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Kirby Smart and Dan Lanning are the head coach and defensive coordinator for the Georgia Bulldogs.

What Barrett Carter’s decision means for Georgia and where the Bulldogs go next in 2021 recruiting

When Kirby Smart met with reporters to discuss the 2020 recruiting class, he dropped a hint about how important the linebacker spot would be for the 2021 class.

The Bulldogs signed just one in the previous cycle and stand to see at least four, if not more, depart following the 2020 season. The Bulldogs were going to need to stock the cupboard in both the long and short term at the position.

That is why the decision of Barrett Carter on Tuesday is seen as a miss for Georgia in the 2021 recruiting cycle, and a rather large one at this point in the recruiting calendar.

Carter is the No. 56 overall prospect in the 2021 cycle. Across both linebacker positions in the 247Sports Composite rankings, Carter is the No. 5 ranked linebacker prospect in the class. Of the elite linebacker prospects in the class, he’s also the one that was geographically closest to Athens, as he stars for North Gwinett High School in Suwanee, Ga.

Despite playing just over an hour from Sanford Stadium, Carter announced his commitment to the Clemson Tigers. The fact that Carter’s first career game could come against Georgia — the Bulldogs and Tigers are set to open the 2021 season against each other —and that he’ll be playing for one of the elite teams in the country only further throws salt in the wound on this recruiting miss.

Carter’s decision though shouldn’t come as a shock to Georgia. Since the NCAA has suspended visits due to COVID-19, Carter has been trending towards the Tigers, even with the long-established relationship with Georgia. The Tigers also landed a commitment from Carter’s teammate during this time period in 4-star Jordan Hancock.

Clemson also has a historically great track record when it comes to keeping its committed prospects in the class. Dating back to the 2016 recruiting class, Clemson has had just three committed prospects de-commit, though one of those did occur in the 2021 cycle in 5-star prospect Korey Foreman. So while Georgia will still continue to try and flip Carter, don’t hold your breath on it.

Related: Korey Foreman decision another example that even the big boys suffer de-commitments

Now that the doom and gloom is out of the way, where does Georgia turn next to add talent at the linebacker position? The Bulldogs already have one commitment at the position for the 2021 recruiting cycle in 4-star prospect Elijah Jeudy. He is out of Philadelphia and the No. 167 overall prospect in the country. He is expected to be an outside linebacker in college.

The highest-rated target for the Bulldogs also might be the one who commits next. Smael Mondon has teased at the idea of announcing his commitment during the month of June. It should now be seen as imperative that Georgia lands his commitment.

Mondon is actually higher rated than Carter, as the Paulding Country High School prospect is the No. 27 overall prospect in the 2021 cycle. Among all linebacker prospects, he’s the second-highest rated in the country.

And Georgia is putting on a full-court press to try and land Mondon. Georgia offensive line commit Micah Morris tweeted out a graphic encouraging Mondon to join him and the six other currently committed prospects in the 2021 cycle. That graphic was then retweeted by the likes of current Bulldogs in Richard LeCounte, Monty Rice, Travon Walker and Eric Stokes.

The chief competition at this point for Mondon’s services seems to be Tennessee and Florida. Landing the Dallas, Ga., linebacker would go a long way in easing the sting that comes with missing on a player like Carter, who was one of the most productive players in the state of Georgia last year.

RelatedSmael Mondon: Decrypting that recent tweet from the 5-star UGA target

Carter and Mondon are likely to move to the inside linebacker spot at the next level. With Carter now officially off the board, except Georgia to make a stronger push for Xavian Sorey. He is the No. 6 ranked linebacker in the 2021 cycle and the No. 65 overall player.

Georgia will have to venture a little farther from home to try and land Sorey, as he comes from Graceville, Fla. But the Bulldogs have already been giving Sorey the same graphic treatment that Mondon has been getting, as 2021 defensive back commit David Daniel sent a graphic out last week encouraging Sorey and fellow Florida product Dallas Turner to commit to the program.

It is interesting to note that Carter did not publicly get that same type of graphic while Sorey, Mondon, Turner and Chaz Chambliss all did. Turner and Chambliss project as outside linebackers at the college level.

Another name to monitor at the inside linebacker spot for the Bulldogs is Prince Kollie. DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell recently did a deep dive on Collie and what he might bring to the table. He actually received an offer from Georgia during the COVID-19 recruiting shutdown, which currently is set to last through June 30th as mandated by the NCAA.

Related: Prince Kollie: The very intriguing ILB target who had 1,085 yards receiving last year

Like Sorey, if Georgia is going to land Collie it will have to go a little farther from Athens to do so, as he comes from Jonesborough, Tenn.

Missing out on a top prospect from the Metro Atlanta area is hardly a rarity for Georgia. One only has to look back to last year when Arik Gilbert announced he was going to play with LSU. Gilbert was a 5-star prospect and starred for Marietta High School. He was the No. 5 overall player in the country and Georgia desperately needed more talent at both tight end and among its pass catchers.

Georgia recovered by landing 5-star prospect Darnell Washington. It had to go to Las Vegas to land him and he’s not quite as highly rated as Gilbert — Washington is only the No. 23 prospect in the 2020 class — but Georgia still earned a big win at a position of need.

Smart, defensive coordinator Dan Lanning and co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann will have to do the same thing at the linebacker spot in 2021. Given Georgia’s track record in recruiting, it will probably be just fine, even without the services of Carter.

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