Winner: Todd Monken and Buster Faulkner
Georgia’s offensive coordinator, Monken, and top offensive analyst, Faulkner, have been at Georgia for a little over a year. In that time, Georgia has landed two 5-star quarterbacks, in 2021 prospect Brock Vandagriff and 2022 commitment Gunner Stockton, who pledged to the program on Thursday.
— Gunner Stockton (@GunnerStockton) January 28, 2021
Both quarterbacks come from the state of Georgia. But they were both also committed to other schools earlier in their recruiting process. So it’s not like these were slam dunk recruiting wins for either cycle.
Monken and Faulkner helped convince both of these prospects that the Georgia offense was going to get the best out of their abilities. Anyone who saw the Georgia offense prior to Monken’s arrival in January of 2020 could not say that.
The Georgia offense had its ups and downs in 2020, but with JT Daniels taking over in the late stages of the season, we saw what this offense looks like with a competent quarterback. Stockton and Vandagriff both have the potential to provide that and more for Georgia.
Kirby Smart obviously deserves credit as well for landing another 5-star quarterback, his fifth since becoming the head coach at Georgia if you were to count Daniels, who did transfer in.
But those latter three don’t come to Georgia without Monken and Faulkner shaping the direction of the Georgia offense. It’s clear that their influence on the Georgia program has been a positive one so far.
Loser: Mike Bobo
Stockton was a one-time South Carolina commitment. He picked that program in large part because of his relationship with then offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. Bobo’s father, George, also has a close relationship with the Stockton family.
Bobo though left South Carolina for the Auburn offensive coordinator job. There was some thought that after Stockton de-committed from South Carolina earlier this month, it would be Auburn where he ended up.
But that proved to not be the case. Stockton’s father Rob laid out a key reason why Gunner ended up picking Georgia over some of the other schools, such as Auburn and South Carolina.
“Comfort and stability and relationships with the staff and just the University of Georgia as a whole,” Rob Stockton said.
This isn’t the first time Bobo has landed a commitment from a 5-star quarterback, only for said quarterback to end up not playing for Bobo. A big reason Jacob Eason, a 5-star quarterback in the 2016 cycle, picked Georgia was because of his relationship with Bobo. But Bobo ended up taking the Colorado State head coaching job before Eason ever got to campus.
Recruiting and securing elite talent isn’t easy. Bobo’s proven that he can land some of the best prospects in the country. For a variety of circumstances though, he’s never gotten a chance to use that talent in his offenses, whether it be at Georgia, Auburn or South Carolina.
As an offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has landed two 5-star commitments dating back to the 2016 recruiting cycle.
Neither ended playing for Bobo and both — Gunner Stockton and Jacob Eason — will play for Georgia.
— Connor Riley (@Kconnorriley) January 28, 2021
Winner: 2022 skill players
For all that Georgia did with its 2021 signing class, if there’s one weakness it is at the skill position players. Outside of Vandagriff, Georgia didn’t sign a player that ranked in the top-100 overall prospects at running back, wide receiver or tight end.
That is the first time that has happened in the Smart era at Georgia. The second highest-ranked skill player in Georgia’s class is tight end Brock Bowers, who comes in as the No. 105 prospect in the 2021 class.
Georgia will need to bring in a number of elite skill players in this class to restock, especially as it could be Georgia’s last year with Zamir White, James Cook and George Pickens.
But some of the top 2022 recruits took notice of Stockton’s commitment. Georgia having Stockton as the face of the class makes it easier for the Bulldogs to recruit players like 5-star running back Emmanuel Henderson, 4-star wide receiver Kojo Antwi and 4-star tight end Oscar Delp.
Quarterback wasn’t an obvious need for Georgia in this class, given Georgia signed Vandagriff last cycle and Carson Beck in the 2020 cycle.
Georgia still brought in Stockton though because you can never have enough talent. And the Bulldogs are betting on Stockton attracting more top talent to Athens.
When speaking back in December, Smart didn’t seem to understand why there might be a perception that elite signal-callers didn’t want to come to Georgia.
“Quarterbacks want to play at Georgia,” Smart said. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they enjoy playing at Georgia. Criticism is going to be there in everything we do, but the opportunity to play at the University of Georgia and be a quarterback.
“Those kids want the opportunity to do that. They want the opportunity to win championships, and you putting yourself in the conversation about being able to win championships is always going to put you at the forefront of every quarterback’s in the country list.”
The response to that is obviously due to how Smart handled the Jake Fromm-Justin Fields saga. To Smart’s point though, Georgia has still gotten Jamie Newman, Daniels, Vandagriff and now Stockton to all join the program.
This Vandagriff-Stockton situation, with both being 5-star quarterbacks, isn’t likely to have some the same dynamics that Fromm-Fields did. Barring an injury, Vandagriff probably isn’t going to lead Georgia to a national championship game this season.
For all the hemming and hawing about how Smart might handle the Vandagriff-Stockton, let’s also take a moment to recognize that by the time both are on campus for Georgia, Smart will be in his seventh year as a head coach. He’s grown and gotten better since that 2018 season, which was just his third season at Georgia.
If players are allowed to get better, like Fields did after he left Georgia, coaches are as well. We’ve already seen an example of that from Smart in his replacing of James Coley with Monken.
Until Stockton and Vandagriff complete their college careers, they will be paired against one another. That’s how it was, and still is, with Fromm and Fields.
If Smart is able to get the most out of either Vandagriff or Stockton, and ideally he’d do it with both, the quarterback position won’t loom over the entire Georgia program as the Fromm-Fields decision had in the past two seasons.
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