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Recruiting mail continues to pour into Valdosta for Georgia-bound linebacker Mike Gilliard. But Valdosta coach Rick Tomberlin believes that Gilliard, who is rated by Scout.com as the 24th-best weakside linebacker in the nation, will fulfill his commitment to the Dogs. “The folks at Michigan are calling him,” Tomberlin said. “He’ll come in and say ‘the coaches at Michigan want me to take an official visit.’” But don’t expect the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Gilliard, an AJC’s The Georgia Top 150 selection, to show up in Ann Arbor, Mich. anytime soon. “He’s a red and black bulldog all the way,” Tomberlin said. During stints at Lowndes and Washington County, Tomberlin coached greats such as Takeo Spikes, Demetro Stephens, Randall Godfrey, Robert Edwards, Terrance Edwards and Chris Edwards. How does Gilliard stack up against this talent? “I think Mike is in that club, or role, with these guys,” Tomberlin said. “I think we’ll have to wait and look at his whole senior year before we can really evaluate. “But there’s no doubt that he can be a great player on the collegiate level, and maybe go on to the level beyond that.”
An early kickoff and non-SEC opponent were the primary reasons Georgia coaches wound up entertaining just a handful of recruits during the season opener against Georgia Southern on Saturday. Recruits at the game included Georgia commits Mike Gilliard of Valdosta, Abry Jones of Northside Warner Robins and Oconee County quarterback Zach Mettenberger. They were joined by senior receiver Michael Bowman of Ridgeland and Griffin junior MarKeith Ambles. “I think [the small turnout] was because it was a 12:30 p.m. game, and a lot of people didn’t want to make the trip,” said Mettenberger, who lives about 10 miles from Sanford Stadium. Mettenberger said Aaron Murray of Plant Senior (Fla.) High, Georgia’s other commitment at quarterback, is expected to visit Athens later this season. “Aaron is coming up for the Alabama and Vanderbilt games,” he said.
Mike Gilliard, a linebacker from Valdosta, said he has decided to play at Georgia. The 6-3, 205-pound linebacker is the third linebacker commitment for the class. Emanuel County Institute's Dexter Moody and Chestatee's Chase Vasser committed in January. At the time of Moody and Vasser's commitments it was believed Georgia would only add another linebacker if Columbus' Jarvis Jones was interested. Jones is considered the top linebacker prospect in the state and one of the top 40 players nationally. But Gilliard was also in Georgia's sights. In addition, the trio of linebackers now committed gives Georgia some possible versatility. Moody also can play safety. The 6-4 Vasser may also grow into a defensive end. "[The depth] at linebacker was something that I looked at, " Gilliard said. "But I am not trying to be cocky or anything, but I think I can go in there an outwork them. I'm confident. I think I am the best." Gilliard averaged 9.3 tackles per game last season, had eight sacks and two interceptions. According to Scout.com, Gilliard is a three-star prospect. Rivals.com considers Gilliard a four-star prospect. Gilliard chose Georgia over Georgia Tech and Florida. Georgia is expected to secure no more than 20 commitments this recruiting season.
Georgia coach Mark Richt welcomed 86 high school players for "Dawg Night" prospect camp on July 18. The most celebrated prospect in attendance was Branden Smith of Atlanta's Washington High. Smith, considered one of the nation's top cornerbacks with around 25 offers, opted not to participate in the camp. Defensive end Abry Jones of Northside-Warner Robins, who has committed to Georgia, was also an observer. However, three Georgia commitments decided to go through the workouts: lineman Dallas Lee of Buford, linebacker Michael Gilliard of Buford, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger of Oconee County. Mettenberger looked much sharper and crisp with both his technique and throws that he did at another Georgia camp earlier in the summer. He seemed to quickly develop chemistry with wide receiver Rantavious Wooten of Belle Glades, Fla. Wooten was perhaps the camp's most impressive player with his speed and quickness, attracting the attention of Richt and other members of the Georgia staff.
Linebacker Nico Johnson of Andalusia, Ala., one of the nation's top prospects, has said he will reconsider Georgia's scholarship offer if the Bulldogs coaches let him know he's still wanted. Earlier this summer, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Johnson said he got the understanding that Georgia had withdrawn its scholarship offer after three other linebackers committed to the Bulldogs. When pressed on where he got that information on Tuesday night, Johnson said, "One of my friends told me that. They either heard or read that Georgia was full at linebacker and not going to sign any more. So I guess I believed it." Georgia coaches are not allowed to comment on prospective student-athletes. Johnson again denied rumors he was close to committing to Alabama, saying he has no favorites. "I haven't talked to them in a while, but I would look hard at Georgia if they need more linebackers, " he said. "It's a great program, about the same as Alabama. A great defense, and just a great program." Johnson is ranked as the nation's No. 30 overall prospect by Rivals. Georgia has commitments from three players who are listed as linebackers, although they could change positions in college: Chase Vasser of Chestatee, Michael Gilliard of Valdosta and Dexter Moody of Emanuel County Institute. The Bulldogs are also in the running for linebacker Jarvis Jones of Carver-Columbus, arguably the state's No. 1 prospect.