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HAMMOCK: UGA football showing more interest in Gwinnett

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman . Norcross' Alvin Kamara (6) runs the ball as Duluth's Joshua Johnson (34) attempts to trip him up during the first half of Friday's game.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman . Norcross' Alvin Kamara (6) runs the ball as Duluth's Joshua Johnson (34) attempts to trip him up during the first half of Friday's game.

What's happening with football recruiting in Gwinnett at the moment is a sign of something.

Georgia has extended early scholarship offers to nine Gwinnett juniors, an unprecedented amount by the Bulldogs in the county. The trend could mean one of these two things, or both:

  1. Gwinnett's junior class is that good.
  2. Mark Richt and his coaching staff finally get it.

I know the first is true because the junior class in Gwinnett is the county's most talented ever, which is saying something in such a strong area for high school football.

It remains to be seen if the second holds true, too.

The main criticism of Georgia's coaching staff in recent years from local high school coaches and players is that the Bulldogs wait far too long to show great interest and extend offers. While other schools have jumped on Gwinnett prospects early, the UGA coaches have waited until much later in the process to show that kind of attention.

"They think because they're the Georgia Bulldogs, they can come in late (on recruits) and get whoever they want," one local coach told me two years ago.

But those days are gone.

UGA doesn't have the same kind of aura. The Bulldog coaches can't lock down the borders and haul in whoever they want among the state's top prospects.

Sure, there will always be a group of kids who grew up wanting to be Bulldogs. But for everyone else, the UGA coaches will need to work hard, and work hard early in the process, to land them.

Alabama has inked six Gwinnett players in the past few years, including Buford's Kurt Freitag and Dillon Lee this year. Lee, whose brother Dallas plays for UGA, likely would have considered joining him in Athens if the Bulldogs hadn't waited so long to show serious interest.

LSU (Peachtree Ridge's Kevin Minter, Buford's Vadal Alexander), Florida (Buford's Omar Hunter), Ohio State (Peachtree Ridge's Cameron Heyward and Brad Roby), Tennessee (North Gwinnett's Ja'Wuan James, Norcross' Jason Croom) and Auburn (North's C.J. Uzomah) have all landed prized recruits from a county just down the road from Athens in recent years.

Meanwhile, UGA's impact on the Gwinnett recruiting scene has waned. Earlier this month on National Signing Day, the Bulldogs didn't sign a single player from Gwinnett while Alabama plucked the Buford duo and LSU grabbed Alexander.

It's clear that Richt doesn't want to be shut out again in Gwinnett, a county that has produced standouts for him like David Greene, Davey Pollack, the Stinchcomb brothers, Rennie Curran, Brandon Coutu and Drew Butler, among many others.

The Bulldogs have already offered these Gwinnett juniors: Grayson's Robert Nkemdiche and Wayne Gallman, Norcross' Alvin Kamara, Central Gwinnett's Trey Johnson, Mill Creek's Kelsey Griffin, Buford's Josh Cardiello, Archer's Antonio Riles, South Gwinnett's Reginald Carter and North's Devondre Seymour.

We'll have to wait nearly a year to see how many of those players UGA signs, but one thing is already obvious -- UGA is hitting the Gwinnett recruits much harder, and with good reason.

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock. For Hammock's blog, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willsworld.