If anyone knows talent at linebacker, it is Valdosta Head Coach Rick Tomberlin. He has coached guys like Takeo Spikes and Randall Godfrey, and now he coaches Michael Gilliard. His star linebacker has committed to UGA and Coach Tomberlin talked with us about how it all started for Gilliard, how he compares with his former backers, what the Dawgs are getting, and how he feels about his commitment.
"We put a little highlight tape together on Michael after the 2007 season and all the schools that saw it said he was an ACC and SEC type player immediately," said Coach Tomberlin.
"I have a friend that coaches at Ball State and he saw it and told me that they were not going to be able to touch him because he was that good."
That was what Coach Tomberlin was told in early January of 2008 before any offers were in. Georgia was one of the first schools to inquire about the athletic linebacker and the Dawgs liked what they saw right away.
"We sent film to Georgia to Coach [Mike] Bobo and he called right back and told me that they have to get him up for junior day. When talking to Coach Bobo, he told me that he thought Mike would be a spring time offer guy now that they have seen him on film."
The offer came a lot sooner than that. The Dawgs sent four coaches down in late January to put an eye on Gilliard as he lifted weights at Valdosta. An offer came that afternoon after Mike Bobo, Willie Martinez, John Jancek, and Head Coach Mark Richt left the South Georgia school.
Georgia offered first and they were followed by schools like Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, Miami, and many others.
Coach Tomberlin knew he had a special player in more than one way.
"There are a lot of great players out there - the ACC and SEC schools recruit nothing but Blue-Chip athletes - I told all of those coaches that they might could find a player as good, but they would never find a player with better character," he said.
"He has a great work ethic, he is a great student, he is a great leader, he is a great role model in our school, and he is just a great young man."
If anyone knows talent at linebacker it would be the Valdosta Head Coach. He has coached some talent at that position over the years and Gilliard reminds him one of the best.
"I've been blessed to coach some great linebackers - I have had Randall Godfrey who was a second round pick for the Dallas Cowboys after going to the University of Georgia, I have had Takeo Spikes who was a first round pick after leaving Auburn, I had Demetro Stephens who was a captain at Florida State, and I had Chris Edwards who was a starter at Georgia Tech, so I have had some good ones."
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