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The 912 is Here to Stay

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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The 912 area code is finally getting the respect it deserves in the recruiting game.

The 912 area code is finally getting the respect it deserves in the recruiting game.

Georgia has long been one of the nation’s preeminent producers of college football talent, just behind the likes of Florida, California, and Texas. In fact, last year, Georgia actually surpassed the Lone Star State to grab ahold of a spot in the top three, thanks in large part to its southeastern region.

The area has always had talent, but in the past few years has experienced a renaissance of sorts -- a golden age, if you will. This could be due to a couple of reasons: improved coaching, an unparalleled talent pool, and increased exposure from ever increasing media coverage, the expanding camp circuit, and the ability, via social media, to self promote like never before.

From NFLers like former Brunswick High Pirates Darius Slay and Justin Coleman, to MCA Buccaneer Allen Bailey, to Savannah Christian Raider Jalen Myrick, to Bradwell Institute Tiger Ulrick John, to Liberty County Panther Raekwon McMillan, to Camden County Wildcat Jarrad Davis, the 912 is no stranger to star power.

That is reflected by a more recent wave of talent including two of the nation’s most highly touted prospects last year, Richard LeCounte and Deejay Dallas. Those national recruits paved the way for this year’s top guys, Ware County’s Ernest Jones, Liberty’s Tramel Walthour, and Richmond Hill’s Sam James, for example. They will, in turn, continue the work done by their predecessors, making things that much easier for Warren McClendon, Curtis Fann, Kalen DeLoach, Jashawn Sheffield, and Jaylin Simpson.

With all due respect, it used to feel like pulling teeth to get a college coach to travel south of Atlanta. Now, scroll through a couple days worth of tweets and you’ll see pictures of Nick Saban at Brunswick High while Dan Mullen is at Frederica Academy while Kirby Smart is at Benedictine and Dabo Swinney is at Islands.

The depth, though, is what separates the current crop of 912 talent from those that laid the foundation from which the Class of 2019, the next year’s class, and a number of classes for the foreseeable future will reap the rewards.

Brunswick High, for instance, saw 13 players sign to play collegiately today and during the early signing period. Aubrey Williams, a Pirate that signed with Navy, said, “For all the younger kids to see how much talent came through really shows them that it's doable. It's really important because they're the next in line.”

Power Five players from southeast Georgia is not a new phenomenon -- the difference is the volume of high caliber prospects.

Last year, the area set a record for its own Division I signees. Today, that record was broken. Next year that record will be broken again. There’s no telling when it will stop, but it won’t be anytime soon.

Newly minted Chattanooga Moc, Ben Brewton from Beach, told the Southern Pigskin Radio Network, “It's great to see so many guys from our area signing. We haven't seen anything like this in years.”

For far too long the 912 was forgotten, save a few undeniable superstars -- that still may not have gotten the credit they deserved. Those players went to college, made it happen, and found further success in the ranks of the NFL.

Their abilities made it too difficult to ignore the 912 any longer. However, it still wasn’t worth it to a lot of coaches, inexplicably, to make the trek down. The stars by the names of McMillan and LeCounte and Dallas changed that.

Now it’s not just the guys with stars. Offers speak louder than recruiting services. Ask the only unbeaten team in 2017, UCF, about southeast Georgia. Last week alone they offered more 2019 prospects than you can count on one hand from the area.

Ask defending national champion Alabama about the 912. They got in the action for Kalen DeLoach and Micah Morris last week.

Ask the reigning SEC Coach of the Year, Kirby Smart, why Georgia became the first Power Five program to pull the trigger on 2020 RB Rico Powers.

Ask Winston Wright about how he needs another hand to count all of his offers, despite only being a three star according to the people that don’t have the power to give out scholarships.

The answer is that these young men gave them no choice. Like it or not, to be taken seriously as a football program in the southeastern United States, there’s no option but to have a presence in southeastern Georgia. Back when there were a couple of big names and a more pronounced drop off after that, schools could get away with it. That’s no longer the case.

And they don’t just produce talent there, they produce leaders, they produce men, they keep the student in student-athlete. Javonte Middleton and Dez'Mond Brinson are prime examples of that.

This is the home of a plurality of difference makers. This is where country strong grows up. This is where SEC speed resides. This is the house that Tyrone Scott jumped over and Jalynn Strickland flattened.

This is the 912 -- one of the nation’s premier recruiting hotbeds -- and it’s here to stay. Where the ceiling is, there’s no telling; the only sure thing is that we can’t yet see it.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP