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 from 2000-09. A ranking of the 1980s classes is here, and a look at the 1990s is here. The 2010s will follow.
Georgia’s early- to mid-decade swoon in recruiting that began in 2003 continued with the 2005 class. Scan the starting lineups between 2005 and 2009, and you’ll find few starters from this group. The top player to emerge was wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, a three-year starter from Charlotte. His Independence High teammate Joe Cox eventually earned the starting quarterback position and served as the bridge between the Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray eras. Tight end Tripp Chandler started during his junior and senior seasons. Defensively, Kade Weston played a lot of minutes on the interior of the defensive line.
Mark Richt’s third recruiting class did not match his two initial groups, surprising since the Bulldogs were coming off the 2002 SEC championship and a No. 3 final poll ranking. Still, there were significant contributors among the two dozen players signing scholarships. A trio of linebackers became the best defensive players of the class. Outside linebacker/end Marcus Howard joined inside ’backers Jarvis Jackson and Danny Verdun-Wheeler in garnering plenty of playing time. On offense, Nick Jones, Fernando Velasco and Ken Shackleford earned a lot of minutes on the line. Wide receiver Sean Bailey and running back Kregg Lumpkin headlined the skill-position players in the class.
To a significant extent, the ’04 class exemplifies Georgia recruiting under Richt. The Bulldogs signed a respectable group, and secured most of the best talent in the state, including top-ranked Brandon Miller of Miller County High in southwest Georgia and second-ranked Charles Johnson of Hawkinsville High. But the Bulldogs never completely dominated Peach State recruiting during Richt’s tenure, and a big one got away this cycle when wide receiver Calvin Johnson of Sandy Creek picked Georgia Tech. He would have been quite a nice complement to quarterbacks David Greene, D.J. Shockley and Matthew Stafford in Athens. Miller could never find a true position, although he started as a linebacker for three seasons. Johnson became more prolific as a tremendous pass-rushing end at Georgia and in the NFL. Inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe brought speed to the position. On offense, Thomas Brown of Tucker provided excellent play during his career, and big Chester “Cheese” Adams started at guard and tackle as a junior and senior.
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