Georgia appears to have locked down a formidable defensive front and an amazing stable of running backs, but there's still some suspense left for National Signing Day.
Let's get one thing out of the way right now: Barring a few last-minute commits by blue-chippers who haven't made decisions yet -- or whom Georgia is actively trying to sway from previous commitments -- the Bulldogs' 2012 signing class isn't likely to be a "Dream Team" on the level of the 2011 group. But that's a pretty high bar to clear, and if a few late decisions go Georgia's way on Wednesday, there's a chance for this class to be something truly special.
OT John Theus (6'6", 292) -- Bolles School, Jacksonville, Fla.
DE Jordan Jenkins (6'3", 245) -- Harris County High School, Hamilton, Ga.
RB Keith Marshall (5'11", 190) -- Millbrook High School, Raleigh, N.C.
RB Todd Gurley (6'1", 195) -- Tarboro High School, Tarboro, N.C.
CB Sheldon Dawson (5'11", 169) -- Ridgeway High School, Memphis, Tenn.
The Bulldogs' lone consensus five-star commitment thus far is Theus, but if they could only get one, he'd be the one to get -- ranked as the No. 2 offensive tackle nationally, he will immediately bolster a thin line for the Dawgs and stands a pretty good chance of starting at the all-important left tackle position on opening day. Jenkins, considered the top prospect in the state of Georgia, surprised people by picking the Dawgs over Alabama. The Dawgs' recruitment of Marshall and Gurley -- the No. 2 and No. 5 running backs in the nation according to Rivals -- will turn this summer's running-back competition from a foregone conclusion to a fierce battle. Clearly, Mark Richt isn't prepared to put all his eggs in Isaiah Crowell's basket just yet. And the Dawgs were fortunate to flip Sheldon Dawson from Memphis on Monday night -- as of this writing he's the lone defensive back on their commit list.
THE LAST-MINUTE DECISIONS
OT Avery Young (6'6", 273) -- Palm Beach Gardens Community High School, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (6'5", 208) -- Lowndes County High School, Valdosta, Ga.
DE Josh Dawson (6'4", 225) -- Tucker High School, Tucker, Ga.
OT Will Adams (6'5", 280) -- Sandy Creek High School, Tyrone, Ga.
The Dawgs could really beef up that thin offensive line situation with Young and Adams. Young is a four-star prospect who's also considering Auburn, Florida, and Miami; Adams is a Georgia Tech commit who began wavering when the Yellow Jackets announced offensive line coach Todd Spencer would not return for the 2012 season. (Georgia is also trying to flip Adams' teammate WR JaQuay Williams, an Auburn commit, but that looks to be a longer shot.) Harvey-Clemons is the five-star linebacker whom Mark Richt joined on his trip to the Valdosta jail for his family's bail-bonding business; Florida, Florida State and Miami are all competing with Georgia for his services. And Josh Dawson gave a non-binding commitment to Vanderbilt last summer but is now said to be "50-50" between the Commodores and the Bulldogs. It sounds strange to be saying this about Vanderbilt, but if Richt can pull Dawson from the neon clutches of the recruiting machine James Franklin has built in an astonishingly short amount of time up in Nashville, that'd qualify as a major coup.
THE ONES WHO GOT AWAY
WR C.J. Curry (6'2", 210) -- Flowery Branch High School, Flowery Branch, Ga.
OG Chester Brown (6'5", 340) -- Bradwell Institute, Hinesville, Ga.
DE Jalen Fields (6'4", 280) -- Georgia Military College, Milledgeville, Ga.
WR Lonnie Outlaw (6'6", 201) -- Georgia Military College, Milledgeville, Ga.
Curry was a surprise switch from the Dawgs to Oklahoma State; he'd committed to UGA all the way back in October of 2010. Brown, of course, is the massive guard prospect who ran afoul of Georgia's controversial policy barring the enrollment of undocumented students (his parents are both from Samoa); the Bulldogs could've really used his talents on the line, but he now appears to be headed to Central Florida. Fields and Outlaw both committed to Georgia in 2010 but didn't qualify academically; both announced in December that they'll be headed elsewhere.
THE CLASS IS STRONGEST IN: Defensive linemen and running backs. Todd Grantham has wasted no time in bringing in his preferred type of player to run his 3-4 scheme. Coming on the heels of a breakthrough season in 2011, Georgia will sign at least five D-linemen on Wednesday, with three of them (Leonard Floyd, Jordan Jenkins and Jonathan Taylor) considered four-star prospects by Rivals. Meanwhile, the running back roster stands to get crowded indeed with the additions of Keith Marshall, Todd Gurley and Quayvon Hicks. There was considerable grumbling from the Georgia fan base at how Isaiah Crowell seemed to fade down the stretch last season, but there's no room for complacency in the offensive backfield at this point.
THE CLASS IS WEAKEST IN: The defensive backfield. Right now Sheldon Dawson is the only back-seven player to have committed to Georgia in 2012, and the Dawgs will have to win Josh Harvey-Clemons if they want to have a single linebacker on that list. Georgia did manage a healthy DB haul in last season's class, so that position isn't an area of major concern just yet. But the Dawgs will need more linebackers with one of last year's big commitments, Kent Turene, headed to Marshall after running into trouble with the NCAA Clearinghouse and several LBs on the current roster being prime prospects for early NFL departures. (And while it might sound greedy when the Dawgs already have a commitment from John Theus, it sure would be nice to get a couple more offensive linemen on the roster when you consider the depth issues that have plagued this unit for years.)
Overall, the class is a bit of a letdown after the triumphs of the "Dream Team" one year ago, though the warm bodies on the offensive line will certainly be appreciated, and it seems like someone amazing will emerge from that crowded running back position almost by default. And as was proven last year, Mark Richt and his staff haven't lost their touch as closers. If they can convince a couple of those uncommitted blue-chippers to don Georgia caps on Wednesday, and maybe flip one more from an existing commitment, it might just be enough to move the Dawgs' class into the top 10 nationally. It'd certainly be an indication that the momentum from last year's class hasn't abated.