Georgia football: Bulldogs distancing from de-commitment trend
Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry is a look at the de-commitment trend for the Bulldogs. It appears that is on the downturn in Athens.
De-commitments. That’s the D-word.
Clemson even suffered a big one earlier this month in 5-star DE Korey Foreman. Foreman ranks as the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect for 2021 on the 247Sports Composite ratings.
In regard to the de-commitment topic, there is an interesting trend to note regarding the Bulldogs.
My thinking here is it always has a lot to do with Georgia starting out of the gate slow in terms of racking up player commitments. Georgia has never been a program that tried to get umpteen commitments before the summer of a player’s senior year.
This year, with the COVID-19 slowdown, certainly lends itself to the same measured approach with evaluations. There is no longer any need for the pursuit of rushed spring commitments when it comes to the players bunched up at the top of the board at each position.
The famed 2018 class had just two commitments after G-Day in 2017. It even took punter Jake Camarda committing on G-Day that year to push that number to two.
While the Bulldogs dealt with that D-word with much greater intensity earlier in the Smart era in Athens, it looks like the program has reached the point where those medium-rare evaluations are no longer needed to secure the verbal commitments that are necessary to restock the roster.
It is now a well-developed national recruiting powerhouse.
Georgia is well past the “project” stage. The program is not in the business of recruiting or signing prospects who are not likely to push the starters at their position until a redshirt sophomore or junior year.
With the current roster composition, the Bulldogs are now able to attract top talent from across the country and don’t have to reach for a “lesser” prospect in order to build recruiting momentum.
Let’s take a look at where the recruiting classes have ranked (247Sports Composite) so far during Smart’s time at Georgia:
- 2016 (hired in December of 2015): 6th
- 2017: 3rd
- 2018: 1st
- 2019: 2nd
- 2020: 1st
A quick glance at those rankings reveals that every non-redshirted player on non-transfer on the Georgia roster was brought in as part of a top 3 recruiting class.
That run looks pretty sporty despite the de-commitment numbers during Smart’s time as head coach. It must be noted that Smart’s first signing class didn’t even begin to take shape until after he was hired during the first week of December in 2015.
Georgia’s de-commitments from the first two cycles were influenced heavily by prospects who were committed to the former Georgia staff:
- 2016: 5 (All five originally committed to play for Mark Richt)
- 2017: 7 (Three had committed to play for Richt)
- 2018: 8
- 2019: 7
- 2020: 4
- 2021: 2
Georgia football: De-commitments in the Smart years
This section will be rather self-explanatory. We’ll chart the players that de-committed, where they were from and those three data points will say a lot without putting the specific reasons for the decisions up on a billboard.
(all rankings derived from the 247Sports Composite)
OVERVIEW: These five de-commitments all initially committed to the previous Bulldog staff. In all fairness, these de-commitments probably shouldn’t belong on the Smart ledger. Yet it still seems comprehensive to document the history of those events while Smart has been the head coach. It was clear from the start that Smart was going to prioritize a different level of prospect for the program. The Anderson and Dowdell de-commitments speak for themselves as far as the evaluations pretty much hit the mark that they weren’t the type of player to help the program compete for championships in the SEC.
BEST CAREER: Whaley ran for 1,161 yards his first two seasons with the Razorbacks, but finished with 1,807 yards and 16 career scores. He recently signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent from the 2020 NFL Draft.
OVERVIEW: Smith was a loss and he came back to hurt Georgia early in his Alabama career. Carter was in the class until Nick Chubb and Sony Michel opted to return for their senior seasons. The Bulldogs no longer had a spot for him as a January 2017 enrollee. Dallas, Smith and Hockman were all committed to the previous staff at Georgia. Brini re-committed and signed with the Bulldogs. Jenkins committed to play for Savannah State, but did not enroll with the 2017 class.
BEST CAREER: Dallas was just drafted by the Seahawks (4th round) after 1,527 career rushing yards and 17 scores. Dixon and Hockman have bounced around from their original homes, but the pick here is clearly Smith. Aside from that 2nd-and-26 play for the ages, he has 2,109 yards receiving and 23 scores in three years with the Tide. It would place him eighth all-time in career receiving yards at Georgia. He’d be tied with A.J Green for the No. 2 in touchdown catches in UGA history. He will be a likely first-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. He seems like the first de-commitment of the Smart era that the program would have loved to have kept in the class.
OVERVIEW: Georgia set the mark for the most number of 247SportsComposite 5-stars in one class (seven) with this signing class. In a lot of these cases, the de-commitment of a 3-star recruit cleared the way for the Bulldogs to sign a player with a much higher ranking. There’s not a de-commitment here that the Bulldogs lost that the Bulldogs would’ve loved to have kept in the program.
BEST CAREER: Moore seems to have the best career here for what he did last season (67 catches for 850 yards and four TDs) at Ole Miss. His career unfortunately is marked by what he did at the end of regulation to cost the Rebels against Mississippi State. Wildgoose has made 51 tackles in 23 career games for the Badgers.
OVERVIEW: Haselwood was a big blow, but the Bulldogs seemed to have replaced his ability with an equally valuable player, if not more so, in the 2019 class with George Pickens. Emery was also a special talent, but he was a third-team back for the Tigers last year during their championship run. Griffin was an early commitment in June of 2016. That was 30 months before his class could first sign in the early period. That case, along with a few others here, can be seen as a way-too-early evaluation in bringing in a talented in-state player prior to getting a good sense of the entire board at those positions for the 2019 signing class. Georgia would go on to overcome a lot of these commitments by signing higher-rated players in the class.
BEST CAREER SO FAR: It is far too early to start counting up anything here, but the freshman year of Plumlee certainly lends itself to a player who could have helped Georgia. He wished to remain in the class for a time, but the Justin Fields transfer left the Bulldogs short on QBs who could come in and take part in spring drills in early 2019. Plumlee could not enroll early and didn’t want to become a blueshirt later in the class. The dual-threat QB ran for 1,023 yards in nine games for the Rebels and scored 12 times on the ground. He also threw for 910 yards and four touchdowns while completing 53 percent of his 150 attempts.
OVERVIEW: It clearly seems like the Bulldogs learned a great deal from the 2019 cycle in terms of taking an early commitment from an in-state player. Burroughs was an early commitment, but it seemed like both parties were looking the other way by the time he chose to de-commit. Braun would have been on campus in January of 2020 if Sam Pittman had not taken the Arkansas job. Ogunbiyi was also enthralled with the chance to play for Pittman, but de-committed in the late spring of 2019 to stick closer to home to be closer to his mother. He told DawgNation that her stroke back in May of 2018 had been weighing on him as he pondered moving away to Georgia.
BEST PLAYER SO FAR: It is far too premature to take a guess at what these young men will do in the next college season. The best bets to make a big early impact would be Braun and Wren.
OVERVIEW: Wilson’s decision can also be linked to Pittman’s move to Arkansas. The former Georgia line coach found him early. That’s before seemingly everyone in the country offered him after he de-committed from Georgia. Oliver was another early evaluation. Georgia already has a commitment from a much better player in the 2021 class in David Daniel. The Bulldogs are also doing all they can to eventually secure the pledge from 5-star safety James Williams.
Georgia football: De-commitments at other elite programs
That’s the Georgia de-commitment history there since Smart took over as coach. It leaves a question, though. How does that compare that other elite programs across the country?
With that, DawgNation did a little research over the last week. Thanks to the excellent databases maintained by 247Sports, it was possible to compare how the de-commitment bug has hit Georgia compared to other blue blood elite recruiting programs like Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.
Florida hasn’t recruited at the same level as Georgia or those three schools have, but it was made sense to include that program in this comparison as a control group.
The Gators have an excellent program. They are a perennial top 10 school with a strong history and tradition. Everything is there for that program to recruit toe-to-toe with the Alabamas, Clemsons, Georgias and Ohio States of the world, too.
How many de-commitments have each of those schools had since 2010? That’s what we wanted to look up.
The thinking going in was that Alabama and Clemson would have the lowest de-commitment totals. That was based largely on the continuity at the head coaching position. Swinney’s Tigers, per their rep, would likely have the lowest total.
De-commitments since 2010
- Clemson: 11 (also includes a whopping six in the 2013 class)
- Ohio State: 30
- Georgia: 49 (the Bulldogs averaged 6.75 de-commits per cycle from 2016-2019)
- Alabama: 58
- Florida: 91
Those studies revealed that 2013 was a wild year across the recruiting industry. The many misfires of Georgia’s 2013 class have been well-chronicled, but these five programs here suffered a total 26 de-commitments for that cycle.
That number for Alabama was much higher than anticipated, but that has a lot to do with the constant churning of the elite recruiters who have served as assistant coaches on Saban’s team over the last 10 years.
The Florida number is also very telling.
The Gators have had 38 de-commitments dating back to the 2018 cycle. That figure already includes five de-commitments for the 2021 class. Georgia has had just 21 in that span. Florida also had 42 de-commitments from 2013-2016. The Gators only had 11 de-commitments in the other four cycles (2010, 2011, 2012, 2017) tracked for this study.
The data shows just how unique that Foreman de-commitment was for the Tigers. That decision marked just the fifth time since the 2014 cycle that the Tigers lost a member of their recruiting class due to a de-commitment.
It also reflects that the Tigers figured something in terms of their approach since seeing eight prospects de-commit in the 2013 and 2014 classes, respectively.
Dabo Swinney basically will no longer accept a commitment from a prospect until they tell the staff that they are done with their process and their recruiting journeys and will take no more visits after they make that public pledge to Clemson.
Give the Tigers credit for having the type of program that hasn’t led many of their guys to make the decision over the past seven recruiting cycles.
It would sever the Bulldogs well if they were able to replicate some of that continuity over the next few cycles. That’s basically what the Tigers were able to do once the program began to win at an average rate of 11 to 12 games per season.
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