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Kirby Smart signed the No. 4 class for Georgia in the 2021 cycle.

Return to visits shows how Georgia football is prioritizing in-state prospects for 2022 cycle

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June going to be a massive recruiting month for Georgia football program

Back when visits were a key part of the recruiting process, Georgia would use those to help show top prospects its program. The Bulldogs could bring recruits from all over the country to Athens to show them what the program had to offer.

It’s clear those visits had an impact, as the 2019 and 2020 classes were composed of a majority of prospects who played their high school football outside the state of Georgia. If you count Nolan Smith and Warren Brinson as Georgia products, the Bulldogs landed just nine players from the state of Georgia in each of those two cycles.

Then the pandemic hit and it seemed to force Georgia to refocus on in-state players. Georgia signed 13 players from the state — counting IMG Academy players Marlin Dean and Lovasea Carroll as in-state players — including seven of the top 11 in-state prospects from the 2021 class.

That trend has rolled right into the 2022 cycle, with seven of the eight current commitments coming from the state of Georgia. That number could grow this week as well, with Jefferson, Ga., product Malaki Starks set to announce his commitment on Thursday. Starks is the No. 29 player in the state and a commitment to the Bulldogs would give Georgia three of the four 5-star players in the state for the 2022 cycle.

Related: 5-star prospect Malaki Starks previews his upcoming decision

If you’ve been following recruiting closely, you also probably know that visits seem to be just around the corner. The NCAA has begun planning what a return to visits looks like, with a supposed full announcement coming no later than mid-April.

It is widely believed a quiet period will begin starting June 1. This will give players the ability to starting visits to schools and interacting with coaches in-person for the first time since the first week of March of 2020. For Georgia, the Bulldogs haven’t hosted prospects since the final week of January in 2020.

The Georgia coaching staff, being the dogged recruiters that they are, are not waiting for the official word from the NCAA to begin planning what those first visits look like. A number of top prospects have already begun to schedule where they will be on certain dates. Four-star offensive lineman Tyler Booker already has three weekends in June booked up with visits, with a trip to Georgia set to take place from June 18th to the 20th.

Booker is an out-of-state prospect, though still one of the most coveted prospects in the class. Florida and Alabama also already have visits locked in with the IMG Academy standout, while Notre Dame, Penn State and Ohio State jostle for those other visits.

Related: Tyler Booker: Priority OL target spells out what he likes and still wants to see from UGA

Booker has spoken at length about getting to see schools in person, including Georgia with DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell. So if he is such a big prospect, why are he and other out-of-state prospects like 5-star defensive tackle Walter Nolen not coming to Georgia that first weekend in June, when visits will once again become a thing?

Because Georgia has made it a point to host in-state players that weekend. Big names in the class of 2022 like 4-star wide receiver Kojo Antwi and 4-star tight end Oscar Delp. Those two talented pass catchers both posted on social media that they would be attending Georgia on that opening weekend.

Some other top prospects expected to visit include 4-star wide receiver De’Nylon Morrissette and 4-star offensive lineman Addison Nichols. Like Antwi and Delp, they too hail from the state of Georgia, with Morrissette playing for Brookwood High School in Snellville, Ga., and Nichols suiting up for Greater Atlanta Chrisitan and is from Norcross, Ga.

Related: Georgia football: Early June is lining up for some major official visits

Nichols has most of his June blocked off with visits but because of an instance on getting Georgia guys to visit Georgia first, Nichols will be heading to Georgia once visits are allowed again.

“They’re doing a Georgia-only type of deal. They’ll have a bunch of Georgia recruits, so I thought that would be really cool,” Nichols said at the Under Armour All-American combine on Sunday.  “Georgia boys, being able to do our visit together, hang out. I think Gunner might be coming so that will be really fun.”

The Gunner Nichols refers to is Gunner Stockton. He is Georgia’s highest-ranked commit, as the 5-star quarterback is the No. 20 overall player in the country. The Tiger, Ga., product is another big reason the Bulldogs have resonated so well with in-state talent.

“Already having that connection and playing with him is something that will be really helpful,” Nichols said of Stockton. “That definitely be something if we both go there, super cool. We already have the connection, we can kinda lead together. That’s definitely a plus.”

Related: Georgia football recruiting: The 11 quick-as-a-hiccup prospect updates from the Under Armour camp

Georgia still has a long way to go in terms of filling out its 2022 signing class. And if the Bulldogs are going to put together another top signing class, they are going to need to win some of those out-of-state battles for Booker, Nolen or 4-star linebacker Jalon Walker, who announces his commitment on Sunday.

But it’s clear that the 2022 recruiting class will once again be made up of mostly Georgia products. They may have been a change forced by the pandemic with Georgia being unable to showcase its facilities and atmosphere.

That change though has been welcomed by Smart and the Georgia coaching staff as they adapt to the difficulties presented by COVID-19. At least based on the success Georgia has regained in landing prospects from the home state.

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