The modern era of college football recruiting dates to 1981, when the NCAA established a football national signing date. Originally the third Wednesday of February, the event soon moved to its current standard of the first Wednesday and quickly developed into a favorite spectacle for fans.
With the recent approval of the December early signing date, some of the luster of National Signing Day has diminished, but it remains a significant day on any college football fan calendar.
As we enjoy the prelude and aftermath of another National Signing Day, here is a ranking of Georgia’s recruiting classes in the 1980s. The 1990s, 2000s and 2010s will follow.
In analyzing Bulldogs recruiting during the 1980s, a decline becomes noticeable late in the decade, and this class started the downward trend. Finding significant contributors from the list of 21 signees presents a challenge. The biggest (and best) name was Hiawatha Berry, two-time state champ in both discus and shot at Winder-Barrow High, 20 miles west of Athens. Berry played a bit of running back at Georgia but actually logged most of his time at defensive tackle, earning a starting spot his senior season. Brent Collins was a highly rated linebacker prospect from Tennessee, but injuries curtailed his career and he eventually transferred. The recruit who probably contributed the most to the program overall is Bryant Gantt of Athens Cedar Shoals. He lettered at outside linebacker in 1989 and ‘90, and currently is in athletic administration at Georgia as Director of Player Programs, where he is the go-to contact when Bulldogs find off-field trouble.
Vince Dooley’s last recruiting class also ranks close to the bottom of this list. The most touted newcomer was linebacker Todd Collins of Tennessee, whose older brother, Brent, already was on the team. Both would transfer at the end of the ’88 season. Todd left for Tennessee, then left UT for NAIA power Carson-Newman before playing in the NFL for nearly a decade. The best player of the recruiting class turned out to be Curt Douglas from Lincoln County, a powerhouse small high school in northeast Georgia coached by Larry Campbell (the state’s all-time winningest high school coach). Douglas arrived as a linebacker but became a solid starter on the defensive line. Damon Evans had a nice career at receiver, and later succeeded Dooley as Georgia’s athletic director. Jack Swan started at center as a junior and senior.
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