November 28, 2012

Recruiting battles aplenty



As bordering states, Georgia and Alabama are certainly going to go head to head for recruits, and even more so when both schools are in a position to play for Southeastern Conference titles and have similar schemes on both offense and defense.

In the last couple of years there have been some epic battles in recruiting between the Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide, and a number of those players will play key roles in Saturday's SEC Championship in the Georgia Dome.

Let's take a look at some of the key recruiting battles in the past and present between the two teams that will play in what will likely shake out to a semifinal game for the BCS National Championship game this weekend.

2011

• DE/OLB Xzavier Dickson[/db[ (Griffin) - Dickson had Georgia and Alabama on top leading up to his announcement at the 2011 Under Armour All American Bowl. Alabama and Georgia wanted Dickson for the same reason. They wanted a physical, explosive, and athletic force to come off the edge as a pass rusher. Many thought Georgia had a slight edge, and a number of recruiting writers thought that Dickson would pick Georgia. Dickson was the 4th rated weak side defensive end in the country by Rials.com, and chose the Alabama on ESPN and now starts at outside linebacker for the Tide at outside linebacker.

• WR [db]Malcolm Mitchell (Valdosta) - No recruit in the 2011 recruiting cycles was as secretive as Mitchell. Almost everyone believed going into his announcement in January of 2011 that Alabama was the team to beat. Even his own former and current teammate, Jay Rome, thought that he would be choosing Alabama in a ceremony in his hometown of Valdosta. Mitchell, like Dickson, had different plans and chose Georgia that day. Mitchell was the top-rated cornerback in the country by Rivals.com in 2011, and while he has played some cornerback this season for Georgia, most of his production has come at wide receiver where he will start for the Bulldogs on Saturday.

• DE Jeoffrey Pagan (Asheville; Asheville, N.C.) - Pagan's recruitment was one of the wildest we have seen in recent years. The former four-star prospect originally committed to Florida. He decommitted from the Gators and later committed to Clemson only to part ways with the Tigers when he was set on taking more visits. It came down to Georgia and Alabama just a few days before signing day and many felt that Georgia was in great shape. Right around signing day, however, Alabama was able to convince Pagan and his mother that Alabama was the place to be. The fourth ranked strong side defensive end in the country by Rivals.com in the 2011 class is now a reserve defensive end for the Tide, and is in the regular rotation at the position.

• CB Damian Swann (Grady - Atlanta) - This one wasn't much of a mystery at the end, but both schools recruited Swann very hard. Alabama wanted Swann, who was the third-ranked cornerback in the country according to Rivals.com, because of he was a perfect fit for what the Tide wanted in their defensive backfield. Georgia, however, was able to convince the Atlanta native that he could come in and play right away. Swann chose the Bulldogs at the 2011 U.S. Army All American game, and has started every game this season for the Bulldogs.

Other Georgia Wins:

• RB Isaiah Crowell (Carver- Columbus) - Dismissed from team after being SEC Freshman of the year in 2011.

• TE Jay Rome (Valdosta) - Second team tight end with 10 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown in 2012.

• DL Ray Drew (Thomas County Central) - Reserve defensive lineman who has played in 11 games.

Other Alabama Wins:

• DL LaMichael Fanning (Harris County) - Reserve defensive lineman who has played in six games.

• DB Jabriel Washington (Trinity Christian; Jackson, Tenn.) - Reserve defensive back who has played in six games.

2012

• LB Dillon Lee (Buford) - Lee originally chose Alabama over Florida just a few days after Georgia came in and offered early in the recruiting process. Georgia appeared to be late to the game for Lee, but the four star linebacker spent multiple weekends on campus do to the fact that his brother, Dallas Lee, was the Bulldogs' starter at left guard. In the end, UGA was able to get Lee's attention, but that was all as he enrolled at Alabama mid-year. Lee was the fourth-ranked inside linebacker in the country according to Rivals.com and is now a reserve inside linebacker for the Tide who has played in six games.

• DL Jonathan Taylor (Jenkins County) - Georgia and Alabama were mentioned as Taylor's top two early in the process, and both teams were after him hard. Georgia went on to offer his teammate and current reserve outside linebacker, James Deloach, and that likely sealed the deal for the Bulldogs as Taylor made his decision in early summer. Taylor was the seventh ranked defensive tackle by Rivals.com in the 2012 class and is redshirting for UGA this season.

• DB Geno Smith (St. Pius X - Atlanta) - Georgia was Smith's favorite team growing up and many thought that he would be a lock to the Bulldogs. Smith, however, had different plans and chose Alabama the summer before his senior year. At the time, Auburn was Alabama's main competition but Georgia fought for Smith until the end and almost got him on campus for an official visit before the former four star cornerback shut it down. Smith was rated as the eighth cornerback in the country by Rivals.com, and currently plays big minutes for Alabama in their sub package. He has appeared in 11 games this fall.

• DE/OLB Jordan Jenkins (Harris County) - This one is a true comeback story for Georgia as Jenkins had expressed little interest in Georgia early in the process. The four-star prospect have Alabama and Florida on top for much of the recruiting cycle, but Georgia started to make its move when Jenkins visited the Bulldogs officially in November of 2011. Jenkins was eventually sold on Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's ability to develop pass rushers, and early playing time. The Hamilton native was ranked as the sixth-best weak side defensive by Rivals.com, and is now starting for Georgia at outside linebacker.

Other Georgia wins:

• Joshua Harvey-Clemons (Lowndes) - Multiple teams were involved but Alabama wanted Harvey-Clemons at receiver and UGA wanted him at linebacker. He has appeared in all 12 games this fall.

Other Alabama wins:

• OL Brandon Greene (Cedar Grove) - Greene considered UGA until late in the process, but stuck with his commitment to the Tide. He is redshirting in 2012.

• RB Kenyan Drake (Hillgrove) - Drake chose Alabama over Georgia in February before his senior year and never wavered. He is currently a reserve running back for Alabama who has played in 11 games this fall.

2013

Current UGA wins:

• DB Tray Matthews (Newnan) - Matthews is set to enroll in January and chose Georgia over Alabama and Auburn.

• LB Shaun McGee (Brookwood) - Both Alabama and Georgia offered McGee once they saw him in person, and McGee chose UGA this summer.

• QB Brice Ramsey (Camden) - Alabama and Georgia were on Ramsey early, but the four-star quarterback chose UGA early on. The Bulldogs held off a summer push by the Tide.

• LB Johnny O'Neal (West Laurens) - The word around O'Neal at the end of his junior year was that Alabama was the team to beat, but he chose UGA in the spring.

Current Alabama wins:

• ATH Derrick Henry (Yulee; Yulee, Fla.) - Henry was committed to Georgia for quite awhile, but decommitted after taking an unofficial visit to Alabama this summer. He chose the Tide over Georgia and Tennesss in September and will enroll in January.

• RB Tyren Jones (Walton) - Georgia had Jones as one of its top targets at running back when Jones chose Alabama. UGA has tried to climb back into the race with little success and Jones is solid to Alabama.

• TE Josh McNeil (Milford Academy; New Berlin, N.Y.) - Many thought McNeil would choose Georgia at The Opening this summer, but he delayed his decision and ended up choosing Alabama.

Current Battles:

• OL Laremy Tunsil (Columba; Lake City, Fla.) - Georgia and Alabama are Tunsil's top two and this one will go down to signing day. Both schools have Tunsil as one of its top targets. He will take official visits to both schools and has been to both unofficially as well.

• RB Alvin Kamara (Norcross) - Georgia was the first SEC school to offer Kamara, but Alabama is right there with the Bulldogs. Some feel UGA holds an edge, but Kamara isn't tipping his hand. He will officially visit both schools in the near future, and has taken two unofficial visits this season with both being to UGA.

• DL Montravius Adams (Dooly County) - There are a number of other schools involved here such as Clemson, Florida, and Auburn, but Alabama and Georgia are in the thick of things too. Adams has played his recruitment very close to the vest, but both teams will likely have their chance do to the different ways they have told the five star defender he can be used in the 3-4 scheme.

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