In each of the past two cycles, Tray Scott has brought in 5-star defensive line prospect. The 2019 class saw Georgia land Travon Walker, who went to make a handful of big plays, including the game-ending sack against Auburn.
Then in the 2020 class, Georgia landed Jalen Carter, a 6-foot-4, 300 pound brickhouse of a human being. Of the prospects at the Under Armour All-American Game, he was perhaps the most dominant.
While Scott’s recruiting chops have been dinged in the past, it’s clear he’s shown he’s capable of landing the best prospects in the country, while also continuing to develop players like Jordan Davis, Tyler Clark and Malik Herring.
So how will Scott go about re-tooling the defensive line in the 2021 class? Well, he’s already secured two commitments, as the Bulldogs landed 4-star prospect Jonathan Jefferson and 3-star prospect Marlin Dean during the month of March.
Related: Jonathan Jefferson: 5 things to know about this week’s 2021 Georgia commit
Jefferson is 6-foot-4 and 255 and is ranked as the No. 142 overall prospect. At the next level, Jefferson is expecting to slide inside and play at the defensive tackle spot. Jefferson plays for Douglasville High School and is rated as the top defensive lineman in the state for the 2021 cycle.
Dean, who plays for the same Elbert County program that produced Mecole Hardman, is listed at 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds. He is the No. 421 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings and expects to start as a 5-technique — the same position Herring lines up at — when he gets to Georgia.
Related: Marlin Dean: It turns out the night UGA fell to Florida in hoops wasn’t a total loss
And Georgia isn’t done on the defensive line for the 2021 class, given Herring, Julian Rochester and Devontae Wyatt all graduate while Davis is a draft-eligible junior. After the Bulldogs brought in three defensive linemen in the 2020 signing class, look for Georgia to try and bring in a total of four to five defensive line prospects in this cycle.
So which prospects are still available and Georgia has a chance, however big or small, at landing in the 2021 class? Only some of the top prospects in the country.
We’ll start with the No.1 player in the country because that seems like a good place to do so. That would be Korey Foreman, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound prospect from Corona, Calif.
He committed to Clemson in January but just backed off that pledge last week, largely so that he could take visits to other schools. The problem at the moment for Georgia, and every other school pursuing Foreman, is that visits aren’t allowed at the moment as the NCAA has mandated a dead period until May 31. Coaches are allowed to talk with prospects, but obviously not meet face-to-face with them.
USC seems like the favorite to now land Foreman, given his proximity to the school and relationship with defensive lineman Drake Jackson.
Related: Korey Foreman de-commitment another example that even the big boys suffer de-commitments
But there might be an even more important prospect for Georgia to land than Foreman. And that is 5-star defensive tackle Maason Smith.
He is still a 5-star prospect and the No. 25 overall prospect in the class. He hails from Houma, La., and yes LSU will be a huge factor in his recruitment. Georgia does have some recent success recruiting Lousiana thanks to wide receiver coach Cortez Hankton, as the Bulldogs landed three players from the state in the 2020 cycle.
The reason why Smith might be seen as a more crucial prospect than Foreman for Georgia is that Smith fills a perhaps more immediate need. Smith is already 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds. There are not many humans on this earth at that size who can move like Smith does.
One of them is Davis, who has become a critically important part of the Georgia defense in each of the past two seasons. As mentioned above, Davis is a draft-eligible junior and it shouldn’t come as a surprise if 2020 ends up being his last year at Georgia.
That nose tackle, inside presence, is a huge part of the Georgia defense under Kirby Smart. The 2017 team that went to the national championship game had John Atkins manning that spot at a high level. When the defense struggled against the run early in the 2018 season, prior to Davis’ ascent, the lack of an interior force on the defensive line was a big reason.
Similar to Foreman, Georgia needs to be able to get Smith on campus if it is going to have a shot at prying him away from LSU. Since the 2015 recruiting cycle, the state of Louisiana has produced seven 5-star prospects. All seven went on to sign with LSU.