Even as the Dawgs' win column has gotten progressively leaner over the past few seasons and various mini-turmoils have taken hold off the field, one criticism still can't be lobbed at Mark Richt: You can't say he doesn't strive to do the right thing.
That may be worth more to some Georgia fans than to others, but think about it another way. If you were a sought-after recruit -- or the parent of one -- navigating the sometimes treacherous waters of college recruiting, it'd have to put your mind at least a little bit at ease to hear this from a prospective coach regarding oversigning:
You can only bring in the number of players you have room form Richt explained, and that means 25. . . . "If you bring them in in the summer, and you work them and you let your strength staff work with them, and you kind of decide which ones you like the best, and you tell five of them, ‘Hey we know we signed you, and we expected you to be able to come in, we don’t have space for you, we’re really sorry about that but we don’t have space for you – you’re gonna have to leave and come back in January.'
"I think that’s an awful thing to do, I think that’s the wrong thing to do. And it’s nothing that we’ve done since I’ve been at Georgia."
Furthermore, Richt stressed the importance of being as up-front with his recruits as he'd expect them to be with him.
"Not that we haven’t grayshirted, or talked to guys about grayshirting," Richt added. "If you tell five of those guys ‘Hey we’ve got 20 spaces. I can sign 25. There’s a good chance that by school starts there’ll be room for you, because of the attrition that happens every year everywhere you go. If there’s space for you, you come in with your class. If there’s not space for you, are you willing to come in in January?' …
"If you tell them on the front end and they know that, everyone understands that, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. And that’s how we go about it if we’re going to talk to a guy about grayshirting."
How important a statement you think this is depends in part on your view of Richt's recent performance as a head coach. If you think he's just weathering a temporary rough patch and are confident he'll turn it around, you're probably heartened to hear his words. On the other hand, the fire-Richt-yesterday camp probably wouldn't mind seeing a somewhat more mercenary side come out, particularly if that meant Georgia started winning at the same clip that the oversigners are (Nick Saban being tossed out during Richt's Q&A session as a specific example).
It's important to remember that Richt won at an impressive clip in the first few seasons of his Georgia career without oversigning. Then again, few other SEC rivals were oversigning at that point, either. It's a more recent trend, and perhaps there's a case to be made that Richt is now putting himself at a recruiting disadvantage against rivals such as Auburn or South Carolina (84 commitments apiece over the past three recruiting seasons) who take more of an offer-first-ask-questions-later approach.
But perhaps there's also a case to be made for quality rather than quantity. It's worth pointing out that, according to Rivals.com's annual rankings, Auburn averaged the 10th-best recruiting class in the nation over the past three years with all those recruits, South Carolina the 18th-best -- while Georgia, with 20 fewer total recruits than either of those rivals, averaged the ninth-best class (including a top-five haul earlier this year that only went one scholarship over the limit). The key, then, is getting the most out of the talent you do bring in.
Clearly there's a case to be made that Richt hasn't done that over the past few seasons. But he seems to recognize that better conditioning and coaching, not rampant oversigning, is the key to getting the Dawgs back where they belong. If those two factors can help the class of 2011 (along with the veterans on Georgia's roster) achieve their full potential this season, nobody's going to be going over scholarship counts with a fine-toothed comb come January.