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The biggest misses for the 2020 Georgia football recruiting class
The Georgia football 2020 recruiting class figures to be one of the best in the country. It has at the moment 10 of the top-60 signees and commitments in the 2020 cycle including four 5-star prospects and the No. 1 player from Arizona, Nevada and Washington D.C.
And yet, to quote Montgomery Burns, there are some who would “trade it all in for just a little bit more.” There are certainly some prospects that Georgia very much wanted and needed but couldn’t get to commit or sign. A number of them very likely would’ve helped Georgia make a difference on the Bulldogs’ 2020 team.
Below, we break down the guys that could’ve somehow made this already standout class even better.
Arik Gilbert: When the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs meet on Sunday in the Super Bowl, the two best offensive skill players for both teams will be their respective tight ends. George Kittle for San Francisco and Travis Kelce of Kansas City can do just about everything from lining up out wide and picking on a smaller defensive back, to mauling some linebacker in the running game.
That’s what Gilbert possibly represented in the 2020 class. He’s the No. 1 tight end in the country — and the highest-rated tight end in the history of the 247Sports Composite ranking — and someone who grew up in-state.
Gilbert starred for Marietta High School this past season as he led them to a state title in Georgia’s highest classification. He was unguardable due to his impressive mixture of size —6-foot-5, 253 pounds — and speed.
But the Bulldogs, like they struggled to do with so many in-state prospects in the 2020 class, weren’t able to convince Gilbert to stay home. He’ll be playing for LSU next season. Given the success the Tigers had this year in the passing game, it’s easy to see why that would appeal to Gilbert.
This past season, Georgia got an up-close and personal look at what having a game-wrecking defensive lineman looks like as Travon Walker had a big impact, especially over the second half of the season. The Bulldogs also did sign 5-star defensive tackle Jalen Carter in this class, giving Walker another disruptive partner.
But imagine having all three of them on the same line? Clemson, a team Georgia will be competing with for the College Football Playoff spots, has Breese to go along with fellow 5-star defensive end Myles Murphy and defensive tackle Demonte Capehart, who is the No. 5 defensive tackle in the country in this class alone.
To also see the importance of having difference-makers on the defensive line, one only has to look at the struggles Alabama this year. The Crimson Tide didn’t have a Jonathan Allen or Daron Payne type player, and the Alabama defense clearly took a step back.
That’s why having guys like Breese and Walker are so important.
Theo Johnson: A lot of what was said about Gilbert also applies to Johnson. The latter is listed at 6-foot-6 and 242 pounds and moves with ease. Seeing him at Under Armour All-American practice, it was so easy to see why he was one of the top tight ends in the country.
Johnson though came from Canada and the distance in theory would make it a bit of a challenge for the No. 3 ranked tight end in the 2020 class. But Johnson loved what Georgia had to offer. He raved about the culture and spoke very highly of Georgia tight ends coach Todd Hartley.
The reason Johnson ended up picking Penn State and not Georgia was because the Bulldogs hadn’t shown that they could make the most out of a player with Johnson’s skills.
I told coach Hartley, ‘I just don’t know how much I’m going to be developed as a tight end.’ If you can show me that then I won’t have any doubts,” Johnson said. “But I had a lot of doubts.
“It was tough making that leap.”
Related: How Georgia football ended up missing on Tank Bigsby, Theo Johnson and some of its top targets
This is a chicken-egg theory. Georgia hasn’t had an athlete like Johnson at that position, which is why the Bulldogs haven’t developed the tight end position as well. That might begin to change —which Johnson believes — now that they have a guy like Washington at the position.
But for a Georgia offense that clearly needed more pass catchers in 2019, and still does in 2020, having a guy like Johnson could’ve made things much easier for Georgia’s next quarterback.