Mark Richt may have developed a reputation for getting plenty of blue-chip talent to commit to Georgia well in advance of National Signing Day, but never let it be said the man doesn't know how to close. Amidst the drama of Signing Day, Richt convinced one undecided five-star recruit, Josh Harvey-Clemons, to sign with the Bulldogs (uh, we think), and swung a pair of four-stars from previous commitments -- cornerback Sheldon Dawson from Memphis and defensive end Josh Dawson from James Franklin's burgeoning recruiting machine at Vanderbilt.
There were a few misses, the biggest being offensive tackle Avery Young, who ended up choosing Auburn but whom the Dawgs really could've used right away to rebuild a line losing three seniors from last year's team. Auburn also held on to JaQuay Williams, a receiver the Dawgs had been trying to lure away, and beat out Georgia in the pitched battle to lure Will Adams away from Georgia Tech. Nevertheless, ESPN and Rivals both have Georgia's class ranked in the nation's top 10, while Scout has them just outside at No. 13. Here's the rundown on Georgia's 18 signees, plus the guy they're hoping will become the 19th sometime today.
DT John Atkins (6'4", 300), Thomson, Ga.
The Dawgs loaded up on defense in this class, signing six guys who played on the defensive line in high school. Many of them will shift to a linebacker role in Georgia's 3-4 system, but with his size, it's safe to say Atkins won't.
K/P Collin Barber (6'2", 191), Cartersville, Ga.
Special teams don't get a lot of attention on National Signing Day, but Barber fills a position of great need for the Dawgs, as he's slated to take over punting duties from former Ray Guy Award winner Drew Butler.
QB Faton Bauta (6'3", 225), West Palm Beach, Fla.
The extremely mobile Bauta drew Tim Tebow comparisons as a senior, but before that he played extensively at linebacker and fullback; he'll have plenty of options, position-wise, when he gets to Athens.
OG Mark Beard (6'4", 290), Coffeyville, Kan.
Georgia's lone JUCO transfer of 2012 stands to play right away on an offensive line depleted by graduation; a valuable pickup for Georgia, as he's got three years of eligibility left.
DE Josh Dawson (6'4", 225), Tucker, Ga.
Pulled the trigger on a long-rumored switch from Vanderbilt yesterday. Will make an excellent addition to an increasingly formidable linebacking corps.
ATH/CB Sheldon Dawson (5'11", 169), Memphis, Tenn.
Made his switch from Memphis official on the eve of Signing Day. He's the only defensive back of the 2012 class, though he'll join a big group of DBs from last year's "Dream Team."
DE James DeLoach (6'3", 260), Millen, Ga.
Brought teammate Jonathan Taylor with him when he committed to Georgia last summer. Could play either defensive end or linebacker when he arrives in Athens, depending on how much muscle he adds before then.
DE Leonard Floyd (6'4", 215), Eastman, Ga.
A four-star prospect who chose Georgia over Alabama, Florida and South Carolina; likely to spend the majority of his time at linebacker with the Dawgs, but he caught 29 passes for 549 yards and three scores as a WR/TE his junior year of high school.
RB Todd Gurley (6'1", 195), Tarboro, N.C.
Surprised more than a few folks by selecting the Dawgs over Auburn, Clemson and North Carolina State. Ranked as the No. 5 running back prospect in the nation.
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (6'5", 208), Valdosta, Ga.
On a day that didn't lack for suspense to begin with, the saga of Harvey-Clemons, rated as the top prospect in the state by ESPN, turned things downright dramatic. Wednesday morning, Harvey-Clemons announced his commitment to Georgia in a nationally televised ceremony at Lowndes High School, but by mid-afternoon reporters were murmuring that he still hadn't sent in a signed letter of intent. Soon after, they learned the reason: Harvey-Clemons' grandfather, Woodrow Clemons -- his legal guardian -- was refusing to sign the LOI, wanting his grandson to stay closer to home by signing with Florida or Florida State. Depending on which analyst or anonymous source you cite, Georgia is still the clubhouse leader for Harvey-Clemons' services, though one imagines that didn't make Mark Richt sleep any better Wednesday night.
So if Harvey-Clemons doesn't end up signing with the Dawgs, does that take all the air out of the 2012 class? It'd certainly have an effect on national perceptions -- ESPN, which counts JHC as a Georgia signee, ranks Georgia's class fifth in the nation; Rivals, which isn't counting him yet, has the overall class down at No. 19. Between Georgia's existing defensive players, who made a huge leap forward in year two of Todd Grantham's system, and the blue-chip recruits they signed in 2011's "Dream Team," the defense certainly isn't hurting for talent, but Harvey-Clemons is described as the kind of guy who could make an immediate impact at linebacker. With his grandfather still incommunicado as of Thursday morning, it looks like we'll all just have to wait and see.
FB Quayvon Hicks (6'2", 245), Blackshear, Ga.
Hicks, the No. 2 fullback prospect in the country according to Rivals, was recruited by a number of schools as a defensive end or linebacker, but Georgia wanted to keep him at fullback, and he went for it. He could compete for the starting job as a freshman with last year's starter, Bruce Figgins, having graduated.
DE Jordan Jenkins (6'3", 245), Hamilton, Ga.
This four-star prospect was a huge get for the Dawgs, as he'd also made official visits to Alabama, Auburn and Florida. Depending on whom you ask, he was this year's top recruit in the state of Georgia, and he impressed with eight tackles and two sacks in the Under Armour All-American game last month.
RB Keith Marshall (5'11", 190), Raleigh N.C.
The nation's No. 2 running back prospect according to Rivals, and the other half of the Tarheel State tailback duo that will make for a crowded offensive backfield in Athens this summer. Whereas good friend Tudd Gurley is more of a pound-it-between-the-tackles runner, Marshall is described as the kind of runner who has the speed to make big gains on the edge.
K Marshall Morgan (6'3", 195), Miami, Fla.
Having signed a replacement for Drew Butler, the Dawgs also found their replacement for Blair Walsh. As a junior, Morgan nailed 15 of 16 field goals and 63 of 64 PATs, and just for good measure averaged 43.7 yards per punt.
OG Greg Pyke (6'6", 315), Baltimore, Md.
One of the potential sleepers of the 2012 class. He's got the size to play right away; if he can add some athleticism between now and September, he could push Georgia's existing guards for playing time.
TE Ty Smith (6'3", 228), Moultrie, Ga.
The nation's 12th-ranked tight end prospect picked the Dawgs over Florida and joins what will be a packed house at TE, even with Orson Charles and Aron White graduating.
DT Jonathan Taylor (6'4", 315), Millen, Ga.
Joined his teammate James DeLoach in signing with the Dawgs, turning down Alabama, Auburn and Florida in doing so. Could be a prime candidate for taking over the all-important nose tackle position once John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers graduate.
OT John Theus (6'6", 292), Jacksonville, Fla.
The centerpiece of Georgia's 2012 signing class, Theus turned down offers from Notre Dame, Florida and USC (among many others) to join his brother, who signed with Georgia as a long snapper last year. The Dawgs have vacancies to fill at both starting tackle positions, and Theus is described as someone who could fill either one right away.
WR Blake Tibbs (6'2", 185), Lithonia, Ga.
The Dawgs' only wideout commitment of 2012, his presence was of particular importance once C.J. Curry flipped his commitment to Oklahoma State over the summer. Tibbs began his senior season as Lithonia's Martin Luther King High School by scoring six TDs in his first two games.