Isaiah Crowell chose UGA over Alabama on National Signing Day.
Alabama and Georgia had several major recruiting battles for Peach State players during the 2011 recruiting cycle and that appears to be something that will continue with the Class of 2012.
During the 2011 cycle, the Crimson Tide topped the Bulldogs for Under Armour All-American defensive end Xzavier Dickson (Griffin, Ga.) and landed LaMichael Fanning (Hamilton, Ga./Harris County), who is from the Yellowhammer State originally, but Georgia was able to repel Bama for the nation’s top running back prospect, Isaiah Crowell (Columbus, Ga./Carver) and cornerback/athlete Malcolm Mitchell (Valdosta, Ga.). Alabama was the runner-up for both of those prospects.
Winning those two recruiting battles were huge for the Bulldogs program. Georgia is 13-13 since 2008 and Alabama, coming off the 2009 National Championship, led at different points in the process for both Crowell and Mitchell. In fact, it was considered a recruiting upset that Mitchell headed to Athens. Georgia ended up with the nation’s No. 7 overall class and Bulldogs assistant coach Mike Bobo, who signed 10 prospects, was a finalist for 247Sports’ National Recruiter of the Year.
In 2012, it looks like the Tide again will place an emphasis on the Peach State. Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, a former Georgia player, recruits a chunk of the state and already has commitments from defensive tackle Dakota Ball (Lindale, Ga./Pepperell) and running back/athlete Kenyan Drake (Powder Springs, Ga./Hillgrove). Both players could end up inside the Top247 when those rankings are released. Bama also snagged an early pledge from kicker Adam Griffith (Calhoun, Ga.). Georgia prospects make up half of Alabama’s early commit list.
It will be interesting to watch future battles develop, though admittedly we may not see the Dickson, Mitchell and Crowell-type of decisions this recruiting cycle. It is early, you could realistically see the Bulldogs and the Tide square off for cornerback Geno Smith (Atlanta, Ga./St. Pius X), defensive end Jordan Jenkins (Hamilton, Ga./Harris County), who many believe is the state’s top 2012 prospect and Fanning’s former teammate, and tight end/athlete Ricky Parks (Hogansville, Ga./Callaway).
Georgia, which produces between 150-200 Division I prospects per recruiting cycle, has become one of the top talent-producing state’s in the country and is a must-stop for recruiters, particularly in the Southeastern Conference. In addition to the Tide, defending National Champion Auburn is historically very active in the state as is every other program in the league. Florida, under new head coach Will Muschamp (another former Georgia player) has been more active than usual early in the 2012 recruiting cycle in terms of getting Gator offers to top Peach State prospects. Florida’s presence in Georgia may or may not end up being a storyline this cycle, but early on it looks like they will make it a priority.
Indeed it will be interesting to see what additional recruiting rivalries develop as the state of Georgia continues to prove it’s a premier state for football talent.