ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia football coach Mark Richt admitted Wednesday that he would prefer no buzz on national signing day.
Who can blame him?
Bulldogs coaches received 18 letters-of-intent to ensure another solid recruiting class, but there was unwanted drama from one touted prospect who didn't. Linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons of Valdosta, Ga., a top-40 national prospect according to Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN, announced Wednesday morning on ESPNU that he would sign with the Bulldogs, but his letter-of-intent never arrived.
Woodrow Clemons, the grandfather and guardian of Harvey-Clemons, has to sign the letter in order for him to become the 19th signee. Richt was interviewed on ESPNU immediately after the announcement and discussed Harvey-Clemons, which may have resulted in a secondary violation since he had not yet signed.
The unexpected mess, which could be resolved as early as today, overshadowed a crop that recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner believes covered everything across the board.
"We are extremely excited about the class we were able to put together," Garner said. "Everybody in this program really worked hard to achieve the goal that we achieved today, and it started out this fall with our players and when we started out 0-2. What they were able to accomplish when they put their heads down and got focused and were able to reel off 10 straight wins set the tone and foundation for what we are achieving today."
Georgia signed five members of Rivals.com's top 100 -- offensive tackle John Theus (No. 23), tailbacks Todd Gurley (No. 42) and Keith Marshall (No. 48), defensive end/outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins (No. 56) and defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor (No. 72). Harvey-Clemons (No. 31) would give the Bulldogs six top-100 players.
As of Wednesday evening, Georgia's class was ranked fifth nationally by ESPN, 13th by Scout.com and 19th by Rivals.com. ESPN and Scout.com considered Harvey-Clemons a Bulldogs signee.
"I think recruiting rankings are way overrated," said Richt, who was brief with questions regarding Harvey-Clemons during an afternoon media session. "The bottom line on some of these services is that you would think it's a point system to where you've got to have 27 guys to have enough points to get ranked high. Other services will look at it objectively by each individual and recognize that sometimes you sign 18 and sometimes you sign 25.
"We've got some really quality guys who are going to come in and help this team."
Gurley and Marshall hail from North Carolina and are expected to compete for the starting spot a year after the Bulldogs signed Isaiah Crowell, ESPN's top-rated tailback last winter. Crowell rushed for 850 yards this past season but only 29 in Georgia's final four games due to an ankle injury.
Marshall already has enrolled and will join a mix this spring that includes Crowell, Richard Samuel, Ken Malcome and Carlton Thomas.
"The guys are going to compete," Bulldogs running backs coach Bryan McClendon said. "The best guys are going to play, and the best guy is going to start,"
Georgia's one quarterback signee is Faton Bauta, who also is an early enrollee. Bauta arrived as Rivals.com's No. 15 dual-threat quarterback, hardly matching the credentials of Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray, who were the No. 1 and No. 3 pro-style quarterbacks in the 2006 and '09 signing classes.
Bauta already is hearing about how he will switch positions before his time in Athens is through.
"My teammates are saying it, and my coaches are bothering me about it," Bauta said. "It's definitely motivation, because I do hear that I'm not going to play quarterback a lot."
Richt said two of Georgia's most important signees are kicker Marshall Morgan of Miami and punter Collin Barber of Cartersville. The Bulldogs were able to flip defensive end Josh Dawson from Vanderbilt's list of commitments but could not do the same to Auburn receiver signee JaQuay Williams.
Georgia also lost out to the Tigers for Avery Young, the offensive tackle from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Cajuns land Fields
Former Dalton High School defensive end Jalen Fields, who signed with Georgia in 2010 but failed to qualify, signed Wednesday with Louisiana-Lafayette. Fields spent the past two years at Georgia Military.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...