Richt stumps for early signing period

ATHENS, Ga. -- Mark Richt made use of the first day of the spring evaluation period by calling the nation’s top inside linebacker. Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) said that the Georgia coach spent a while talking to his mother.

“She said she enjoyed talking to Coach Richt,” McMillan said.

According to the NCAA bylaws, Richt will have to wait until Sept. 1 to call McMillan again, but his staff is allowed two trips to Liberty County to evaluate McMillan before the period ends May 31. Now that spring camp is done, the staff is focused on recruiting, and coaches are constantly on the road and on the phone.

Richt was asked recently to give his thoughts on some of the pressing issues on the recruiting trail. For example, what are his thoughts on an early signing period for football? Considering he just landed commitments from the nation’s No. 2 running back, Sony Michel, and the nation’s No. 3 tight end, Jeb Blazevich, a chance to have them sign early would seem inviting. But there is a catch.

“I think an early signing period could solve some issues as far as guys committing, decommitting or if there’s a guy who just knows that he wants to be at your school, he can knock it out … and save us as a staff not having to go back every single week,” Richt said.

“We as an SEC group of head coaches, we’re for an early signing period if there’s no official visits, if a kid says, ‘I know I want to go to Georgia. That’s it. I’m going to sign at Georgia and then after I sign I can take an official visit to Georgia.’ And the reason why we said that is because we do want to coach our teams in season, and we don’t want to be having these massive official visits all throughout the season and spend as much time recruiting and having official visits during the time we should be coaching our players and preparing for the next game ... We really would just like to coach our guys as much as possible in season, and so by having an early signing date where no one took official visits, we would probably protect the season."

While it might seem like a radical idea to suspend official visits during the season, Richt pointed out that recruiting never stops. It doesn’t just start when the spring evaluation period begins.

“It’s a big part of it to go see guys in person,” Richt said. “But really it’s 365 now. The recruiting hardly ever stops. There are guys that are constantly coming onto your campus and you’re constantly watching film and evaluating them and trying to make a determination on them. But it’s the time that we enjoy the most -- that if we had our way I’d say we as coaches in general, I think we’d all agree that we would love to slow down the process of these massive offers until you get to see some of these guys in person, you get to watch them practice in the spring or do something, whether it’s a spring sport or whatever that high school coach might have planned.”

Richt would also like to put the brakes on some offers until the camp season has started.

“You get these guys to come to your camp and let’s say you want to sign one tight end, two tight ends, whatever it is, and if you can get four or five of the ones that you think are the best all at this camp at the same time and you get to see them all work together, you have a much better chance of deciding which one you like the best if you can get them all there at the same time,” Richt said. “So that’s what we’d prefer, but it just doesn’t happen that way."

Indeed, by the time Georgia holds its annual Dawg Night camp in mid-July, many of the Bulldogs’ targets will have already have been offered a scholarship and will have committed to a program. Richt’s staff has already offered 93 juniors, 18 of which have committed. Last year there were 122 offers that we know of but Richt was trying to sign in the neighborhood of 35 players. The class of 2014 will be smaller since there are only 12 seniors on scholarship.

“It’s hard to say,” Richt said. “You can’t put a number on it. I wouldn’t say it will be one of the smaller ... My guess is it will get to the 20 range. We’ll see. We don’t know. But history has shown it usually does get around there.”

Fewer spots makes the decision to offer a prospect even harder.

“When you’re shooting to sign 10 for midyear, you hope, and a total of 35 possibles, then you can be more aggressive with your offers,” Richt said. “Knowing that you’re going to try to sign a class that big, you’ll probably make more offers faster. If you have a smaller class -- and it will be a smaller class than a year ago -- then you do have to be a little bit more deliberate and methodical because if you just sling them out fast and everybody says they’re in and then you’re done recruiting before you get started. You’ve got to make sure you’re offering the right guys.”