GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With the No. 3 Bulldogs rolling under second-year coach Kirby Smart, the majority of top prospects in the Peach State are now choosing to stay home and play for UGA.
It’s been that way since he took the program in 2016. Near the end of Jim Donnan’s tenure at Georgia, one of the state’s best players got away and made his way to Gainesville.
Ben Troupe, a tight end from ed Butler High School in Augusta, Ga., played for the Gators from 2000-03 and spent five years in the NFL, four with the Tennessee Titans.
Troupe was inducted into the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame last year and made one of the most memorable plays in the rivalry’s history.
“When you look back on the type of things I did in my career, it’s easy to say that I’m one of the gems in Georgia that got away,” Troupe said. “But if I don’t ever pan out to anything, I’m just another guy from Georgia that went to Florida.”
Troupe was a well-known player in the Southeast and earned PrepStar All-American honors. However, Troupe said his recruiting process never became intense or overwhelming.
“I think I benefited from the fact that I played the tight end position, even though it’s a more glamorous position now than back then,” Troupe said. “I think I benefited from not being on a team that went to the playoffs or had a real recognized brand in high school football. I kind of got shielded from a lot of things that the players go through now.
“With so much so much pressure to stay in-state, it’s harder to leave. I benefited from no social media, no fan fare, no head coaches texting my phone. I got to be a 17-year-old who tried to make the best decision I could based on the opportunity.”
For the Peach State process going through that process now, Troupe said Georgia is a more attractive option because of the improved play under Smart.
“I think he’s putting out a good product. Your product speaks for you,” Troupe said. “You look at what he’s doing right now with the quarterbacks. This will be the first time you’ve seen a coach sign a 5-star QB three years in a row. He’s applying to those kind of players.
“I just think the product of Georgia football is speaking for itself right now. He’s getting 5-star players and he’s putting 5-star results on the field. While Florida isn’t far behind, you’ve got to be able to produce when you get those players.”