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 1990s. A ranking of the 1980s classes is here, and the 2000s and 2010s will follow.
With only 13 members, the 1999 class ranks as the smallest group of the modern recruiting era at Georgia and also the least productive. Coach Jim Donnan’s tenure at Georgia was nearing an end, and after signing a tremendous group in 1998, he floundered this go-round. While small in numbers, there was some quality. Alex Jackson of Quincy, Fla., was the only offensive lineman signed by Donnan in his last two recruiting classes and became a two-year starter at guard. Jonathan Sullivan developed into a stalwart defensive lineman playing alongside the likes of Marcus Stroud, Richard Seymour and David Pollack. Shedrick Wynn continued the Lincoln County High pipeline to Athens and contributed on the defensive line. Tall wide receiver Michael Johnson played well at Georgia and is best-remembered for his 2002 fourth-down touchdown catch against Auburn that won the SEC East for the Bulldogs in Mark Richt’s second season. Bruce Thornton was recruited as a running back, but ended up at corner and blocked a punt in the 2002 SEC championship game against Arkansas.
Defensive lineman Richard Seymour and safety Jermaine Phillips became the best players of this recruiting class, while undersized Josh Mallard contributed on the defensive front and Curt McGill did the same on the offensive side. Star-crossed running back Jasper Sanks of Columbus was supposed to be the plum of Jim Donnan’s second recruiting class. While Sanks went on to a solid, but uneven career, his most famous play was a disputed fumble in a 1999 51-48 overtime loss to Georgia Tech. Georgia had the ball at Tech’s goal line with only seconds remaining and the game tied at 48. Instead of playing for a chip-shot field goal, Donnan called one more run; Sanks lost the ball (after touching the ground by most accounts) and Tech recovered. Donnan was never loved by Georgia fans, dating to his first game when he popped off to legendary sideline reporter Loran Smith after a loss to Southern Miss. He earned no more plaudits with the Sanks fumble call.
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