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Jeff Sentell / DawgNation
Georgia running back signee Kendall Milton is one of 13 out-of-state early signees, hailing from California.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart: Needs, not geographical preference, led to less in-state signees

ATHENS — It doesn’t take a mathematician to see Georgia’s investment in out-of-state players outnumbers the in-state recruiting haul, and this in one of the most talent-rich high school football areas of the country.

The Bulldogs early haul of 17 early signees on Wednesday included four players who played high school football in Georgia — along with five Florida products and three from Texas.

Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart, a former Georgia High School football product himself, explained that it’s not a matter of the UGA staff looking any more or less in state or out of state.

It (out-of-state recruiting) hasn’t been an emphasis, it’s been more of what are our needs and who can we get?” Smart said at his Wednesday press conference.

“We try to go out and evaluate and find the best character, football player, students — all of those factors for us are important.”

Running back Kendall Milton, a 6-foot-1, 220-pounder from Clovis, Calif., is an example of what Smart was referring to.

WATCH: DawgNation conversation with elite running back recruit Kendall Milton

“Kendall certainly checks the box on all those, and he just happens to be from California but that’s not a prerequisite,” Smart said. “We want to get the best football players we can and student-athletes we can.”

Smart has landed more out-of-state recruits each season since taking over the program before the 2016 season, to overwhelming proportions the past two signing classes.

A look at the Bulldogs’ starting lineup in their most recent outing, the SEC Championship Game, reveals that 13 of 22 position starters were former Georgia High School products.

Smart made it clear earlier in the season that Georgia is intent on keeping the best players at home.

“I would never change how we recruit the state of Georgia, it’s home base, it’s primary, it’s A-number-one, most important,” Smart said. “It doesn’t meant we’re going to get every kid, it doesn’t mean that. I mean, there’s some good players in the state that have left and we’ve fought to get them, but I mean, I want the best players in the state to stay home.

“We’ll never change how we recruit the state of Georgia. Why would you ever do that? There’s too many good players here.”

Notre Dame beat writer Pete Sampson took a look at which schools landed the highest percentage of early signing date players in-state, noting that the Irish landed none from Indiana:

 

Georgia football 2019 early signees

(Georgia H.S. players in boldface type)

QB Carson Beck, Mandarin H.S., Jacksonville, Fla.

OL Austin Blaske, South Effingham H.S., Bloomingdale, Ga.

DL Warren Brinson, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.

DB Major Burns, Madison Prep, Baton Rouge, La.

WR Jermain Burton, Calabasas H.S., Calabasas, Calif.

DL Jalen Carter, Apopka H.S., Apopka, Fla.

DB Jalen Kimber, Timberview H.S., Arlington, Tex.

OL Chad Lindberg, Clear Creek H.S., League City, Tex.

RB Kendall Milton, Buchanan H.S., Clovis, Calif.

OL Tate Ratledge, Darlington H.S., Rome, Ga.

WR Justin Robinson, Eagles Landing H.S., Locus Grove, Ga.

WR Marcus Rosemy, St. Thomas Aquinas H.S., Pompano Beach, Fla.

LB MJ Sherman, St. John’s College H.S., Baltimore, Md.

WR Arian Smith, Lakeland H.S., Bradley, Fla.

DL Nazir Stackhouse, Columbia H.S., Stone Mountain, Ga.

OL Devin Willock, Paramus Catholic, New Milford, N.J.

PK Jared Zirkel, Tivy H.S., Kerrville, Tex.