ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart had his game face on when he took to the ESPNU airwaves to answer questions about his third straight top-three ranked recruiting class on Wednesday.
“I think which each class we’ve grown, we’ve got some areas we have to improve upon, our staff has done a tremendous job, our administration has done a great job,” said Smart, who had the No. 1 signing class in 2018. “What a great product you have to sell when you have an academic institution like Georgia.
“One of my favorite things about the last three classes is the academic nature of every kid we’ve been able to sign has been a great advantage for our school.”
Georgia’s signing class is ranked No. 2, per the 247Sports composite, and it’s likely to stay there with the Bulldogs signing a nation-high five 5-star players in the 2019 class.
Receiver George Pickens, from Hoover, Ala., is the latest 5-star to choose Georgia, a signing day flip previously committed to Auburn that sent shockwaves across the nation.
“George is a kid who visited over here multiple times, he came to our game against Auburn as an unofficial visitor and had a great time,” Smart said. “I thought we had a tremendous official visit with him a couple weeks ago when he came over to campus, we didn’t have a lot of other kids here, we only had a few spots that we were narrowing our focus on.
“Even into the in-homes last week, I thought we had a great in-home visit. He was very honest with us, told us where we stood, and he thought this was the best fit.”
So, Smart was asked on ESPNU, just how hard does Georgia continue to recruit players who are committed elsewhere?
“I recruit them as hard as people recruit our committed players, so it’s certainly an open game,” Smart said. “You know that really, when you’ve got someone committed, your’e just a target, no one stops recruiting kids nowadays, it’s just the way of the world.”
No doubt, Georgia once had commitments from 2019 class 5-star prospects Jadon Haselwood and John Emery Jr., both of whom ultimately flipped — to Oklahoma and LSU, respectively.
Smart explained it’s a matter of course to follow up with recruits who have shown interest.
“I think it’s keeping an open line of communication,” Smart said. “When you do that, and you keep yourself in the areas you need and the areas you are concerned with, you’re able to sign good players.”
In the Bulldogs’ case, that approach proved pivotal when the three top receivers from the 2018 season decided to forego their senior seasons to become eligible for the NFL Draft.
“Coming out of the December signing date, we had some surprise guys leave early, tight end and receivers especially,” Smart said, “So we had to fill those needs, and I thought that’s what we really went after and really targeted, and we were able to do that.”
Georgia has 23 signees in the 2019 class, including 14 early enrollees.
Pickens was the highlight for the Bulldogs on Wednesday, but Georgia also got a signing day decision from tight end Brett Seither, a 3-star tight end out of Clearwater, Fla.
Former Tennessee captain Eli Wolf, a graduate transfer tight end, will choose between Georgia and Ohio State after taking a visit to the Buckeyes this week. Wolf’s scholarship will count toward the 2020 class.
Georgia football 5-stars in 2019 class
Signed & Enrolled
DE Nolan Smith, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla., No. 1 overall
ILB Nakobe Dean, Horn Lake, Miss., No. 19 overall
OC Clay Webb, Oxford, Ala., No. 26 overall
DT Travon Walker, Upson-Lee, Thomaston, Ga., No. 22 overall
WR George Pickens, Hoover, Ala., No. 24 overall