Richt aims to keep building classes early

MACON, Ga. -- With 20 public commitments already in the fold, Georgia’s 2013 football recruiting class is larger than the 19-player group the Bulldogs signed in February.

Coach Mark Richt said his staff often gathered a considerable number of early commitments in past years prior to getting off to a slow start with the 2012 class. While picking up as many as 20 players this early in the process is an unusually high number, Richt expects to continue building the bulk of his signing classes early in the recruiting process.

“We were getting in the habit of that, I think, prior to last year’s class,” Richt said Tuesday at the annual Pigskin Preview at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. “I think if we do our homework and the faster that we can make evaluations and decisions on who to offer and go after these guys, I would think we can get some early commitments unless something changes culturally where no one’s doing it. But I think we’ll get our share early, I hope, if we’re doing a good job.”

Richt said the Bulldogs could sign as many as 34 players in 2013 if nine of them enroll at Georgia in January. But he said it is nearly impossible to predict exactly how many players will join the Bulldogs next February, as there are simply too many variables in play that would affect the maximum number of 85 players Georgia is allowed to have on scholarship.

“I don’t know how many juniors are going pro, I don’t know how many guys might get injured, I don’t know who might not do well academically, I don’t know who might misbehave and I’ve got to make a decision,” Richt said. “So you don’t know what kind of attrition you’re going to have.

“So that’s the thing. We’re trying to project that number today for what it’s going to be over a year from now. That’s hard to do. And then on signing day, you still don’t know what can happen from the signing date to when you have to really declare who your 85 are. So it’s not an easy thing.”

Waiting on Atkins, Floyd: Richt said last month at a Bulldog Club meeting in Macon that he was confident that all 19 signees would qualify academically.

The Bulldogs are still waiting for two signees to enroll: John Atkins, who needs a qualifying test score, and Leonard Floyd, who needed to complete a high school core class to qualify.

Richt reiterated on Tuesday that he still believes the signing class will bat 1.000 academically.

“I think I’ve said I expect them all to be there,” he said. “I’m staying with that quote.”

No news on Houston, DBs: Richt did not offer updates on any players whose availability was questionable at the end of spring practice.

Of offensive lineman Kolton Houston, who participated in spring practice after sitting out last season over an NCAA eligibility issue, Richt said, “It’s not been decided yet, but I would still say that I’m optimistic that he’ll be able to play.”

Of cornerback Branden Smith, who recently settled a court case in Alabama stemming from his spring break arrest for marijuana possession, Richt said, “We’re not ready to say anything publicly. I guess that’s all I’ll say.”

He echoed that thought when asked about safety Bacarri Rambo, who is reportedly facing a suspension over a failed drug test, noting, “I’m not making any comment on those things. That’s been a new policy for us.”

Injury improvement: On the injury front, Richt expects everyone to be available by the time preseason camp begins in August -- with defensive end Sterling Bailey as the only question mark following offseason foot surgery.

“If no one gets hurt in the summer, when camp starts, when two-a-days start, every single guy on our team should be able to practice without any limitations, which that hasn’t happened in a long time,” Richt said.

Safety Shawn Williams said his knee is completely recovered following an MCL sprain that knocked him out of the last portion of spring practice.

“I’m back to doing everything,” Williams said.

Richt pays up: When he signed his contract extension last week following six months of negotiations, Richt mentioned that he finally had to pay up on the Waffle House meal he promised to Bulldogs basketball coach Mark Fox once the deal was done.

He held up his end of the deal on Monday, taking nine basketball staffers to eat at the Waffle House in Five Points, just around the corner from the UGA campus.

Fox tweeted a picture of the caloric overkill from his table in what he described as “a celebration.”

“Fox and his table, they all got waffles on the front end and I’m thinking, ‘OK, no big deal.’ They gobbled them up real quick and then they started having other plates of food coming through,” Richt laughed. “I don’t know what he had. There’s a picture of it, though, and he ate every bit of it.”