February 9, 2010

Garner, Richt still prefer personal touch

Rodney Garner admits he's a little old school when it comes to recruiting.

So, don't get him started on whether or not he could ever see social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter or MySpace becoming the new battle ground for coaches trying to entice top prep talent to sign on the dotted line.

"I know you've got to embrace all these things and my job is all-encompassing, but I'm not going down that road unless I have to," Garner chuckled. "I've got six girls, but they don't have Facebook. My wife's got it, but that's it."

No, Garner hopes recruiting stays the way it's always been - talking to players face to face, having them come to your campus for official and unofficial visits and getting to know prospective players on a personal basis.

Head coach Mark Richt agreed, adding that getting to know recruits on a personal level is the best way to combat recruiting challenges like the ones he had to deal with since firing three defensive assistants.

The fact that Georgia would be switching to a new 3-4 defensive scheme also became an issue other schools tried to use against the Bulldogs.

"Anything and everything that another school can use to create some doubt in a young man's mind, that's what they'll do. So, we were certainly dealing with that. Also, starting out in a 4-3 in the recruiting of this class and changing to a 3-4 [system]. … When you hear 3-4 compared to 4-3, it causes some curiosity and maybe even some concern, but again I think most of that concern has a lot of to do with everybody trying to create doubt," Richt said. "We're very confident and trying to do the right thing. We're also confident in that a lot of NFL teams and college teams are moving toward this trend, so we're moving to the front end of this trend."

Garner said despite the fact that four verbal commitments - Da'Rick Rogers, Nickell Robey, Deon Rogers and B.J. Butler - decided elsewhere, the Bulldogs still achieved many of their recruiting goals.

Getting Stephenson defensive tackle Mike Thornton to sign was a huge get, as were players like Garrison Smith, Alec Ogletree, Jakar Hamilton and T.J. Stripling, among others who project as big-time contributors on both sides of the ball.

"It's challenging, obviously, with it coming in the time period it did, but everyone really worked hard and worked well together. We operated as a team, which we've always done at the University of Georgia. We're a family. Every one of the coaches worked extremely hard and so did all our support staff. We did a good job of holding everybody together," Garner said. "Obviously we had a couple defections here at the end, but we've always stressed that we want a young man that wants to be at the University of Georgia, wants to be a part of this program. We're excited about the young men that we have coming in and look forward to developing future stars. We have no questions or reservations about the way it turned out."

Garner added that neither he nor the staff was necessarily disappointed that more than 19 players weren't signed.

"We could have gone out and possibly signed other guys and fulfilled that number if we just wanted to meet a quota," he said. "But we felt good about the nucleus that we put together, and we felt like at this point we wanted to stay status quo and be able to evaluate to make sure that going into the future, we'll be able to have the personnel in place that's going to fit with the scheme Coach (Todd) Grantham wants to run, so I think strategically we made some decisions on where we wanted to stop the number."

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