1. The craziness that has been the 2015 football recruiting season continued Monday night as a longtime UGA commitment at running back de-committed less than 24 hours after publicly confirming he was still committed to the Bulldogs. A few hours later, Georgia offered and got a commitment from another running back basically sight unseen.
Confused? So was Chris Carson apparently.
The Parkview High grad and Butler County Community College player was Georgia’s lone running back recruit in this class. But Oklahoma State got involved with Carson only a few weeks ago and talked him into coming to Stillwater for an official visit this past weekend. Upon returning from said visit, Carson told The AJC’s Michael Carvell that he planned to stick with the Bulldogs.
That was late Sunday night. What changed after that is unclear, but by the next morning word began to circulate that Carson switched his pledge to the Cowboys. He confirmed the change to Carvell in a text message.
“Yeah, I’ve committed to Oklahoma State,” he said. “A better situation.”
2. That decision put the Bulldogs in a bind. Generally, Georgia signs at least one tailback in every recruiting class, sometimes two. The reason is evident with the way injuries have impacted the position the last couple of seasons. They’ve lost at least three for extended periods the last two years.
Of course, recruiting has been particularly tough for the Bulldogs at tailback this year because they have three former 5-star prospects returning to the position this next season. Nick Chubb, Keith Marshall and Sony Michel all commanded recruiting’s top rating when they were coming out of high school and Chubb was named Freshman All-America after this past season. Georgia also has Brendan Douglas and A.J. Turman in the ranks.
But Carson appeared as though he might be able compete for playing time. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound athlete averaged 110 yards and a touchdown per game at Butler last year.
Turns out, it was a decommitment at Oklahoma State that started these dominoes tumbling. For eight months, another 4-star running back — Ronald Jones of McKinney, Texas — was committed to Oklahoma State. But Jones announced in mid-December that he was opening up his recruiting. On Jan. 2 , committed to Southern Cal.
That’s when the Cowboys came calling on Carson. He explained his decision to the Tulsa World newspaper.
“It was a combination of a lot of factors,” Carson said. “Playing time was a big thing for me. Coach (Mike) Gundy visited my family and spent some time with me. That was also a big factor — for him to go see my family and show how interested he was. I talked to him a lot over the last couple of weeks.”
3. Of course, as always one person’s loss is another’s gain, and in Georgia’s case, that person ended up being Tae Crowder.
Crowder, a big 6-3, 220-pound back, had committed to Georgia Southern over Marshall and Kentucky some time ago. But when Georgia’s Mark Richt called him with a scholarship offer at 8 p.m. Monday, Crowder accepted without ever meeting the coach in person or visiting UGA.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Crowder told the AJC. “I swear I did not know this was coming. It was truly unexpected. But it didn’t take me long at all to think about it.”
Crowder had one inside connection at Georgia. Todd Hartley, the Bulldogs’ new director of player personnel, had recruited Crowder as an assistant coach at Marshall before leaving to join UGA staff in early January.
Of course, Crowder’s decision left Georgia Southern in a bind, and the Eagles are not too happy about these developments.
4. Such as it is, Carson’s flip represented the seventh decommitment the Bulldogs have dealt with in this recruiting class. Conversely, Georgia has flipped five other recruits their way. And there’s a chance they may get another one on national signing day.
Nick Buchanan, a 6-4, 280-pound offensive lineman from Dunwoody, backed out of his longtime commitment to Cal on Monday. He will decide between Georgia and Florida on Wednesday, which is national signing day.
“I’m really confused right now,” Buchanan told the AJC’s Carvell. “Should I stay in Georgia? Should I leave Georgia? How do I feel about my relationships with the coaches and other recruits at each school? My relationship with the coaches at both schools is about even. At Florida, it wouldn’t be a new offensive line coach, but it would be a new head coach and offensive coordinator. At Georgia, it would be a new offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, but the same head coach.”
5. Though it’s difficult to get past, Buchanan and these other recruits would be well-served not to base their decisions on who will be their coach.
According to the website CoachesByTheNumbers.com, there have been 291 changes of FBS head coaches since 2001, or since Richt became Georgia’s coach. The numbers are even more dramatic when talk turns to a coordinator or a position coach.
From 2009-12, only eight FBS schools (roughly 7 percent) had the same coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator all four years. If a prospect signed with a school during that span, there was a 68 percent chance he ended up playing for a new head coach, an 86 percent chance a new offensive coordinator and an 88 percent chance a new defensive coordinator.
That trend has been reflected at Georgia as well. The Bulldogs changed defensive coordinators in 2014 and offensive coordinators in 2015.
6. As for tailbacks, according to the sports book Bovada, Georgia’s Chubb currently is carrying the fourth-best odds to win the Heisman Trophy in 2015.
Chubb, who rushed for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns while starting just eight games as a true freshman last season, is currently getting 12-to-1 odds for winning college football’s top award. The favorite is another running back, Ohio State’s Ezekial Elliott, who Bovada has on its board at 6-to-1.
Two other SEC players are currently getting better odds than Chubb. Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott and LSU running back Leonard Fournette are both listed at 7-to-1. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin (15/2) is also listed ahead of Chubb. Also at 12-to-1 are USC quarterback Cody Kessler and UCLA running back Paul Perkins.
7. Lost in all the injury attrition the Georgia basketball team is currently enduring is the fact that the Bulldogs’ next win will be coach Mark Fox’s 100th since he arrived in Athens. Of course, as far as odds are concerned, it’s not very likely that Fox will achieve that milestone Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs (14-6) are playing No. 1-ranked Kentucky (21-0) at Rupp Arena. They’ll be doing it without senior power forward Marcus Thornton (concussion), the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, and two other players out with injuries. ESPN listed the Wildcats’ odds of winning Tuesday at 98 percent.
Nevertheless, Fox continues to command tremendous respect among his peers. I asked Kentucky coach John Calipari his thoughts on the Bulldogs’ coach on Monday.
“I had to play his team when he was at Nevada, so I can give you the rundown on him,” Calipari said. “His teams always defend, they play inside-out, they run great stuff. And let me say, he’s changed some of his stuff this year. So he’s not locked into playing a certain way; it depends on his personnel.
“Look at some of the players he’s gotten to Georgia. (Kentavious) Caldwell-Pope, how’s he playing? So he’s got talented guys and he’s done a terrific job. And they should have been in the NCAA tournament last year.”
Caldwell-Pope, the No. 8 overall draft pick in 2013, has started every game for the Detroit Pistons this season.
8. Most still expect Georgia will be in the NCAA tournament this year, though it would do well to start getting some players healthy soon. It’s unclear how long Thornton will be out – he must clear UGA’s concussion protocol first – but the Bulldogs would really use him when Tennessee visits Stegeman Coliseum for a noon tip this coming Saturday. Same goes for small forward Juwan Parker (Achilles) and his backup Kenny Paul Geno (wrist).
Meanwhile, Georgia is still getting respect from the national media that monitors NCAA “bracketology.” As of Monday morning Jerry Palm of CBSsports.com still had the Bulldogs in. He lists them as a No. 8 seed in the East.
9. It’s one thing that the Lady Bulldogs lost Shacobia Barbee, their best player, to a broken leg when they did. It’s another that they lost her during one of the most challenges stretches of schedule in school history.
Georgia’s plays host to No. 1-ranked South Carolina on Thursday at Stegeman Coliseum. The Gamecocks represent the fourth straight top-10 opponent for the Lady Bulldogs, which is the first time Georgia will take on a consecutive quartet of foes ranked that highly. Previously, Georgia defeated No. 10 Texas A&M before successive eight-point setbacks at No. 5 Tennessee and at No. 10 Kentucky.
According to the Lady Bulldogs’ esteemed publicists, Mike “Jiggs” Mobley, UGA has met top-10 opposition in back-to-back-to-back meetings only twice prior to this season. In January of the 2000-01 season, the Lady Bulldogs defeated No. 10 Florida in Athens and No. 9 LSU in Baton Rouge before falling at No. 2 Tennessee. And during the 1996 NCAA Tournament, Georgia beat No. 1 Louisiana Tech in the “Elite Eight” and then No. 2 Stanford in the NCAA semifinals before losing to No. 4 Tennessee in the national championship game.
As it is, this is just the ninth time in Andy Landers’ 36 years in Athens that Georgia has met four straight ranked foes.
10. This & that: Georgia is pushing to complete its $13 million renovation of Foley Field. The Bulldogs open the season Feb. 13 against Eastern Illinois and construction crews are still crawling all over the structure. However, baseball facilities on the bottom level and interior of the stadium — including the locker room and batting cages — have been finished and in use for a while. … The ninth-ranked Georgia women’s tennis team (3-2) came up just short in its attempt to knock off a fellow top-10 competitor on Monday night as the Bulldogs fell 4-2 to No. 10 Virginia (3-1) at the Boar’s Head Sports Club in Charlottesville. … Georgia’s No. 7-ranked men’s tennis team recorded a split in the SEC/Pac-12 Showdown in Athens this past weekend. The Bulldogs knocked off No. 4 UCLA on Saturday but fell to No. 1 USC on Sunday. … Georgia’s softball team opens the season Thursday against Coppin State. The Bulldogs return all but one everyday starter from last year’s team, which won the program’s first-ever SEC tournament championship and advanced to a NCAA Super Regional for the seventh time in program history.