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February 25, 2012

Ga. RB tradition continues with 2013 class

MORE: Karmara gets 105 UA letters in one day

Alvin Kamara has an admission to make. During football season, the Norcross (Ga.) running back often checks the web to see how the other top players at his position from Georgia are doing.

"I think any good running back would do that to see what you're up against," Kamara said.

What Kamara and the other class-of-2013 Peach State running backs are up against is impressive. With next year's National Signing Day more than 11 months away, 11 Georgia junior backs already are reporting Division I-A (FBS) offers.

Only Florida (23) and California (12) have more.

"Year in and year out, you're going to have great running backs in the state of Georgia," said Keith Maloof of Norcross, who has been a head coach for 16 years.

In a state that has produced the likes of Herschel Walker, Ronnie Brown, Robert Edwards, Garrison Hearst and Eddie Lee Ivery this is about what one would expect.

That said, it's starting to look as though the 2013 class could be one of the best Georgia has had in recent memory. Since 2008, the state has never had more than 15 backs (tailbacks and fullbacks combined) sign with Division I-A programs. With 11 already having offers - and more players earning their first offers seemingly every week -- the Peach State appears to be on a path to surpass that number.

"The kids are working hard and getting better and better each year," Maloof said. "There are just a lot of kids that can play right now. It shows what kind of state it is."

While there may not be a five-star back in the class from Georgia, the 2013 group nonetheless is very strong at the top. Two players - Tyren Jones of Marietta Walton and Tyshon Dye of Elberton Elbert County - are in the Rivals250 and a third, Kamara, also already has earned a fourth star.

Jones, a 5-foot-9, 195-pound back with power and speed, committed to Alabama last week. Dye, who is 6-feet, 200 pounds, has offers from programs such as Clemson, Georgia, North Carolina, USC, South Carolina and Tennessee. Meanwhile, the 5-10, 190-pound Kamara claims double-digit offers and is so coveted by the Crimson Tide, coach Nick Saban and his staff recently sent him 105 recruiting letters on the same day.

All three recently competed in the Rising Seniors Georgia Junior Bowl.

A look at the number of Division I-A (FBS) running back (fullbacks included) signees the state of Georgia has produced the past five years (number of prospect with four or five stars in parentheses)
Year D-I RBs
2012 14 (2)
2011 13 (2)
2010 15 (5)
2009 14 (2)
2008 15 (1)
"Who stands out?" Kamara said. "Tyshon does a lot. He's pretty big. He can really move for how big he is. And Tyren, of course. He's great. He has speed and he has power. And he's shifty."

Several other backs in the class are solid, too. Peyton Barber of Alpharetta Milton, Keyante Green of McDonough Eagle's Landing Christian, Travis Custis of Hampton Lovejoy, Wayne Gallman of Grayson, Quinten James of North Cobb, Joshua Mercer of Guyton South Effingham and Kamani Thomas of Dallas East Paulding are a few that come to mind.

Barber, who missed most of the 2011 season because of injury, still has six offers. Green committed to UCLA last week. Custis recently was offered by Miami and Georgia Tech. Gallman has four Southeast Conference offers and two more from the ACC. James owns Big Ten and SEC offers. Mercer is being pursued by Florida and others. Thomas claims offers from four different conferences.

Barber, who is visiting Kentucky this weekend, was a teammate of both Jones and Kamara in the youth leagues of the metro-Atlanta area. He sometimes watches their recent video highlights "just to see how their running styles are."

"They're good," Barber said. "But I think I compare pretty much equally. I definitely feel that way. I just wasn't able to showcase what I could do last year because of the (left ankle) injury. I think I'm an all-purpose back. I catch the ball extremely well. I'm explosive. I have good speed and good vision."

Asked if he kept tabs on the other tailbacks competing in the Georgia Junior Bowl (Custis, Green, James and Thomas also took part), Dye replied, "No sir. The only one I really watched was Tyren. He's smooth. Super smooth. He's one of the quickest, if not the quickest, back in our class. But I think I play at the same speed."

According to Dye, he's more worried about his game than those of the other top running backs in Georgia.

"I'm just trying to prove I can be one of the best," he said.

Kamara echoed those sentiments, but admitted he listens to the opinions of others.

"I'd be lying if I said I don't care about people thinking I'm one of the best," he said. "But really, what I'm trying to do is do what I can do to get better."

Keith Niebuhr can be reached at Keithrivals@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @KeithRIVALS.



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