What is Georgia’s numbers situation after Signing Day haul?

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Kirby Smart has signed a 26-man class.

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What’s the plan to make room for the extra signees today? ― Coach Rob 

If we somehow miraculously end up signing more than 25, how did we get to that number? ― Greygoose01

The last question came in before Tommy Bush committed, making it a 26-man class. (For now.) I’ve crunched the numbers, and with my understanding of everything, I think the main issue going forward will be the NCAA scholarship limit of 85. The signing limit of 25 … that’s not a hard number. Not exactly, at least.

Yes, the idea is a program only can sign 25 players per year. But those numbers are fungible in either direction.

Think of it this way: A program can sign 125 players over a five-year span. That’s a fairly hard number. But within those five years you can play with the numbers, mainly by back-counting early enrollees, so that in some years you can sign more than 25 players. (And as a result in future years, you will have to sign less than 25.)

What is back-counting? That’s the process by which an early enrollee counts toward the previous year, assuming there is room to do so. Justin Fields, for instance, can count toward Georgia’s 2017 class.

There’s some danger that my numbers are off here – journalism majors are not known for math – but follow me here: Georgia signed 21 players in 2016, which would leave four spots open, but six enrolled early. That potentially could leave room for 10 to back-count to 2016. Georgia then signed 26 last year, six of whom enrolled early. So if you back-counted those six, that left room to sign up to 31 players this year … at least under my interpretation of the rules.

One change: The NCAA tweaked the signing rules last year to limit programs to only five back-counters. But even assuming that, UGA still had room to go up to 30 this year, again, by my interpretation of the rules.

That said, there are a few gray areas: Did Ahkil Crumpton, who arrived last July, count at all toward the limit? (It is supposed to cover signees between December and May.) What about David Marvin, who blue-shirted? My understanding is he would count toward the 2018 class.

I’ve covered this for some time, dating back to the over-signing debate at the beginning of this decade, and the SEC tackling the issue at its 2011 meetings in Destin, Fla. But I still won’t pretend to fully know how each school and league interprets the bylaws, and they are very guarded about who they back-count, what their limit is for each year, etc.

Here’s what I do know: A program can only have 85 players on scholarship at one time. That’s a hard number. And Georgia has been near the limit and will be again in 2018.

My numbers, after the early departures of Roquan Smith and Trenton Thompson, the transfer of Jacob Eason, and the medical disqualification for Rashad Roundtree, had Georgia at 63 scholarships. (Here’s my most recent look at Georgia’s scholarship numbers, back in December.)

So if Georgia signs 26 players, then that puts it four over the limit. But with plenty of time to reach 85. Georgia was just over the limit last spring too. And it’s not the only program that is at the moment.

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