HAMMOCK: Georgia needs to look here

For a football program with more than its share of problems right now, both on and off the field, this may seem pretty minor.

The Georgia Bulldogs have plenty of issues, but it seems like some could have been stemmed had their recruiting focus been a little different in recent years. The pipeline of sending Gwinnett players to Athens is still going to a degree, just not at the rate it should be to give the Bulldogs quality players and more importantly, quality kids.

Of all the Gwinnett products who go on to the college level, you rarely hear of any running into problems with the law — tell me that wouldn’t make Mark Richt’s life easier to cut down the arrests number.

Richt has six scholarship players from Gwinnett on his roster — punter Drew Butler, running backs Caleb King and Fred Munzenmaier, offensive linemen Kolton Houston and Dallas Lee and linebacker Christian Robinson.

Only two of those Bulldogs — and one is a punter — are from Region 7-AAAAA, considered by many to be one of the state’s two toughest football regions. The standouts in 7-AAAAA and 8-AAAAA play the high school equivalent of an SEC schedule, facing some of the state’s top teams weekly. Adding a few of those guys to UGA wouldn’t have hurt matters.

Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward, a Peachtree Ridge grad and maybe the finest defensive player in the land, would have been a huge addition in Athens. Alabama has signed four players from Gwinnett, three from 7-AAAAA, recently, including top wideout Darius Hanks of Norcross. Tennessee’s starting right tackle is Ja’Wuan James, a true freshman from North Gwinnett. LSU has three Gwinnett players with a rising star in linebacker Kevin Minter, a player UGA overlooked.

The list could go on and on. What about wide receivers Brice Butler of Norcross (at USC) and Cameron Kenney of Dacula (Oklahoma)? Or Brad Roby at Ohio State?

Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson seems to get it. After inheriting a roster without a Gwinnett scholarship player on it, he signed the Daily Post’s two players of the year in his latest signing class, Shawn Green of Grayson and Charles Perkins of Collins Hill.

Why the Bulldogs haven’t signed more players out of Gwinnett is up for debate. Are they not interested in those Gwinnett kids mentioned above? Are those kids not interested in UGA? Who knows for certain?

Whatever the reason, it needs to be fixed.

Of the 10 Gwinnett seniors currently committed to top colleges, only Wesleyan center David Andrews is headed to UGA. The most high-profile recruit, quarterback/wideout/athlete C.J. Uzomah, is bound for Auburn. Steve Spurrier has already dipped into Gwinnett for two commitments, Edward Muldrow of South Gwinnett and Angelo Whatley of Peachtree Ridge.

The Bulldogs need to get back to the days of signing Gwinnett products like David Greene, Davey Pollack, Matt and Jon Stinchcomb, Rennie Curran, Curt McGill and Ian Knight, good people and productive, team-first players.

What’s sad is the current UGA coaches may have offered some of those past greats, but not all of them. Previous coach Jim Donnan signed both Greene, a skinny quarterback in need of a redshirt year who became the NCAA’s career wins leader, and Pollack, an undersized defensive end who was a three-time All-American. No way Richt’s coaches would have done the same. They wouldn’t have signed McGill or Knight, either, but both grew from high school tight ends into starting Bulldog offensive linemen.

The Bulldogs have erred by signing recruits who may be high on stars by recruiting services, but lacking in clean behavior off the field. They may be workout freaks, but not necessarily football players. Those issues are rarely problems with Gwinnett kids, not to mention they typically qualify academically as products of a top-notch school system.

That’s my small piece of advice to UGA’s embattled coaches, at least for the ones who survive this season. If they do keep their jobs, change will be needed.

And expanding the Gwinnett recruiting pipeline should be high on their list.

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.