Kirby Smart explains why character is ‘the most important thing’ for Georgia recruiting
ATHENS — As Georgia coach Kirby Smart finished off his opening statement, he made sure to highlight the importance of signing high character players in the 2020 class.
And after following up on why signing those types of players is important, Smart made it a point to clearly emphasize the importance of landing those type of players.
“It should never be the only thing, but it’s definitely the most important thing,” Smart said.
So as important as running fast or jumping high might be, being able to be a productive and contributing member of the team from an off-the-field standpoint carries even greater weight.
When you’re at a school like Georgia, naturally you’re going to attract some of the top talents the country. Smart and his staff did that once again as the Bulldogs signed the No. 1 recruiting class in the country according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
But at this point in his still young coaching career, Smart admits that chasing the best talent guys isn’t always the best way to build a team.
“The older I get, the more wiser I get, the more you realize that chasing guys who don’t believe in the same principles and values of your university and of your program, they’re just not worth it,” Smart said.
“There’s too much time spent on guys and you’re having to chase them around, it’s just not worth it. Take the guys that want to be there, play with the guys that want to be there.”
An example of Georgia possibly eschewing a more talented player because of possible character concerns could be in regards to 5-star running back Zach Evans. He is the nation’s No. 2 ranked running back, and even with Kendall Milton in the class, Georgia long made it a point to land two running backs in the 2020 cycle.
Evans had signed a letter of intent with Georgia and was set to announce his pledge at the Under Armour All-American game. But Evans was also suspended multiple times during his senior season — including the state championship game which occurred after he signed his letter of intent — and he teased and then delayed a possible commitment multiple times during his recruiting process.
After Georgia parted ways with Evans, the Bulldogs were able to land 4-star running back Daijun Edwards. He played at Georgia high school powerhouse Colquitt County and is ranked the No. 21 ranked running back in the country.
“He plays in what is probably one of the toughest divisions and regions in our state and he has played at a high level,” Smart said of Edwards. “You talk about the people he has had to play against — he has been a really good player.”
Edwards will join Milton in the 2020 recruiting class. The latter definitely fits into the high character category, as he was a key leader in Georgia’s 2020 recruiting class, as were the likes of Mekhail Sherman and Tate Ratledge.
In Smart’s time at Georgia, we’ve seen lower-rated prospects end up outperforming higher rated guys in their own class. Brenton Cox was a 5-star outside linebacker prospect coming out of high school, while Azeez Ojulari was rated lower. But Ojulari went on to become Georgia’s sacks leader and also a team captain this past season, while Cox ended up transferring to Florida prior to the start of his sophomore year.
Obviously Georgia wants to continue to land the best players in the country. And as long as Smart is in charge, the Bulldogs are going to do that.
But it’s not just about landing the most talented player at every position. It’s about guys who are going to fit and play the way Smart wants his teams to do so. And that’s not going to work for every prospect.
“You’ll enjoy your job day-to-day,” Smart said on bringing in players who fit with Georgia’s ideology. “Your staff will enjoy it more and so will your other players. So it’s very important to us.”