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Tony Grimes is a major target for Georgia in the 2021 recruiting cycle

The most important recruiting battles for Georgia football in the 2021 class

Connor Riley

Georgia is once again aiming to put together one of the best-recruiting classes in the country for the 2021 recruiting cycle. The Bulldogs have signed a top-three class in each of the past four recruiting cycles, making them the only program to do so.

But the Bulldogs won’t do so without a challenge from a number of schools for some of the Bulldogs’ top targets. And some of those recruiting battles are going to be more important to Georgia than others. That’s predicated more on the fact that some positions in this 2021 recruiting cycle are more important than others.

Georgia signed seven offensive linemen in the 2021 recruiting cycle. It added five wide receivers as well. Those positions just aren’t as big of a need in the 2021 cycle as they were a season ago. That’s why 5-star offensive tackle Amarius Mims or 4-star wide receiver Deion Colzie aren’t near the top of this list.

1. Smael Mondon, 5-star inside linebacker

Kirby Smart made it a point to highlight the importance of landing linebackers in the 2021 cycle, as Georgia signed just one in the 2020 class in Mekhail Sherman. While Sherman can play both spots, it’s more likely he starts out as an outside linebacker.

This bumps the inside linebacker spot to the top of the needs list from a position standpoint. Seniors Monty Rice and Nate McBride will graduate after this year, while Channing Tindall and Quay Walker will both be juniors.

And there might not be a better prospect on the board at the moment to fill this spot than Mondon. He’s the No. 27 ranked player in the 247Sports Composite rankings. Mondon plays for Paulding County High School and comes from Dallas, Ga.

Mondon made a bit of news this week as he teased a June decision date for his commitment. The Bulldogs’ chief competition for Mondon should be seen as Tennessee and Auburn, perhaps making it all the more important that Georgia land his services, as Georgia plays both schools every year.

2. Dallas Turner, 4-star outside linebacker

As highlighted above, linebacker is a big position of need for this cycle, at both spots. The outside linebacker spot will see Walter Grant and Jermaine Johnson graduate, while Azeez Ojulari — Georgia’s best pass rusher — is draft-eligible after the 2020 season.

The Bulldogs already have one outside linebacker committed in the 2021 cycle in Elijah Jeudy, a 4-star prospect out of Philadelphia. And if the Bulldogs are able to add Turner, that would make for two very nice additions at the position.

Turner is the No. 46 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings. He plays for Florida power St. Thomas Aquinas in South Florida, the same school that 2020 signee Marcus Rosemy came from.

As for the Bulldogs top competition for the 6-foot-4 outside linebacker, it is shaping up as a Georgia-Alabama battle. Turner recently told DawgNation that the Crimson Tide had a lead over Georgia at the moment.

Related: Dallas Turner: Why Alabama has a slight lead on UGA for the elite pass rusher

3. Tony Grimes, 5-star cornerback 

There’s a very real scenario where Georgia loses Eric Stokes, Tyson Campbell and D.J. Daniel after the 2020 season, as Stokes and Campbell are eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Grimes is the No. 1 ranked cornerback in the 2021 recruiting cycle and the No. 7 overall prospect. He’s spoken glowingly of Georgia in the past and the Virginia native announced this week that he’ll reveal his top-3 schools on May 31.

The reason Grimes is not higher on this list is in part because of how well Georgia has recruited at the cornerback spot in recent cycles. Georgia signed the No. 1 ranked cornerback in the 2020 cycle in Kelee Ringo as well as 4-star prospect Jalen Kimber. The Bulldogs also saw solid contributions from Tyrique Stevenson this past season.

Related: Georgia football recruiting: Why 2021 defensive back class could be Kirby Smart’s best yet

4. Barrett Carter, 4-star inside linebacker

If Mondon is target 1A at inside linebacker, Carter is 1B. While he’s a little bit lower ranked in the 247Sports Composite rankings, Carter might be the best pound-for-pound high school football player in the state of Georgia for this coming season.

The reason Carter is down at four, and not two, is because it seems like he is trending away from Georgia at the moment. Clemson is seen as a very serious contender for Carter. The Tigers have already earned a commitment from Carter’s high school teammate in 4-star cornerback Jordan Hancock.

Clemson also has a strong track record in the Atlanta area in recent years. This recruitment isn’t over yet and Georgia is going to try and land Carter up until he signs, but the Bulldogs will face a stiff challenge from Clemson if it is to land Carter.

5. Maason Smith, 5-star defensive tackle

Georgia has landed a 5-star defensive lineman in each of the past two recruiting cycles in Jalen Carter and Travon Walker. Tray Scott has also done a good job of adding consistent depth over the years at the position as well, signing multiple defensive linemen in every class.

But there aren’t many human beings like Smith. As a high school senior, he’s listed at 6-foot-5, 316 pounds. He’s the No. 20 overall prospect in the 2021 cycle and the No. 2 defensive tackle in the class.

Georgia fans only have to look at the impact Jordan Davis has had on the Georgia defense to understand why having a guy of that size is a big deal.

Now for the bad news, Smith hails from Houma, La. And in recent years, LSU has not missed on 5-star prospects from the state. The last 5-star from Louisiana that didn’t end up at LSU was Cam Robinson back in the 2014 recruiting cycle.

Smith has also teased that he wants to team-up in college with the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2021 recruiting cycle in Korey Foreman. Landing both would be a major coup for Georgia, but even just landing Smith would be a massive win for the Bulldogs.

6. Amarius Mims, 5-star offensive tackle

We mentioned Mims at the top of this discussion. Working against him being higher on this list is Georgia signed Broderick Jones and Tate Ratledge in the 2020 class.

But Mims is still a good enough prospect to merit a deeper dive here. He’s the No. 6 overall prospect in the class and the top player in the state of Georgia. And the reality is that 6-foot-7, 315-pound offensive tackles don’t sprout out of the ground every day, much less in the state of Georgia.

Another reason why it is crucial to landing Mims is that he if he doesn’t pick Georgia, it means he could end up at either Alabama or Tennessee. Offensive tackles aren’t as sexy as say a 5-star quarterback, but when you have your 5-star quarterback — Brock Vandagriff — making a very serious pitch to land Mims, you should take notice of that.

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7. Donovan Edwards, 4-star running back

The Bulldogs signed two running backs in the 2020 cycle in Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards. So it would seem that running back isn’t the biggest need for Georgia in this cycle.

But Zamir White and James Cook are both entering their final year of eligibility. And we know Georgia wants to have five scholarship running backs, so there’s a good chance Georgia takes two running backs in the 2021 cycle.

The Bulldogs already hold a commitment from 4-star running back Lovasea Carroll, who plays for IMG Academy in Florida. so who could be the other running back to join the RBU fraternity? The top pick at the moment would be Donovan Edwards.

Edwards is the No. 38 overall player in the class, putting him right on the cusp of 5-star status. He took a January visit to Georgia and the Bulldogs are in the running for his services.

The Bulldogs will likely have to keep Edwards away from Michigan, the home-state team for Edwards. Look for Notre Dame to also be very involved in this recruitment after the Fighting Irish missed out on Will Shipley.

8. James Williams, 5-star safety

The Bulldogs already have one safety committed in the 2021 cycle in David Daniel. And given the upside of Lewis Cine, the position is not a drastic need for the 2021 cycle, especially after the Bulldogs added Major Burns and Daran Branch to close out the 2020 cycle.

But similar to Mims and Smith, there are very few prospects who have measurables like Williams. He’s ranked as the nation’s top safety prospect, due in part to his tantalizing 6-foot-5 frame.

When some schools look at him, it’s easy to see flashes of Isaiah Simmons, who did so much for the Clemson defense last season. Imagine adding a weapon like that to Georgia’s already talented defense.

Related: Looking back at some of the other wild recruitments in recent Georgia football history

To land Williams, the Bulldogs will have to hold off Alabama and Clemson, who are also in the top-3 for the Opa Locka, Fla. prospect.

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