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Let's take a good look back at that 2021 recruiting cycle for the Bulldogs.

Georgia football: DawgNation’s ultimate 2021 recruiting class yearbook

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry takes a good look back at the 2021 recruiting cycle for the latest crop of signees in Athens. 

Georgia has now passed through both the early signing and the traditional signing period for the 2021 class. While it is still possible for the Bulldogs to find a gem in the 2021 class via the junior college, graduate transfer or junior college route, the time is ripe for a good look back at this cycle in Athens.

This was the COVID-19 class. The class that got less but did more with it. It went down over a Wi-Fi connection than ever before. There are members of this 2021 class that Kirby Smart has never met before. Imagine that.

This was the class that bought or needed their own tickets to watch their future team play inside a 20 percent capacity Sanford Stadium

These Bulldogs took no official visits. No May scavenger hunt. No July cookout or hang out annual event. They never saw a Georgia coach on the sidelines of their games during their senior season. Never felt the “love” from seeing a Georgia assistant show up to evaluate them at their spring practices.

They had multiple in-home visits every week with their top schools. It was just on a Zoom or a Facetime digital connection.

They didn’t get an Opening. Didn’t get the gear and lifelong memories of the regionals and finals. This was the class where the term “facemask” was a good thing. Rather than one set of irate coaches or teammates and penalty yards on a game field.

These recruiting stories and timelines tend to go back aways. Consider the offer that was extended to an eventual member of the 2021 class at UGA. It was a verbal offer that needed to go only 15 miles away from Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. That one was to Brock Vandagriff. What an important offer it would turn out to be.

It came on May 8, 2018, and that is astonishing in its own right. Vandagriff had his verbal offer from Georgia before the majority of the signees in the 2019 class got their own offers from the Bulldogs, too.

It even seems likely to say that Vandagriff was offered by UGA before the 2019 QB signees (Stetson Bennett IV and D’Wan Mathis) got theirs to play for UGA. Mathis was still committed to Michigan State at the time and he would decommit from the Spartans and commit and decommit from Ohio State before signing with the Bulldogs.

How odd is it even to think back that far with this class? This tweet below puts it all into the proper light. Vandagriff looks five years younger on this Florida unofficial visit.

To put that timestamp into further perspective, the offer to Vandagriff came more than nine months before the highest-rated and most physically imposing member of the Georgia class got his on Jan 14, 2019.

That was the offer to future 5-star OT Amarius Mims. Mt. Mims actually got his first two scholarship offers on the same day.

As crazy as it may seem, there was another member of this class who earned their UGA offer before Vandagriff even did.

This was the odd cycle where Georgia saw two of its commitments back off their pledges only to look around for several months and then recommit again. This was the cycle where for a few months we wondered if pandemic recruiting might reset the narratives that packages deals might actually be a thing in 2021.

Yet when it came down to it, a pandemic recruiting year was different in a lot of areas but that tried-and-true staple of college recruiting did not change one bit. Package deal recruiting talk usually winds up as forgotten as a forgotten Easter Egg.

Let’s take a look around a few of the major talking points that follow the trail from names like Adonai Mitchell to Khristian Zachary.

Have you subscribed to the DawgNation YouTube channel yet? If so, you will be able to see special 1-on-1 interviews with Jake Fromm, Gunner Stockton and Brock Vandagriff. You will only be able to find it on the DawgNation YouTube channel.

Top 4 moments for the 2021 recruiting class

  1. Brock Vandagriff’s quick January 2020 turnaround: Vandagriff de-committed from Oklahoma and committed to UGA in the span of a couple of weeks. When he did, he laid the brick-and-mortar foundation for the chance to greatly help reel in the eventual commitments of Brock Bowers, Chaz Chambliss, Dylan Fairchild and Amarius Mims, among many others.
  2. Amarius Mims gives the 2021 class a birthday present: This highly-contested recruitment was a Georgia win with a 5-star who grew up favoring Alabama. The highest-rated commitment in the class ensured UGA would have a top 5 class with his decision. Mims committed to UGA on his birthday, too. It was quite a gift for this class. 
  3. Xavian Sorey Jr. winds up a Bulldog: Who can forget the drama of the first day of the early signing period? The 5-star wishful thinking for the likes of Korey Foreman and Maason Smith were decided. Foreman didn’t share his choice until 2021, but when Smith stayed home at LSU everyone knew all hope was already lost there. Sorey restored the momentum of the class on a day it was needed. It gave the Bulldogs their fourth prospect with a 5-star ranking and even offered some more hope for another All-American safety on Feb. 3, 2021.
  4. Terrion Arnold chooses Alabama: This recap isn’t going to be all good news. This is not an old school American history textbook. It would not reflect the wild 2021 cycle if it did. That All-American safety who had been linked to Sorey chose Alabama. It was a tough loss in an absolute position of need. Arnold would have easily been one of the four most important signees in this class.

Best position groups in the 2021 class

  1. OL – This one is easy. Georgia signed seven prospects ranked among the nation’s top 100 overall recruits in 2021. That figure had three future OLs for Matt Luke’s room. 
  2. ILBs – The Bulldogs didn’t sign any ILBs in 2020 after a trio of signees in 2019. The recruiting industry ranks Smael Mondon Jr. and Xavian Sorey Jr. as OLBs, but they will play ILB for UGA. They were the third and fourth-highest rated signees in the 2021 class overall. That said, don’t be surprised if 4-star Jamon Dumas-Johnson gets on the field at ILB for game reps quicker than those two. “JDJ” rates as the nation’s No. 12 ILB and the nation’s No. 193 overall recruit. Think of a higher-rated Monty Rice type here.
  3. DBsNyland Green and David Daniel were Under Armour and All-American Bowl picks, respectively. Both were top 100 recruits on the 247Sports Composite, too. This overall group could have been much better, but look for versatile DBs Javon Bullard and Kamari Lassiter to decide how great this 2021 class eventually winds up defensively.

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2021 class by the numbers

  • Offense: 9
  • Defense: 11
  • In-state: 10
  • Out-of-state: 10* (includes two Georgia natives at boarding schools)
  • SEC footprint: 18
  • Beyond SEC footprint: 2
  • Players who were once committed to other schools: 4

No. 3 class in the country but what if … 

We will not pump sunshine here. The one position we highlighted in the previous group was also the one that could have been even more special.

It needed to be special with seniors D.J. Daniel, Richard LeCounte III and Mark Webb exhausting their eligibility in Athens. Now sprinkle in early NFL entries like Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes and transfer portal loss Tyrique Stevenson and it was a massive hemorrhage of DB talent in Athens.

The triage for those ills was very good, but it could have been out of this world. Especially given that Georgia pretty much led for 5-stars like Terrion Arnold, Tony Grimes Jr. and James Williams at one point during their recruiting journeys. What would have happened if Kirby Smart and his staff of driven closers would’ve gotten those scavenger hunt days, those July cookout days, those camp days and those official visits? This 2021 class could have been even more of an elite reload of the DB room in Athens.

Let’s not forget the odd resolution to the De’Jahn “Nugget” Warren recruitment. The longtime UGA commitment was rated as the nation’s top JUCO cornerback but is now a part of the rise of the Jackson State program led by first-year head coach Deion Sanders.

What would’ve happened there? We will never know. But it will be hard to shake that thought in a future SEC Championship game in 2021, 2022 or 2023. The thought of an Arnold or a Grimes or a Williams in the secondary trying to cover the four top 100 overall prospects at WR that Alabama signed in 2021 will remind that sometimes those big games can be heavily influenced by the recruiting trail.

Can we still get this kid to visit? 

That heading certainly seems out of place for any recap of any recruiting cycle under Kirby Smart. Yet that was 2021 in a nutshell. There was a new caste system of visits that became normal in pandemic recruiting. When it is all said and done, Georgia basically had three weeks in January and a handful of isolated visits over the first 10 days of March to host visits for the 2021 class in the year 2020.

So odd. The NCAA dropped the curtain of a dead period down in mid-March and it is still not scheduled to return until at least April. It really just boggles the mind. So the visits that took place for the 2021 class looked something like this:

  • Pre-pandemic visits: For only a select few, these programs weren’t sure who their priorities were in the 2021 class when a lot of these young men visited during the 2019 season as juniors or as rising seniors before March. If a forward-thinking school was able to make those unknowingly vital unofficials seem special with some personal 1-on-1 attention, it would go a long way in the end.
  • Virtual visits: The class of 2021 was overstuffed on these. These virtual visits included Facetime golf cart tours, long Zoom sessions and everything from playing video games with their key recruiters. Needless to say, the wives and children of the coaches at every major college program have never seen their fathers or gotten to know them as much as they did during the 2021 recruiting cycle.
  • No-contact or self-guided visits: This took place when a young man and his family independently acted like they were just any high school student wanting to take a visit to UGA. There could be no physical or face-to-face contact with a member of the program or recruiting staff but it allowed some programs to get very creative.  Georgia was able to sign Brock Bowers out of California due to a couple of independent visits his family needed to sort his decision out
  • Group visits: This was an area where Vandagriff really helped Georgia. He’d meet up with recruits in town for their own independent visits and have breakfast or hang out or go fishing. This was probably the most effective means of no-contact and independent visits these prospective student-athletes could undertake.
  • No-contact game visits: This is an example where the family of a recruit acted independently and purchased tickets like any red-and-black bleeding fan might have. There was a collection of instances where that’s how a prospective recruit got to experience Sanford Stadium diluted at 20 percent capacity.

The Truckbed visit

Vandagriff hosted a weekend where the major top targets of the class all got together. What did they do? They went fishing. Or maybe it is more accurate to say that some went fishing. Others gave fishing lessons.

That group of potential 5-stars and highly-rated top targets actually spent at least 90 minutes in the back of the truck bed talking about everything on their minds. When they went to dinner, 5-star Korey Foreman even told the group how special that group of guys was all assembled together at the table.

In the end, the picture below is worth maybe a thousand words in its own right. It reflects the good and bad and also the degree of difficulty in this 2021 singing class.

In order to keep it very brief, we’ll just leave it at this: The Bulldogs only signed four of the top targets in the truck bed below.

Maason Smith-Korey Foreman-Georgia recruiting
Check out the 32 stars in this pic, including Maason Smith at the far left. That’s a lot of stars in one truckbed. (Instagram)

Not bad. Not great. Yet in the end, it sums up what the 2021 recruiting cycle was for even the big boys. Not even Alabama or Clemson or Ohio State or Georgia was going to win them all.

Alabama, LSU and USC each pulled one of their own from out of that truckbed.

2021 Georgia recruiting class superlatives

Best All-Around: It is hard to knock the profile of OL signee Micah Morris. He’s a homegrown All-American who is very young for his age. Aspires to be an FBI agent. The real kicker is he can bench press more than 440 pounds and was routinely posting a 5.0 grade-point average over his last few semesters at Camden County. 

Best effort: Could say a lot of things about Georgia native Kamari Lassiter here. He might have had the best commitment which included a prayer and a pledge right before his school’s Homecoming game. Lassiter probably earns best dressed for that sweater vest look and shirtless celebrations with his team on his commitment day. But really this guy is all about effort. Cover corner? He had 16 tackles in a game this fall. Check out this relentless effort on this clip below. It is easily one of the best highlights in the 2021 class, too. 

Best recruiting trail story: There is obviously a limited sample size here, but the nod here goes to Kirby Smart last January when he went to go watch 6-foot-4 LB Xavian Sorey Jr. play basketball in a small matchbox of a gym in North Florida. Sorey rattled the rim on a breakaway dunk and it caused Smart to spring to his feet and pretty much run out of the gym he was so excited. What could have Smart done if he could have connected a memory like that to every high-value 2021 target? 

Biggest miss: There are a few high-caliber names, but the honor here goes to Arnold. For several reasons already discussed. When real football people saw his tape and athleticism and what he could, they stopped worrying about James Williams turning his head from UGA for hometown Miami. 

Best high school season: 4-star RB Lovasea’ Carroll played the toughest schedule of any future Bulldog in 2020 and was a part of an IMG Academy team that laid claim to the mythical high school national title. It was the first time the powerhouse Ascenders finally put it all together. 

Best 5-second story: All-American OL signee Dylan Fairchild won the 7A state wrestling title at 285 pounds. He went 46-0 with 46 pins. He also pinned his man in the state quarterfinal round in five seconds. 

Best quote: DB Javon Bullard. He e is a great interview, but he also wants to go into communication and sports broadcasting during his time at UGA. It is always fascinating to chat with him. 

Easiest recruiting battle: That honor goes to Morris, too. He was a silent commitment in September of his junior year and his decision also weathered the transition from Sam Pittman to Matt Luke as offensive line coach. He just wanted to be a Georgia Bulldog. 

The 2021 Eric Stokes “Most Likely to Overachieve” recruit: Want to know which 3-star will wind up playing like an All-American in Roger Goddell’s Sunday league? That’s 3-star OL Jared Wilson. Kirby Smart recently gushed about how he was such a key early priority and a great fit for what Georgia tried to do on offense. Wilson’s charisma and football intelligence will also make Stokes proud, too. 

Most athletic: Smael Mondon Jr. He’s so athletic he might be seen as more of an athlete than a football player at this time. But that’s what happens when a 5-star LB runs jet sweeps for his high school team at RB and out wide and also reset the Paulding County High school triple jump record every year at 220-plus pounds. 

Most talented recruit: Nyland Green. Green, a top 5 CB prospect, could play three positions in the secondary in the SEC. He returned kicks and punts in high school as well as long snapped. He was an impact wideout in high school. The 6-foot-2 corner is blessed with very good speed, great length and ball skills, too. 

Most important recruit: Vandagriff. Besides being the 5-star QB that every program wants to build its class around, he was the face of Georgia recruiting in hosting many out-of-town recruits on no-contact visits. The Clarke County Chamber of Commerce would appreciate all the tours he gave around town. 

Most likely to succeed: 5-star OT Amarius Mims. If Mims is not a first or second-round draft pick after his time in Athens, then something went very wrong in Matt Luke’s room regarding his development. As hard as Mims works, we don’t see that happening. He’d be a likely first-rounder if he was playing at Savannah State, much less UGA.

Most offers (position group): Wide receiver. No one can blame the Bulldogs for not trying to get like Alabama on offense. For the umpteenth consecutive year, they’ve offered more WRs than any other position. 

Most physically developed: With apologies to Mims, it has to be OLB signee Chaz Chambliss. Chambliss looks like a walking muscle and a no-brainer body double for Captain America in the “Avengers” movies. 

Most surprising decision: We’re going to take the high road here and not document the finality of De’Jahn “Nugget” Warren signing to play for Deion Sanders at Jackson State. But late offer Jimmy Horn Jr. opting to spurn the ‘Dawgs for South Florida still has the DawgNation recruiting team scratching their heads. 

The five best players Georgia did not sign that they chased hard: 1) Arnold; 2) 5-star ILB Barrett Carter (Clemson); 3) 5-star DE Korey Foreman (USC); 4) 5-star WDE Dallas Turner (Alabama); 5) 5-star DT Maason Smith (LSU).

Toughest recruiting battle: Got a few contenders, but we’ll go with 4-star DT Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins. The Bulldogs finally pulled a big D-line target out of the Carolinas after four-putting that situation over the last few cycles. Ingram-Dawkins would up as “Mr. Football” in South Carolina. But his process had more than its share of starts and stops and highs and lows in terms of imminent commitment decisions put on hold going up against some nearby border rivals. 

Unicorn recruit: Kelee Ringo was that guy in 2020. Brock Bowers gets the nod for 2021. Why? Bowers brings a skill set the Bulldogs did not have in the program. The All-American TE from California can run a laser 4.5 in the 40 and chart a vertical leap of 40-plus inches at 230 pounds. That’s while flashing great athleticism, ball skills, strength and toughness. The fact that he is the son of a teacher only adds to the resume. 

Picky in the backfield 

Want to know how selective Georgia was in the backfield with its COVID-19 offers this year? The Bulldogs only offered a grand total of 25 quarterbacks and running backs in this cycle. That includes both dual-threat and pro-style passers, all-purpose backs and traditional RBs, too.

Georgia has already offered 30 QBs and RBs in the 2022 cycle. That’s after not even having a chance to see any of those guys in almost a year.

When Vandagriff committed early in January of 2020, there was no need to offer anyone else. That’s after Georgia was locked into adding either its eventual 5-star signee or 5-star Caleb Williams as the QB anchor of this class.

Ironically, there’s a key connection to Lincoln Riley and the Oklahoma Sooners here. Vandagriff was the QB for that class until his decommitment. When that took place, the Sooners targeted Williams and signed him over heavy pursuit from the likes of LSU and Maryland.

“Firsts and lasts” for 2021 Georgia class

  • First commitment: 4-star All-American Georgia DB David Daniel (Sept of 2019)
  • First decommitment: 3-star South Carolina safety Brayln Oliver (Signed with Louisville)
  • First offer to a signee (verbal): 4-star OLB Chaz Chambliss (February 1, 2018)
  • First out-of-state commitment: Oliver
  • First recommitment (of two recommits):  3-star North Carolina OG Jared Wilson
  • First to graduate high school: 3-star Texas WR Adonai Mitchell graduated in May of 2020 and then sat out the fall. He was a reclassification from the 2020 class. 
  • First big miss: 4-star Florida WR Mario Williams (signed with Oklahoma)
  • First LOI announced: 4-star Douglas County High School DL Jonathan Jefferson
  • Last to offer: 3-star WR Jackson Meeks (August 30, 2020)
  • Last commitment: 5-star LB Xavian Sorey, Jr.
  • Last decommitment: 4-star junior college CB De’Jahn “Nugget” Warren (Signed with Jackson State)
  • Last LOI announced: 5-star OT Amarius Mims
  • Last 2021 signee to play a senior football season: Wilson. He buckles it up this spring in North Carolina. Bowers didn’t even get a senior season in California and he enrolled early.

SENTELL’S INTEL

(the recent reads on DawgNation.com)

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