Are UGA and GT missing out on the state's best prospects?

There’s a high school in Georgia that currently leads the nation in top-tier football recruits, and none of them have signed yet with Georgia or Georgia Tech. And it may stay that way.

Stephenson High School is slated to have between 14-16 seniors sign Division I scholarships in February, and a dozen players have already made pledges — including seven to SEC schools. But none have committed to Mark Richt and the Bulldogs or Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets.

“We don’t steer our kids one way or the other to any schools,” said Stephenson head coach Ron Gartrell. “Our coaches work hard to give the kids plenty of options, and then each young man makes whatever decision is best for him and his family.”

Gartrell insists there is no rift between himself and Richt.

So, how can the state’s two biggest BCS-level schools be missing out?

The Bulldogs extended scholarship offers to two Stephenson players: defensive tackle Jafar Mann and linebacker Raphael Kirby. Mann committed to Florida after saying that he felt Georgia waited too late. He did, however, say that he “really wanted to go out of state.” Kirby committed to Miami after saying UGA “didn’t recruit me as hard as other schools.”

Check out highlights of DT Jafar Mann, who is headed to Gainesville.

The real miss for Richt, however, is Jarontay Jones, a defensive end considered to be the team’s No. 1 prospect. The lifelong Georgia fan was a frequent participant at UGA football camps since he was a ninth-grader, but the Bulldogs coaches wanted him to attend camp again before discussing a possible offer.

“At that time, I had 28 offers,” Jones said. “No disrespect to Georgia, but I had too many good options by then. I wanted to use my time getting to know the coaches better and visiting the colleges where I knew I had offers.”

As for the Yellow Jackets, former quarterback Reggie Ball was the last Stephenson product to play in Atlanta — and that’s a real problem as GT looks to compete consistently in the ACC. There has been speculation that a rift was created between Stephenson and GT after Ball’s college career ended unspectacularly. Ball’s father is a longtime Stephenson assistant.

Gartrell said he has never had any problems with Georgia Tech.

“I think Reggie’s situation at Georgia Tech was that he didn’t walk to talk to the media and I think that disturbed some people,” Gartrell said. “Reggie has ironed all that out now.

“We don’t have any problems with Paul Johnson. I don’t know him that well. I don’t know why our kids don’t go to Georgia Tech. We’ve got a lot of kids with really, really good grades this year. I would’ve thought Georgia Tech would’ve been after more of them. I don’t know if it should be ‘Are we upset with Georgia Tech?’ Maybe it should be ‘Is Georgia Tech upset with us?’”

The Yellow Jackets offered scholarships to Mann, Jones and running back Mike Davis, who is the younger brother of former Clemson star James Davis. Davis joined Mann in signing with Florida.

While the state of Georgia produces nearly 200 Division I recruits per season, one would think that the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets would have better luck keeping some of the Stephenson players in-state.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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