Ten@10: Recruiting drama at fever pitch for Bulldogs

1. I used to cover recruiting full time for The AJC and really enjoyed it at times.

This was not one of those times.

Though the drama of recruiting is certainly interesting and intriguing and has made it into one of fastest-growing and most widely followed endeavors in sports, it seems as though there is way more late-January theatrics than ever.

Georgia is hoping to hang onto wide receiver commitment Darius Slayton of Greater Atlanta Christian, who took an unexpected trip to Auburn this past weekend. (AJC photo by Curtis Comption)

Georgia is hoping to hang onto wide receiver commitment Darius Slayton of Greater Atlanta Christian, who took an unexpected trip to Auburn this past weekend. (AJC photo by Curtis Comption)

At least at Georgia that appears to be the case. As our esteemed recruiting reporter Michael Carvell has pointed out, six of UGA’s commitments took official visits to other schools this past weekend. Chief among them was a key wide receiver prospect in Darius Slayton of Greater Atlanta Christian, who visited Auburn.

Also checking out other campuses this past weekend were defensive back DeAndre Baker (Texas), running back Chris Carson (Oklahoma State), wide receiver Terry Godwin (Alabama), athlete Shaq Wilson (West Virginia) and receiver Jayson Stanley (UCF).

It’s understandable how that could be nerve-wracking for Georgia fans, not to mention the Bulldogs’ coaches. They were burned again recently by Ole Miss, which flipped longtime UGA commitment Van Jefferson over the weekend.

I say that realizing the Bulldogs invariably get a late-period flip or two themselves.

2. Generally, though, I don’t feel like recruits that change course late in the recruiting process make the best or most-informed decisions. That’s why I’m in favor of the early-signing period that was recently proposed by the NCAA.

A special committee tasked with studying the ins-and-outs of football recruiting recommended a 72-hour window in mid-December for recruits that are solid in their decisions to go ahead and sign letters-of-intent and remove themselves from the carnival.

If approved by conference commissioners this spring, the early-signing period would be installed on a two-year trial basis. The infamous February signing period would continue and the current recruiting calendar otherwise would not be impacted.

According to proponents, an early signing date would save countless hours – and thousands of dollars – for football programs, which won’t have to invest resources in continuing to recruit long-committed prospects.

Personally, I liked it even better when they were talking about an early-August signing period. To me, that would be ideal, allowing some of these kids to make a decision and completely close the door on recruiting so they could concentrate on playing their final high school seasons and enjoying being seniors. But I also understand the logistical issues that would cause coaches, who essentially wouldn’t get any time off in the summer.

That said, there always has been and will continue to be late-January/early-February drama. It will be interesting to see what unfolds over the next eight days. Let the drama begin (or continue).

Brice Ramsey and the Bulldogs are expected to start spring practice sometime in mid-March. (Getty Images)

Brice Ramsey and the Bulldogs are expected to start spring practice sometime in mid-March. (Getty Images)

3. Speaking of football,  Georgia still hasn’t settled on its exact dates for spring practice, which usually starts in the middle of March. UGA’s spring break is March 9-13 this year, so it will likely be soon after that.

But the Bulldogs have settled on the date of the G-Day Game. Once again it will fall on the Saturday of The Masters golf tournament, which is April 11.

Georgia’s annual Pro Day is set for Wednesday, March 18.

4. If you’ve paid any attention to Georgia basketball of late, you’ve no doubt read a lot about J.J. Frazier. The sophomore point guard is coming off a 37-point effort against Mississippi State this past week that resulted in him being named the SEC player of the week. Yesterday, I wrote a story about Frazier’s recruitment out of tiny Faith Baptist Christian Academy in Ludowici.

The other side of the story about Frazier’s recent rise in the ranks is how well Charles Mann has adjusted to his new role. Because of injuries to Juwan Parker (Achilles tendon) and Kenny Paul Geno (broken wrist), Mann accepted a move over to their small forward/wing position while Frazier slid into the starting role at point guard.

That has proven to be a fortuitous move for the Bulldogs (13-5, 4-2 SEC), who have won four straight since making the change when they traveled to Vanderbilt on Jan. 14. The Commodores (11-8, 1-5) return to Athens Tuesday night.

Charles Mann's solid play and unselfish acceptance of moving from point guard to wing has been key to the Bulldogs' four-game winning streak. (Photo by USA Today)

Charles Mann’s solid play and unselfish acceptance of moving from point guard to wing has been key to the Bulldogs’ four-game winning streak. (Photo by USA Today)

“Unbelievably,” coach Mark Fox said when asked how Mann had accepted the transition. “Charles Mann’s approach really has allowed us to be successful. I mean how many guys go from being an all-league player to ‘I have to move over here to help our team?’ It’s such an unselfish act by Charles. To do it on the fly in the middle of the LSU game was hard, but he’s been terrific since. That’s probably the No. 1 thing I’d point to. There’s a guy who has sacrificed for his team. And he’s still playing well.”

Mann, who was a Coaches’ Preseason All-SEC selection at point guard, continues to play several minutes at that position each game. But with he and Kenny Gaines commanding attention on the wings, it has created open looks for Frazier at the point. And other than a slight decrease in minutes played, Mann’s production is virtually unchanged. He had seven points and five assists against State this past Saturday and is averaging 9.2 points since making the switch.

“He’s playing differently and it’s allowing us to be successful,” Fox said.

5. Meanwhile, the move appears to have only made Georgia more efficient offensively. The Bulldogs are averaging 71 points per game since losing Parker in the middle of the LSU game. All five of UGA’s starters are now averaging double-figures in scoring.

Senior forward Marcus Thornton is leading the way with 13.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest. He’s followed by Gaines (11.8 ppg), Mann (11.4), Nemi Djurisic (10.7) and Frazier (10.7). The Bulldogs are shooting .484 not only from the floor in those four games, but also shooting the exact same percentage from 3-point range.

“They’re stretching defenses out and the 3-point shot has become much more of a weapon for them,” observed Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. “They’re very tough to defend.”

6. The only real negative the Bulldogs have encountered during this current winning streak was Thornton’s play against Mississippi State this past Saturday. Despite playing 30 minutes in Starkville, the 6-foot-8 power forward had a season-low three points on 1-of-8 shooting.

For this, Fox took total and complete blame.

“Marcus’ performance was the result of some very poor coaching,” Fox said. “I gave Marcus practice off. I gave his extra days off because I thought his body needed it. But he played like a player who hadn’t practiced, quite frankly. Out of rhythm. That’s 100 percent on me.”

UGA offensive lineman Kolton Houston consoles Michael Bennett after the receiver suffered a torn ACL in the Belk Bowl. (AP photo)

UGA offensive lineman Kolton Houston consoles Michael Bennett after the receiver suffered a torn ACL in the Belk Bowl. (AP photo)

7. Good to hear from recently-graduated senior Michael Bennett on Atlanta sports talk radio station 680 The Fan the other day. Bennett, who led the Bulldogs’ in receptions this past season, suffered torn ACL in his left knee in the middle of the Belk Bowl. He had to overcome an ACL tear in his right knee two seasons ago.

Obviously that injury has impeded Bennett’s plans to train for the NFL draft. He remains hopeful that he’ll get a shot eventually but, with the late-December timing of his injury, he’ll be hard-pressed to show NFL scouts anything besides what they can see on video.

In the meantime, Bennett and a couple of his UGA buddies plan to share their football knowledge by conducting a camp next month. Bennett, defensive tackle  Ray Drew and quarterback Hutson Mason will host an ESM Football Camp on Feb. 28 at Alpharetta High School, Bennett’s alma mater. The camp is for kids ages 6-16 and packages are offered ranging from $85 to $115.

Former Bulldog and current Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Aaron Murray will also be hosting some ESM Camps. He’ll have one Feb. 7 at Roswell Area Park and another on Feb. 28 in Savannah at DeVaul Henderson Park. You can register for those and other ESM Camps from athletes represented by Everett Sports Marketing by CLICKING THIS LINK.

8. The Lady Dogs (17-3) recently suffered a tough 59-51 loss to Tennessee and are in the midst of an extremely tough stretch of Top 20 opponents. Next up is No. 14 Kentucky on Sunday and a date with top-ranked South Carolina on Feb . 5 in Athens.

But somewhat lost in the grind is this little accomplishment: When Georgia secured its 16th victory of the season, the Lady Bulldogs were assured of their 36th consecutive winning season. To put that into perspective, Georgia is one of just three Division I basketball programs to post a winning record every season since women’s intercollegiate athletics came under the auspices of the NCAA in 1981. The other two are Tennessee and Wisconsin-Green Bay.

9. When Georgia’s swimming and diving teams swept Tennessee in Knoxville last Saturday, coach Jack Bauerle earned his 300th victory with the women. In 36 seasons with the Lady Bulldogs, he is 300-33-2, joining Boston College’s Tom Groden as the lone members of the 300-wins club.

Bauerle has an additional 212 victories with the men’s team, giving him a combined 512. That figure ranks first all-time in the SEC, second among active coaches and fourth on the all-time list.

“I am very proud of the 300 wins,” Bauerle said. “It may have my name next to it, but this is a program accomplishment. No one person reaches a total like this. It’s due to a lot of great swimmers, divers and coaches that have been a part of the program. I’m thankful for and appreciative of everything they’ve done for Georgia.”

The Lady Bulldogs (10-0, 5-0 SEC) are tied for No. 1 with California in the latest CSCAA rankings. The Bulldogs (7-2, 4-0 SEC) are ranked No. 2 nationally. Georgia will cap the regular season at Gabrielsen Natatorium against Emory followed by the SEC Championships Feb. 17-21 at Auburn.

Mike "Big Dawg" Woods

Mike “Big Dawg” Woods

10. This & that: Mike “Big Dawg” Woods, the renowned Georgia fan famous for painting a Bulldog on his bald head, was to have triple-bypass surgery this week at Athens Regional Medical Center after suffering a heart attack recently. … … New Georgia soccer coach Billy Lesesne announced the addition of three new assistants to complete his staff. Brian Moore and Katie Ely were named as assistant coaches and Enrique Rodriguez was added as a volunteer coach. … According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham could be on the move again. He was scheduled to interview for the DC job with the Oakland Raiders on Monday.

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