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After suffering through a miserable 6-7 season that culminated with an embarrassing 10-6 loss in the Liberty Bowl to Conference USA "power" UCF, you'd think that Georgia would have some issues on the recruiting trail.
You'd be wrong.
The Bulldogs have been tearing it up this January, following through on Mark Richt's desire to build the "dream team" by earning the commitments of many big-time recruits including five-star defensive end Ray Drew, four-star cornerback Malcolm Mitchell, four-star tight end Jay Rome and four-star safety Damian Swann. In addition to the guys already committed, the Bulldogs are hot on the trail of five-star running back Isaiah Crowell, who is ranked by Scout.com as the No. 1 running back in the nation. Crowell will make his decision on National Signing Day.
All of this comes at a good time for the Georgia program, which has been in decline for the last few years. But will the recruiting class save Mark Richt's job? Unless most of the recruits come in and make an immediate impact, it won't.
It's been written, tweeted and talked about on the radio that this class could "save Richt's job." That's simply false. The classes two and three years ago will have much more of a say on whether or not Richt stays in Athens past 2011.
Mark Richt's future is tied to wins and losses, not recruiting classes.
Can Georgia find a replacement for recently-departed stud wide receiver A.J. Green? Will Georgia's offensive line finally achieve the consistency that many thought it would have last season? Will another offseason under defensive coordinator Todd Grantham help get the defense get back to the form it once enjoyed under former defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder? These are the questions that will dictate Richt's future, not how highly-rated his recruiting class is.
Will some of the players committed to coming to Athens make an impact on the 2011 season? Sure. Many will play small roles and a few more will see significant playing time. But for Richt to stay employed, the Bulldogs have to win now, and I'm not sure they can do it.
If the Bulldogs do get the commitment of Crowell, can he come in and start right away? He better, because the Georgia running game struggled at times last season with Caleb King and Washaun Ealey taking the handoffs. But let's be honest, Georgia's had about 20 "next Herschel's" over the last 29 years. Danny Ware, Jasper Sanks, Kregg Lumpkin and many others have come to Athens as the next big thing, only to never match the hype.
There is going to be a lot of pressure on this recruiting class. On top of being a part of the team that will ultimately decide Mark Richt's fate, Richt has placed even more pressure on these guys by calling it the "dream team" before many of them even made official visits to campus. Compounding issues for the Bulldogs is the fact that they play Boise State and South Carolina to start the season. Almost universally, Boise State draws an immediate negative reaction from every SEC fan due to its weak in-conference schedule. But on the big stage with time to prepare, the Broncos can compete with any team in the country.
Will the young Bulldogs be able to step in immediately – and I'm talking about the first game of the year – and make an impact? That's asking true freshmen to do a lot. I think the magic number for Mark Richt to keep his job is eight regular season wins, and even that number might depend on which eight. If Georgia has to rely on true freshman out of the gate, things could get really interesting in Athens in a hurry, no matter where the 2011 recruiting class is ranked.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee
2010/2011 Off-Season Column Archive:
Dream Team Won't Save Richt – January 31, 2011
Five Thoughts On Kragthorpe – January 24, 2011
Ridiculously Early SEC West Rankings – January 23, 2011
LSU Hires OC Four Years Too Late – January 20, 2011
Ridiculously Early SEC East Rankings – January 19, 2011
CFN Analysis: Cam Turns Pro – January 14, 2011
BCS National Championship Review – January 11, 2011
CFN Analysis: Cotton Bowl – January 8, 2011
Five Thoughts On Why Auburn Wins – January 7, 2011
Five Thoughts On Dan Quinn – January 5, 2011
Tuesday Question: Should Rich Rod Be Fired – January 4, 2011
Five Thoughts on Charlie Weis – January 4, 2011
CFN Analysis: Charlie Weis as the Florida OC – January 3, 2011
CFN Analysis: Outback Bowl – January 1, 2011
CFN Analysis: Gator Bowl – January 1, 2011
CFN Analysis: Capital One Bowl – January 1, 2011
CFN Analysis: Liberty Bowl – December 31, 2010
CFN Analysis: Music City Bowl – December 30, 2010
End Of The Season Accountability – December 27, 2010
Pryor Can't Be Compared To Newton – December 23, 2010
Ranking The SEC Bowl Games – December 19, 2010
Malzahn Makes The Right Move – December 14, 2010
Five Thoughts on Muschamp – December 12, 2010
CFN Analysis: Florida Hires Muschamp – December 12, 2010
CFN Analysis: Cam's Heisman Landslide – December 11, 2010
Five Thoughts On Urban Meyer – December 9, 2010
Meyer Leaves Legacy, Question Marks – December 8, 2010
Click here for the 2010 regular season archive
Click here for the 2010 Three & Out archive