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February 3, 2009

Signing Day Upon Us

It's been a while since there's been this much drama regarding Signing Day for the Georgia Bulldogs.

When 8 a.m. rolls around Wednesday morning, the fax machines at the Butts-Mehre Building are expected to start humming, as the first batch of new Bulldogs make their college choice official.

According to Rivals.com recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg, the Bulldogs have already done themselves extremely well.

"It's another good group. I've said it before, and I think it started with Coach (Jim) Donnan, but Georgia has recruited as consistently well as anybody in the last 10 years, and that doesn't even include some of these last offers," Newberg said. "If Coach (Mark) Richt can close with a few of those guys, you're looking at a class that's going to finish somewhere in the Top 5."

That's definitely the plan.

To date, despite Greg Reid's decision to sign with Florida State, Georgia counts 17 players among its verbal commitments.

The drama will continue well into Wednesday.

Highly-coveted wideout Marlon Brown from Memphis, Tenn. is set to announce his decision at approximately 3:45 ET.

"He's really raw, but an incredibly athletic kid," said Barry Every, also a recruiting analysts for Rivals.com who prior to working with the company served as an Administrative Assistant for Recruiting at Georgia under Richt. "His high school didn't play that great a level of competition, and normally when a kid comes from that level of play, even though he's a physical freak he sometimes struggles his first year.

"So I don't think you can necessarily expect to throw him out there and expect him to be another A.J. Green or Mohamed Massaquoi right away. Again, he's a raw, but an unbelievable talent, probably more along the lines of a Plaxico Burress-style than anything."

The Bulldogs won't hear from Plant (Fla.) tight end Orson Charles for at least another week. Charles still has an upcoming visit to Southern Cal and won't decide until later this month. Charles lists the Trojans, Georgia, Florida, Florida State and Tennessee as his five finalists while Carver's Bay big man

Kwame Geathers includes Georgia, South Carolina and Central Florida among his final three.

Like Charles, Geathers is not expected to make his decision until later this month.

But even if Bulldog coaches have to wait to corral the signatures of Charles and Geathers, the ones they secure on Wednesday already have the Bulldogs ranked No. 9 in the team recruiting standings according to Rivals.com.

"Regardless, even if the wheels fall off and Georgia does not sign anybody else I think that there are enough big names in this class that they'll finish somewhere in the 9-12 range," Rivals recruiting analyst Jeremy Crabtree said. "Perhaps you could see Florida or Florida State go past with some surprises on Signing Day. I know Oklahoma still has one on the board, but other teams who are close (in the standings) like Michigan State and Arkansas, there's really not too much room for Georgia to drop even if it does whiff. I just the coaches at Georgia have done a great of meeting their needs, and basically that's what it's really all about."

That list of commitments Crabtree was speaking of includes a 5-star cornerback in cornerback Branden Smith, plus 12 4-star performers, a list that includes running back Washaun Ealey, tight end Arthur Lynch, offensive tackle Chris Burnette, linebacker Michael Gilliard, defensive tackle Abry Jones, defensive tackle Derrick Lott, defensive end Montez Robinson,offensive lineman Dallas Lee and wide receiver Rantavious Wooten.

Every can't say enough about Burnette, who he believes could well earn playing time as a true freshman for the Bulldogs next fall.

"I'm real high on him," said Every, who scouted Burnette numerous times, including last month's stint in San Antonio at the U.S. Army All-American Game. "His coach there (at the U.S. Army contest) didn't know him from Adam, but all he talked about was how impressed he was with this guy and how he picked up the scheme faster than anybody there. I won't say for sure that he'll play (this fall) as a freshman. But barring injury, the fact that he knows his stuff, he's smart, picks stuff up quickly, has the size and is tough, I think he's got a chance."

The remaining 4-star performers offensive lineman Austin Long, along with quarterbacks Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger, are already enrolled and going through winter workouts and mat drills.

"I love both the quarterbacks, but Aaron Murray has 'It,'" Newberg said. "I mean, you're talking about a kid that basically led his team to the state championship on one leg. He's got great leadership skills. He's the whole deal."

Don't overlook the rest of Georgia's class.

Defensive back Jordan Love and Shawn Williams will both get their chance come fall, while linebackers Dexter Moody and Chase Vasser are two more hard-nosed young players hoping to make their mark in the Red and Black as early as next fall.



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