April 18, 2011
Pretend for a moment — and for most readers, this will be a fantastical leap, I know — but pretend for a moment that you're one of the top up-and-coming football recruits in the country. You've already received offers from nearly every major school in the region before the end of your junior year in high school, and a few from farther away. You've already watched several high-profile teammates go through the recruiting process and sign with big schools. Really, how many ways are there for you to actively screw this up?
Of course, there's always the grades. That's so cliché, though, isn't it? Anybody can flunk a few tests. No, Georgia cornerback recruit Deion Bonner set the bar just a little higher, according to campus police, who have charged Bonner with stealing right out of would-be future teammates' lockers during an unofficial recruiting trip:
Three suspects have been arrested in the Georgia locker room thefts, at least one of whom has been identified as a major football recruit.
Deion Bonner, Marquise Hawkins and an unidentified juvenile from Columbus were arrested by UGA police and charged with theft by taking over the weekend. They're accused of stealing iPods and iPhones from the unsecured lockers of seven football players on April 7 during an open-house event at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. The estimated value of the stolen items was $1,970.
Bonner was charged with one count of theft by taking, Hawkins was charged with two counts of theft by taking and the unidentified juvenile with three counts of theft by taking, according to Williamson. Bonner and Hawkins were booked at Athens-Clarke County jail a little after 9 a.m. Monday morning and have $1,500 bonds posted on each count.
And thus does Georgia stake its claim as the only SEC school where recruits felt compelled to taking "illegal benefits" into their own hands. Not surprisingly, Facebook was "a big help" in bringing the culprits to justice.
Assuming the charges stand, it's a good bet that Bonner's finished as a Bulldog recruit, though he's the kind of player for whom much — including a misdemeanor or two — is usually forgiven. But Georgia head coach Mark Richt (pictured above) can't be pleased with this one. Rivals lists him as one of its top-250 prospects to watch in its earliest ranking of the class of 2012, and he was one of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's "Tentative Top 10" recruits in the state; he already holds official offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Miami and USC, for starters.
The non-anonymous teammate who was arrested with Bonner (pictured here), Marquise Hawkins, isn't considered a major recruit, but just about all of the others seem to be: Marquise's twin brother, Marqui Hawkins, is the starting quarterback at Carver High and considered a solid prospect in the class of 2013, as are at least three of Bonner's senior classmates this fall. Four Carver stars signed with SEC schools in February, including the headliner of Georgia's hyped instate haul, five-star tailback Isaiah Crowell. Carver's sent at least three players on to Division I scholarships every year since 2009, and they keep in touch.
So here's guessing you haven't heard the last of Deion Bonner, star recruit. As a Georgia recruit? The reception awaiting him would probably be a little chilly for that. But if he can play, physically and legally speaking, someone will let him play.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.
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