Freshman Meet and Greet: Georgia

The last couple of weeks have not been extremely cheerful for Georgia in the recruiting department. First, Lexie Priessman decided she wanted to get her LSU on instead, and now another Cincinnati verbal, Brianna Brown, has ditched the Gymdogs for the maize-encrusted tundra of Michigan. This is not a particularly surprising development considering the total overhaul of the Georgia staff and the recruiting connection Jay Clark made with CGA when he was head coach. Even though these gymnasts verbally committed after Jay had been removed from sight, the majority of the recruiting process took place under him. In truth, I’m only surprised it took this long. 

Some Georgia fans have been freaking out, but this is far from the end of the world for the Gymdogs and does not indicate some sort of mass shunning of the Georgia program. I wouldn’t read too much into it more than the normal changes and growing pains of a new regime. It will take time for Georgia to develop into a championship program again, which was always going to be the case. The team has not been on top of the heap for a few years, so they’re not going to get the type of recruits they brought in by the busload in Suzanne’s peak years, but this is still Georgia. The words “Georgia gymnastics” carry a cachet regardless of who is in charge. It’s still a brand name.

Because of these changes, though, an interesting conversation has arisen over what the identity of the Georgia program is now and if it even has one. To me, it seems that Georgia and Oklahoma have the potential to switch places in some sense. Now, it’s Oklahoma drawing in a bunch of the nation’s top recruits (a trend I expect to continue and grow), and it may be that Georgia must become the team to find those diamond-in-the-rough Level 10s or written-off gymnasts and turn them into contributors in these years where the elites are not coming in the numbers once expected. We saw last year with Christa Tanella’s suddenly strong season that Durante has the capability to change a gymnast’s course, so I could see that becoming the new Georgia identity.  

But enough of that future racket. For the year at hand, I’m interested to see if this team can maintain the upward trajectory of results having now lost a fairly significant group in Worley, Couch, and Tanella. The incoming group does not have nearly the same pedigree or name recognition, so this may need to be the first year of Project Diamond in the Rough.

Ashlyn Broussard is the biggest recruit in this class, a WOGA girl with standout skills on multiple events who could believably contribute anywhere. She finished 17th in Senior D this year but would have been top 10 comfortably if not for an iffy beam routine.

Vault – 2013

Bars – 2013

Beam – 2012

Floor – 2013 JO Nationals

I would say her most important apparatus for Georgia this year is going to be floor because the team is losing three routines from last year’s lineup and, with a double layout in her routine, Broussard is the only one of the freshmen showing tumbling more difficult than a double pike (from what I’ve seen), which makes her that much more valuable. It’s not the cleanest DLO, but it still shows the power potential for big tumbling if they elect not to go with that skill. The leaps are also strong enough for this to function as a complete routine.

She’ll be in the lineup conversation on the other events as well, with a good Yfull in particular, but I’m least focused on vault for these freshmen because I expect there to be only one opening on that event. There are a number of returning and new gymnasts capable of getting that 9.800-9.850 to fill that spot, of which Broussard is one. 

The rest of the class has bits and pieces of potential, but I don’t anticipate major lineup appearances from them. I expect their contribution to be spot routines, maybe making the beginning of a lineup or two, with a bunch of “I suppose it could work” exhibitions early in the year. Both Kiera Brown and Morgan Reynolds have the competitive skills to be realistic on several events, but they are largely middle of the pack and will have to show something new to stand out enough to make some lineups. The exception to that for both gymnasts could be bars. There will be some open spots at the beginning of the lineup this year leading up to the expected Jay, Rogers, Davis back half, so they could be in the fight there. 

I haven’t seen much from Brown in terms of recent routines, but she did compete at the Nastia and the Chicago Style this year, placing well on bars at both meets. She hits her feet on the piked tkatchev in this video, but the regular tkatchev she has shown in other routines is impressively high, and both the pak and the shaposh are executed cleanly.  

Kiera Brown – Bars – 2011

Kiera Brown – Vault – 2013

Reynolds competed in the same division as Broussard at JOs, finishing 12th in the AA but didn’t place in the top ten on any individual event. Still, on bars the potential for a precise handstand look is there (see the first one), and while there will be some areas of cleaning up, the jaeger and the pak are  executed well and she sticks the DLO in this routine, which is encouraging.

Morgan Reynolds – Bars – 2013

Morgan Reynolds – Floor – 2013

If I haven’t seen much from Kiera Brown in a while, I really haven’t seen anything from Rachel Schick in a while. It’s been over two years since she has competed because of ankle injuries, which means that everything is basically out the window. If she’s healthy and truly back, I think her form will be an asset to the team. She maintains straight legs on her acro skills on beam, and the same with her body shape on her Yfull (where she also gets good distance). She worked bars a ton during her injuries, as is customary, and while the potential has always been there, she’ll need a dismount. Danna has seemed bullish about her bars potential.

As for the others, Beth Roberts is another one of those NIT girls with fairly clean, relatively simply gymnastics, although she has stepped up the difficulty to a more competitive level than she was showing previously. Lauren Johnson is the final new one, and the main thing I can tell you about her is that she is in fact a completely different human from the Lauren Johnson from Gwinnett who was on Georgia’s team a few years ago. I had a moment.