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COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: UGA gears up for crucial 'Dawg Night'; voice of Yellow Jackets lands with Fox Sports South

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

ATHENS -- In what should be the dead of summer, Daryl Jones might have been the most harried, flustered man on Georgia's campus Wednesday.

“But it's because of excitement,” he said.

Jones is the recruiting coordinator for the Georgia football program. And this weekend the team is holding its annual “Dawg Night,” which — along with last month's Mark Richt camp — is one of the team's most important recruiting events of the year.

Perhaps a few hundred high school prospects will participate in what Jones said amounts to a simulated spring ­practice. And many of them will be highly rated, sought-after recruits. A few will be less-heralded prospects with a chance to show Georgia coaches they can play at this level.

If there are headlines from the event, they will be if a player commits. But the real impact is long-term, as Georgia's entire staff evaluates which prospects to pursue.

For the ones they're already pursuing, Georgia's staff gets a chance to show them what life would be like in Athens.

“That is the benefit from scheduling these on campus,” said Rusty Mansell, the recruiting analyst for Dawgs247.com who also runs football camps, mainly during the spring. “You don't get to see that anywhere else. You get to have your own evaluation. You get to get your own height and weight. You get to have your own meeting with the kid on campus.”

In other words, it's one thing to watch film of a player, or watch him on his high school team, or even at an all-star event at a neutral site. It's another thing to watch him on your own practice field or stadium, in what is essentially a simulated practice.

The camps have been going on for a very long time. Jones attended similar camps when he was a high school player. He worked them in the early 1980s as a high school coach. What might have changed is the player's approach to them, how many players can attend and which camps the star prospects attend.

"I think prospects are becoming more savvy in that they are choosing specific camps to attend, based on where they are with recruiting," Jones said. "There's some thought behind, some scheme behind, the camps they're attending. Say, a highly rated prospect, he likes Georgia and he knows Georgia likes him, he's certainly putting that on his docket of places to go this summer."

As you would suspect, the NCAA heavily regulates such camps. There are 15-day windows during each of the three summer months in which to hold them, but teams tend to limit them to weekends. (Alabama and Florida are holding camps next weekend.)

During the camp itself, a school is allowed to provide recruits meals, clothing and lodging that are "realistically" priced.

"You can't give away a sirloin steak for a McDonald's hamburger price," Jones said. "And compliance combs through everything from our flier on how we promote the camp to how we conclude the camp by giving someone a meal that we've paid for. And everything in between."

The other noteworthy rule is that every camp has to be open to the public. Teams can't just invite a few prospects they'd like to see. So the amount of campers is hard to predict because of same-day registration.

Jones and his staff have made a real push to increase the numbers at the camp, with the intention of getting elite prospects there or possible under-the-radar ones. Jones said UGA sent out more than 3,000 emails to promote its camps and have worked the phones to spread the word with high school coaches.

And that's not just limited to Jones and his recruiting staff. The team's assistant coaches have taken a lead role, according to Jones, who said one assistant was up at 1 a.m. conversing via social media with a prospect on the West Coast.

"What goes unnoticed, and untalked about, is really the personal (work) the assistant coaches put in," Jones said.

This isn't the only weekend that Georgia has camps like this. There was Richt's camp, as well as 7-on-7 camps prior to that. But this is the final camp, and since it comes a few weeks before the start of preseason practice, it can be the final impression coaches and recruits have of each other.

Georgia has typically gotten a few commitments during these camps. That gets the attention, but it's not a loss if it doesn't happen.

For instance -- and Jones couldn't comment on this -- Lorenzo Carter, one of the nation's top prospects, is reportedly set to be at the camp. No one expects him to commit. But the Bulldogs want him leaving Athens with a very positive feeling.

This weekend basically amounts to an unofficial visit.

"Unofficial visits are more important than official visits these days, in my opinion," Mansell said.

The commitment process at the camp can go both ways. Two years ago, Georgia sealed the deal with top recruits John Theus and Tramel Terry during Dawg Night. Last month, Gilbert Johnson and Jake Edwards were two recruits who badly wanted to go to Georgia and used the Mark Richt Camp to earn offers from the Bulldogs coaches. They committed on the spot.

"We're putting a lot of effort into evaluating (prospects) and driving registration to get them there," Jones said. "And if we are fortunate enough to get a commitment, we are obviously excited to get one of those. And if not, we continue to fight for commitments until we feel we've got the amount of commitments that we have roster space for."


Voice of Georgia Tech headed to Fox Sports

ATLANTA — Even when Wes Durham came in to audition for a play-by-play job with Fox Sports South in May, his would-be employers still weren't sure he would actually leave his position at Georgia Tech. Then the tryout began, with Durham and a color analyst hopeful calling the action on an old game.

"It didn't take too long," Fox Sports South executive producer Randy Stephens said. "I kind of looked at one of my colleagues who was running the auditions with me (and said), 'He's too good.' "

Wednesday, the news became official that Durham's landing spot after 18 award-winning years as the beloved voice of the Yellow Jackets will be the Atlanta-based cable outlet. After a career on radio that was spawned as an undergrad at Elon College (now Elon University), a new challenge will greet Durham for his first broadcast, the Florida International-Maryland game Aug. 31 in College Park, Md.

"Obviously, the one (difference) is it's an entirely different medium," Durham said. "You're doing radio, you're essentially the producer, the announcer, the editor, the director. You are essentially the medium for somebody to be a part of the game. In television, obviously, you work with a bigger team. That's part of the mindset I have, is kind of getting into that medium and working with the talent that they've had on that package for years."

Stephens, who began at Fox Sports South in December, said he met Durham at a Tech basketball game with no intentions of luring him away from Tech. Later, Durham's agent, Mark Carmony, mentioned to Stephens that his client had some interest in television. Durham's ability and audition pushed the issue.

"He was very aware that one of the things we were looking for was whether he could give us a TV call rather than a radio call," Stephens said. "I think one of the tougher things guys who bounce back and forth from the two mediums find is that, on TV, you don't have to describe every little thing, but he was totally on board for taking that approach."

Durham, 47, will do 14 ACC football games a year along with another 40 or so basketball and baseball games. He will appear on broadcasts on regional sports networks throughout the ACC footprint.

"Our plan is to try to make him our man for all seasons on the ACC in football, basketball, baseball," Stephens said.

Durham will continue his duties as play-by-play voice for the Falcons, a job he has held since 2004.

The search for Durham's replacement at Tech is well underway. IMG College, which is Tech's multimedia rights holder, has narrowed its list of roughly 150 applicants down to 30. Officials from Tech and IMG College will meet soon to trim the list to about seven candidates, who will be brought in for interviews.

Among known applicants are WXIA sports anchor Randy Waters, who is also the analyst for Tech basketball; Citadel play-by-play voice Danny Reed; and Mike Morgan, who is the Gwinnett Braves television voice, occasionally appears on 790 the Zone and previously called South Carolina football, basketball and baseball. Another who has thrown in his hat is Tech student Nolan Alexander, who has called Tech baseball games for the past three years on the student radio station WREK.

"How many times does this position come open?" asked Alexander. "I felt like there's no reason not to apply."