Friday, July 8, 2011

Has Playing Kickoff Game in the Georgia Dome Truly Helped Alabama's Recruiting in Georgia?

Alabama has agreed to meet Virginia Tech in one of the 2013 Kickoff games in the Georgia Dome marking the Tide's third appearance in the classic they helped start back in 2008.

Shortly after his arrival, Nick Saban declared he wanted to recruit the state of Georgia more. A big impetus for playing in the inaugural game in 2008 was to get more access to recruits in the state. 

But has that really panned out?

Saban was hired by Alabama in January of 2007. Even with his prowess on the recruiting trail, Saban was unable to sway any of the Rivals top 50 recruits in the state of Georgia to Alabama for the '07 class.

In 2008, Saban signed two of the top 50 in the state according to Rivals - LB Devonta Bolton and WR Chris Jackson . Neither of those players is on the post spring depth chart.

After playing in the 2008 Kickoff game in Atlanta, Saban signed one of the top classes in the nation the following February including five of the top 50 players in Georgia - the 9th best player Michael Bowman, the 29th best player Chane Warmack, the 35th best player Kellen Williams, the 37th best player Jonathan Atchison, and the 47th best player Darius McKellar.

However based on the current depth chart only one of these four is listed as a projected starter - Chance Warmack.

Bowman is listed 4th at WR behind two players with less experience; Warmack is expected to start at one Guard position, Williams has failed to earn a varsity letter yet, Atchison is a backup LB, and McKellar is not on the two deep.

Coming off another victory in the Kickoff game and more importantly a national title, Saban again signed one of the top classes in the nation in 2010. From Georgia, the Tide snagged five of the top 50 including the 13th best player Adrian Hubbard, the 15th best Brian Vogler, the 26th best Blake Sims, the 38th best Austin Shepherd, and the 48th best Ronald Carswell in 2010.

Looking again at the post Spring depth chart, Hubbard is listed as a backup LB as a RS freshman which is impressive.

However, Vogler is third string TE behind another RS freshman; Sims is third string QB behind another RS freshman; Shepherd is a backup offensive lineman was redshirted last season as many lineman are; Carswell is not on the depth chart accepting a grayshirt offer instead.

Fresh off what appears to be a fairly good showing in the state in 2010, Alabama fell back in 2011 Georgia recruiting signing just two of the top 50 - LaMichael Fanning and Xzavier Dickson. I have read Fanning may have trouble getting past the NCAA Clearinghouse but nothing definitive either way so we'll assume he will make it.

Still, for all the commotion of Alabama coming in raiding Georgia they got two of the top 50. That is the same number Stanford got and three less than South Carolina.

Alabama is doing well is in the 2012 class where they have six commits from Georgia. However, Rivals has just two of these players listed at four stars. If Saban continues to recruit like he has been of late then the Tide will fill up on four and five stars from their own state as well as Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi and around the country.

Going back to 2008, out of 14 players signed in the top 50 from Georgia we have a total of one starter.

Playing in the Kickoff game in front of a national television audience has made a much greater impact on Alabama' recruiting outside the South evidenced with the signing of players like Cyrus Kouandjio of Maryland, Philip Sims of Virginia, and Trey DePriest of Ohio among others.

Yes, the Crimson Tide have signed some players in the state of Georgia recently but the top players are still overwhelmingly choosing Georgia and to a lessor extent the Floridas, Auburns, Tennessees, and South Carolinas of the SEC as much or more than Alabama.

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