene at the bowl site on the 26th.
"I know last year we had a little pass skel to keep them in shape but we really have to actually have to go out there and be productive with practice," Garner said. "It's going to impact recruiting because we're going to have to be here for preparation for practice and we may have to fly out that night to go see a kid or what-not. But you don't have a choice; you have to get it done.
"The last day to be on the road is the 20th which is the day we let them go home. That day at midnight is the last time we can be out until the January period kicks back in."
Garner said he and the staff will spend just as much time checking in with players who have already committed as they will trying to convince others expected to wait until Signing Day that Georgia is the place to be.
"Sometimes the kid that commits early requires more time than the kid who waits so you've got to make sure you don't do anything to slight a kid that's committed to you, so you've got to still recruit him just as hard as the kids you're still trying to get," Garner said. "Obviously, you're also still trying to piece things together and a big component of recruiting is winning and we're in heavy, heavy preparation trying to figure out a way to beat Georgia Tech.
"That would help recruiting tremendously if we could do that. Then be sure you get a bowl position and hopefully that's a good selling point. If you've got a chance to finish up with 10 wins, that's very important."
Garner said that one his biggest selling points as a recruiter is the fact that the Bulldogs are attempting to win 10 or more games for the sixth time in seven years.
"I think the only other team that has been able to have that kind of success is Southern Cal, and I think their program is pretty well respected," he said. "You try to accentuate any kind of positives that you can. Obviously, everybody knows about the negatives, so you try to sell all the positives you can. Everybody wants to be associated with a winner."
But evening winning doesn't automatically make recruiting an easier chore for coordinators like Garner. The advent of the Internet has changed the game in several ways.
"You have no choice but to embrace it because that's the generation that you're dealing with," Garner said. "This generation is connected to the net and so much information out there. Some is correct and some not correct. You have to spend a lot of time putting out fires."
According to Garner, recruits spend lots of time on Internet message boards like those on UGASports. Its unsubstantiated rumors from posters, the term for fans posting messages on message boards, which the coach says can cause the most harm.
"There's not much accountability when you can log on as Superdog and write whatever you want to write. Who is Superdog 13? That's what I want to know," Garner said. "He says Coach G said he's doing this and I'm like OK, that's a real credible source. But it's the world we live in. You've got to be able to adjust, you've got to be able to deal with it, you've got to be able to try and use it as much to your advantage as you can because it's not going away."
Garner laughed that when he first started recruiting he barely knew what a computer was.
"I know I did graduate from Auburn but I didn't know how to use a computer until I graduated from Auburn," Garner laughed. "I've told my players that years ago a girlfriend bought me a word processor and I thought man, I had the bomb. They guys were like word processor? They never heard of that."
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