ATHENS, Ga. - With 11 prospects already committed to its 2011 recruiting class, Georgia is off to a strong start to this year's recruiting cycle. Though Mark Richt and his staff are far from finished with 2011, they are also fast at work on recruiting and evaluating the class of 2012. On Saturday, Georgia displayed that focus on the future by hosting a camp that featured some of the top rising juniors in the southeast - and beyond.
Though there were plenty of impressive seniors on display in Athens, the storyline was really the junior class. The defensive back group was one of the deepest and most talented groups at the camp. Even among talented seniors like Gerrod Holliman and Andrew Johnson, a few underclassmen made names for themselves.
Atlanta (Ga.) St. Pius X cornerback Geno Smith is no stranger to competing in camps. At 5 feet 11, Smith has good length, extremely good recovery skills and instincts. He was extremely effective in coverage at the camp.
Deon Bush of Miami (Fla.) Columbus measured in a little taller than 6 feet and ran in the 4.5 range in the 40. With the size to grow into a safety, Bush really has cornerback cover abilities. Bush is the type of big cornerback that intrigues Georgia's defensive coaches. By the end of the summer, he will have likely emerged as one of the top 2012 prospects in south Florida.
Another cornerback prospect that impressed was Trae Elston out of Oxford, Ala. Elston already holds a host of scholarship offers despite his underclassman status. He showed the hips and coverage ability that legitimizes that interest. Another big corner, Elston measured in at just shorter than 6 feet. He may not have elite speed, but he does have a tremendous feel for the position.
Another rising Oxford junior, Kwon Alexander, has received more interest than Elston. Alexander is an athletic outside linebacker that flies to the football. Though he is only about 6 feet 1, he plays even longer than that. Alexander had a good day, but he really excels when the pads are strapped on.
On the offensive side of the ball, 2012 skill position prospects C.J. Curry and D.J. Goodman stood out at the camp.
This was the second appearance in front of Georgia coaches this summer in which Curry impressed. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder competed at wide receiver and looked very sharp getting upfield and catching the football. He is a fluid athlete that has natural ball-skills. Athletically, Curry does things with ease. He was effective at wide receiver on Saturday but has the body and versatility to project to safety as well.
Goodman showed up late to the camp, but as a back with good size (5-1, 185) he ran extremely well - reporting times in the 4.5 range. He showed very good pass-catching skills in position drills, good feet and balance and a frame that should add weight with ease. Look for Goodman to emerge as one of the top backs in South Carolina for the class of 2012.
The skill positions weren't the only places that were populated with young talent. In a talented camp on both sides of the line of scrimmage, some of the best performers were also from the 2012 class.
Perhaps no one had a stronger performance on the offensive line - in any class - than Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles offensive tackle John Theus. Theus has a great offensive line body at 6 feet 6 and 286 pounds. He also has athleticism, toughness and a blue-collar mentality when he's competing.
It was no surprise that Theus left Athens with an offer after his performance. He has the talent to develop into one of the top offensive tackles in the nation in the 2012 class.
Auburn, Ala., offensive lineman Caleb Peterson was very effective. Listed as a tackle at 6 feet 4 and 290 pounds, Peterson may be actually end up on the inside in college. Though Peterson doesn't have the athleticism of some other prospects, he does have great knee bend, good flexibility and hips. He showed a very effective pass set. Peterson already holds offers from Alabama, Auburn and Southern Miss, and many more will likely be on the way.
Defensively, no one quite looked the part like Jonathan Taylor and Patrick Gamble. Gamble stands 6 feet 4 and weighs 275 pounds; Taylor is 6 feet 4 and 315 pounds. Each has terrific athleticism at that size.
With Taylor's size and nimble feet, offense may even be in his future. Late in the day, with Norcross defensive end Silverberry Mouhon dominating the edge with his speed and athleticism, Georgia offensive line coach Stacy Searels called for help from Taylor and lined him up at offensive tackle. Though he barely knew how to get in a pass-blocking stance and had clearly never been coached in a pass-set before, Taylor stymied Mouhon and showed a world of potential at the offensive tackle position.
The influx of 2012 talent was impressive, but there were certainly plenty of 2011 players on hand that made impressions as well. One who stood out was Ty Montgomery. The Stanford commitment made the trip to Athens from Dallas, and he made every play worth it.
Montgomery has a reputation as a fluid route-runner with sure hands and a strong frame. On Saturday, Montgomery flashed all of those attributes while also adding pure speed in a simply dominating performance. After clocking in at better than a 4.5 in the 40, Montgomery put that speed to work in the one-on-ones. He got behind defenders with speed or left them skating around because of his feet and route-running. His stock certainly looks to be on the rise after this camp. In fact, he could be a tough prospect for the Cardinal to hang on to in the end.
Griffin, Ga., athlete Nile Daniel didn't have anything to prove on the speed front, but he still came through with a blistering 40 time. He then showed the ability to make big plays in the pass game at receiver while also punching in on the defensive side of the ball. At 6 feet and 170 pounds, Daniel has the versatility and size to play either offense or defense on the next level. He clearly looks more comfortable on offense at the moment. But long-term, his upside may be higher as a defender.
A couple of massive linemen that had strong performances were Zach Debell and Watts Dantzler. Dantzler, 6-7 and 330 pounds, is one of the biggest prospects in the 2011 class. However, there have been questions about his quickness. On Saturday, he looked to have made some strides in that area. His feet have shown improvement and he is beginning to learn to play in his big body. Debell is a player that will likely continue to add weight to his big frame but already has loads of athleticism. His natural ability is what has coaches intrigued, but Debell still has some work to do on his technique.
On the other side of the ball, Lonnie Gosha showed some great quickness and explosiveness at defensive tackle. He is slightly undersized, but as an athletic, pursuing and penetrating defensive tackle, Gosha has a lot of ability.
COMMITMENTS ON DISPLAY
Georgia's 2011 class was very well-represented at the event. Quarterback Christian LeMay, defensive end Sterling Bailey, linebacker Amarlo Herrera, safety Corey Moore, wide receiver Chris Conley and center David Andrews were all in attendance. They all were competing as if they were still fighting to earn a spot on Georgia's roster.
While all had good days in front of their future coaches, Conley may have the best case for top performance among the group. Playing at wide receiver, Conley has both good size and great speed. He stands 6 feet 2 and weighs 200 pounds, and he ran in the low 4.4 range. That kind of athleticism offers a high ceiling for Conley at receiver, though he is hardly raw. He showed great playmaking ability on the day, catching balls at all levels of the defense.
If Conley gets the nod for top performance by a Bulldog, Moore should get an honorable mention nod for best attitude. Moore came to the camp as a Georgia commitment and had every excuse to just go through the motions. But he took rep after rep in one-on-ones, taking on all challengers and working to get better under the watchful eye of defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos.
Though he has plenty of athletic ability and feel for the defensive back position, Moore's competitive attitude is one of the most encouraging aspects of his game.
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