Has Georgia football recruiting been hurt more than other elite programs by lack of visits?
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How Georgia football recruiting has been impacted by lack of visits
If there’s one thing that seems to be apparently clear during the current offseason is how important hosting recruiting visitors is to the Georgia football program.
Since the calendar turned to 2020, Georgia has had just four weekends where they could host prospects on visits, whether that be official or unofficial. One of those weekends however, Georgia was unable to host any prospects as it was the start of spring break, where many coaches and players were not on campus.
Then COVID-19 really hit America and has since mostly halted visits. For Georgia, that meant no G-Day, no scavenger hunt, no visits in June, no big recruiting weekend at the end of July like we saw a season ago. No chance to impress any potential recruits or explain in-person why Georgia is the best place for their future.
Georgia isn’t the only program in the country that’s had to deal with these issues. Every other program in the country has had to learn how to effectively recruit during an extended dead period, which means in-person visits or coaches visiting prospects are now off the table for the time being. The dead period is set to run through at least Aug. 31, and possibly even longer given the current state of the country.
Yet with every team playing effectively by the same rules, why does it seem like Georgia isn’t keeping up with the likes of Ohio State, Alabama, LSU and Clemson? The usual teams that recruit at a level comparable to Georgia.
The teams mentioned above rank No. 1, No. 2 No. 4 and No. 9 in the country in the 247Sports Composite recruiting rankings. They also rank No. 1, No. 2, No. 5 and No. 3 in the average recruit ranking. Georgia by comparison sits at No. 16 and No. 4 in those two respective categories.
So for starters, Georgia’s class, while comprised of fewer recruits at the moment, is still landing the same quality of player that the other programs are. It has one 5-star prospect currently committed in quarterback Brock Vandagriff, while also having five other commits ranked in the top 150 of the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Next, it’s worth keeping in mind that compared to the likes of Ohio State and Clemson, Georgia traditionally moves a bit slower when it comes to racking up commitments. Last year, Georgia landed 11 commitments from players that would eventually sign with the program after playing in the SEC championship game on Dec. 7. The year before, the Bulldogs picked up seven commitments from eventual signees after the SEC championship game.
In the 2019 and 2020 cycles, Clemson and Ohio State combined for 13 commitments turned signees over the same timespan. So those two schools clearly get more work done on the front end than the back.
That’s part of the reason why the Buckeyes already have 19 commitments, Clemson has 13 while Georgia has just 10. In a normal year, it would be easy to say that Georgia was just going to make a late run come December, in part because of the visits.
Except it’s still an unknown if schools will be allowed to have visitors for games this season. Schools are already making adjustments for having smaller capacity crowds so that social distancing can be practiced. Some states, like New York and New Jersey, have already said that no spectators will be allowed at sporting events for the remainder of the year.
If that were to happen to Georgia, it would prevent the program from replicating the environment it had for Notre Dame game last season.
Smart spoke about the importance of that weekend and how it played a role in Georgia landing the No. 1 recruiting class in the country for the past cycle.
“The Notre Dame atmosphere was one of the keys to this signing class,” Smart said.
So the lack of clarity on future visits certainly explains why some who closely follow Georgia recruiting seem a little more worried today than they were a few weeks ago.
There’s another reason why worries and concerns have grown recently and it’s because of the decisions made by Terrence Ferguson and James Williams.
The former is a 4-star offensive lineman from Fort Valley, Ga ranked as the No. 46 prospect in the country. He played for the same Peach County program that produced current Bulldog Kearis Jackson. There was a long-running expectation that Ferguson would end up picking Georgia, especially when you consider he made multiple visits to Georgia back in January.
But Ferguson committed to Alabama on Sunday, playing a reason in the Crimson Tide’s rise up the recruiting rankings.
Then on Tuesday night, Williams announced his commitment to Miami. Like Fergurson, there was a long-running expectation for him to commit to Georgia. But Williams ended up sticking closer to home, with the 5-star south Florida product announcing his commitment to the Hurricanes.
— James Williams (@Begreat_20) July 22, 2020
Those two announcements now have Georgia fans worried. Will Smart be able to work his usual magic and build another elite recruiting class? How will the lack visits continue to impact Georgia’s future efforts? If the NCAA doesn’t move the signing periods, how would that help or harm Georgia?
The third question can’t be known until the NCAA actually makes a decision and good luck predicting what the organization might do. The second question is that Georgia clearly has been hurt by the lack of visits. How much worse could it get? Well given the recent news, it’s hard to say significantly worse.
But it is worth noting here that 4-star tight end Brock Bowers came all the way from Napa, Calif., to see Athens earlier in July. This past weekend, 5-star offensive tackle Amarius Mims did the same. So prospects are at least able to visit the town, and Vandagriff is nearby in Bogart, Ga., allowing him to make the quick trip into town to meet face-to-face with prospects.
As for the first question, Smart’s track record indicates that Georgia will sign a very good, yes even elite, class. The last four recruiting classes Georgia has signed have ranked No. 1, No. 2, No. 1 and No. 3. His first class in 2016, which he had just weeks to string together, finished ranked No. 6.
It’s understandable why some are worried about the current state of Georgia recruiting. This time a year ago, the Bulldogs were sitting just outside the top-5 and had 14 commitments. And the uncertainty of the recruiting landscape due to COVID-19 likely grows the concerns.
But at some point, Smart’s track record and success will start to speak for itself. He’ll land a couple of big-time recruits like Mims and Bowers, and all the chest-thumping and celebrating that has usually accompanied Georgia recruiting in recent years will return.
In the span of a couple weeks, Alabama rose from a class ranked in the 50’s all the way to the No. 2 ranking. Recruiting moves pretty quickly, and while Georgia fans might feel like the Bulldogs are on the bottom at the moment, give it a few weeks — or months — and it’ll seem like they’re back on top.
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