Recruiting is an art-form that football geeks like me try to turn into a science. In today’s world, numbers are everything. Analytics, algorithms, and metrics dominate every facet of life. Information is king. Finding the “Jimmys and Joes” has never been more dissected than it is today.
Sites like 247Sports, Rivals, and Scout do the Lord’s work by combing through thousands of Hudl highlight films every year, from kids across the nation, and do their best to assign them a grade and a star-designation. What’s the difference between a player who’s a 78 and a 2-star vs. an 83 and a 3-star? Who the heck knows? But the scouts at these sites use the numbers at their disposal (size, speed, production) and do the best they can.
We must work within this paradigm; it’s the only choice we have. The older ‘crootin’ standard-bearers like Rivals and Scout barely even bother covering G5 schools, so that leaves a lot of us at the mercy of the all-powerful 247Sports.com. The first and last voice in all things recruiting at the G5 level.
The site’s rise has been meteoric. Founded in 2010, bought by CBS Sports in 2015, 247Sports has way more resources than Rivals or Scout. For nutjobs like me that pay actual-real-live-currency for insider subscriptions, it’s an invaluable resource. For the casual fan, it’s a site that you might visit once a year in early February. It’s methadone for people going through college football withdrawals. So let’s indulge, shall we? It’s a long offseason, any reason to talk about football is a good reason.
Georgia Southern Finishes Signing Day with the #1 class in the Sun Belt
Georgia Southern just finished it’s worst season in the modern era. 2016 wasn’t much better either, the 4th worst season in the modern era. Eagles fans had absolutely no reason to expect anything more than maybe a top-half finish in the SBC this recruiting cycle. Perhaps even that was too greedy. I figured due to Statesboro’s location among the most fertile recruiting ground in the country, that Georgia Southern would fall bass-ackwards into a couple three stars. Wednesday’s haul went beyond mine and just about everyone else’s wildest expectations.
What am I talking about? What was so good about this class? When will I stop rambling and get to the red-meat?
All excellent questions, let me summarize. Here are all the 3-stars that Georgia Southern signed Wednesday:
- Quin Williams – OLB/DE – 6’2 240 – 89 rating, borderline 4-star, highest rated recruit in all of G5. Had offers from: Oklahoma, Florida, Michigan. Tennessee, FSU, and a dozen other schools. How did GS land him? The only theory I have is that he’s friends with GS basketball star Tookie Brown, went to the same high school. That’s my only lead. I’m just glad to have him.
- Justin Birdsong – CB – 5’11 175 – 85 rating, this guy made me nervous all-day. He was the last kid to have his name called during the NSD show. His final four was down to Iowa State, Duke, App State, and GS. Hat-tip to Justin Judy for calling this commitment days ago. Lock-down corner.
- Brandon Cross – CB – 5’10 182 – 86 rating, originally committed to Tennessee reneged after their coaching change. Lunsford & Co. locked him in during his official visit to campus earlier this month. Adding Cross and Birdsong to a secondary that already has Monquavion Brinson and Kindle Vildor means the skies over Paulson Stadium (as well as other SBC stadiums) could turn into Iraq during the ’90s. #NoFlyZone
- Andrew Cunningham – RB – 6’1 215 – 84 rating, might of been a 4-star recruit if not for a senior year knee injury. The Tampa product had offers from practically every school between Mexico and Canada. He’s a big physical runner. Could easily see him slide into the LA Ramsby-bruiser type role after he fully recovers.
- Scoobie Ford – WR – 5’10 170 – 84 rating, Marietta HS product, chose GS over Virginia Tech and West Virginia. Fast and shifty. Did a bit of everything in high school. Projected to play in the slot.
- Davarius Bargnare – WR – 5’11 165 – 83 rating, out of Orlando, specifically Dr. Phillips HS, which won the Florida 8-A state championship. Can play outside or inside, Bob DeBesse mentioned him lining up mostly in the slot at the next level. DeBesse likes to use wide receivers in the pitch game, Ford and Bargnare could be dangerous weapons in that set-up.
- Parker Devine – DE – 6’4 250 – 83 rating, Sacksonville product committed after his official visit, as you can read here. Had offers from West Virginia, Mississippi State, Purdue, and Kentucky, among others. You can see him evolving into a good 3-4 DE.
- Elijah Campbell – DE – 6’2 244 – 82 rating, committed to the Eagles last summer, but did not sign in December for whatever reason. Played DT in high school, he’ll need to bulk up to play NT in the 3-4 scheme, but a summer or two in the weight room and he has potential to be a 3-4 DE like Devine. High-motor.
- Aaron Dowdell – OG – 6’5 310 – 81 rating, Georgia Military transfer. Immediate depth on the interior of the offensive line which was hit with injuries last season. Probably will have the most impact out-of-the-gate than any other recruit in the class.
- Jontavious Ferguson – ILB – 6’1 210 – 80 rating, a December signee, originally committed to UCF until Scott Frost left. Might have the best camera presence out of the entire class.
Those are just the 3-stars. Georgia Southern signed 11 more athletes in addition to the guys listed above, including guys that, for whatever reason rated just below the sacred 80 threshold. Whether it be QBs like Justin Tomlin or Tre Allen or DBs like Zyon McGee, Najee Thompson, Javon Reid, or Deontae Grant; it is a well balanced class across the board. Read more about the December commitments here.
Underestimate Chad Lunsford at your peril. The man gets it. He has charisma. Maybe I’m drinking the Kool-Aid too much, but heck I like Kool-Aid. I’ve been a one-man pep squad for the guy since he became Head Coach. I’ve had to defend the hire and his salary to more friends than I care to count. I know I must sound like a fanboy when I say that, but I’ve been watching this game a long time, hear me out.
- Inspired a downtrodden 0-9 squad to unexpected victories over South Alabama and UL-Lafayette. Leaving a trail of dented folding chairs in his wake.
- Perfected the art of “winning the press conference” by introducing phrases to the Eagle Nation lexicon like #ShowUpShowOut and #ChokeEmOut.
- Assembled a veteran coaching staff that put Tyson Summers’s staff to shame. Eagle fans have been mainlining Bob DeBesse-New Mexico highlights since his hiring. Scot Sloan left App State, and their recruiting class dropped to 8th in the conference (Sloan was the RC up there). Not to mention, Vic Cabral is back. What more do I need to say? When he’s in town the chicken is crunchier, the tea is sweeter, and the gnats don’t bite (as much). He just has that sort of effect.
- Last, but certainly not least, is the way Chad Lunsford markets the program. From the insanely good graphics department led by Drew Morris (fellow Brookwood High School grad), to the professional National Signing Day show that streamed on ESPN3 and Facebook Live; Lunsford gets that aesthetics matters in college football. Impressing teenagers these days is not an easy task, they have more options today than ever. But no matter what era you’re in, kids always like shiny things (trust me I’m a teacher). Lunsford and this staff get that.
Georgia Southern Twitter is my residence, as some of you are aware. Plain and simple, this coaching staff hustled their asses off since the end of the season to get the Eagles to this point. The coaching staff spent more time at high schools than Roy Moore did during the ’80s (too soon?). The official campus visits during January were particularly fruitful. Once this staff got these kids on campus, the sales pitch was easy.
Southern returns the 3rd most defensive production and the 12th most offensive production in the country. Last year’s team was young, they have taken their lumps, and hopefully learned a thing or two along the way. Toss the best recruiting class in the country on top of that, who knows what could happen?
It’s only February, but it feels as if winter is finally over in Statesboro. The energy is back; the talent is back, the option is back, VIC MOTHERFUCKIN’ CABRAL is back. The two-year vacation the rest of the conference experienced from 2016-17 is over, buckle up because you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.