ATHENS — Whoomp, there it is!
That phrase, made famous by the song from the 1990s hip-hop group Tag Team, might date me a bit with our young readers. But no four words better describe the impact that Georgia landing 5-star wide receiver George Pickens — and flipping him from Auburn to boot — had on National Signing Day on Wednesday.
This was big. This was huge. This was exactly what the doctor ordered.
This was one of only two developments that realistically would moved the needle and made NSD relevant for Georgia fans on Wednesday. The other would have been, of course, if 4-star cornerback Kaiir Elam of North Palm Beach, Fla., also decided to sign with the Bulldogs. Instead, he stuck with his longtime lean of Florida.
Regardless, the fireworks have already gone off. The dynamite has been detonated. And talk about making good use of an extremely limited number of remaining scholarships!
Shame on me for ever doubting Georgia coach Kirby Smart. Not that I did, necessarily. But I think I was lured to sleep like a lot of other people by the fact that Smart wasn’t even bothering to hold a press conference on Wednesday. That told me that Smart wasn’t expecting much to happen. And maybe he didn’t.
But ever since Smart stepped on UGA’s campus as head coach in December of 2015, he’s been pulling off these unexpected, awe-inspiring flips.
Remember his first signing class? Yes, there were the resident big names, like Jacob Eason, Ben Cleveland and Mecole Hardman that Smart managed to salvage from the Mark Richt regime. But then, in the midst of all that, came the transfer of Alabama defensive back Maurice Smith and the unexpected early enrollment of a wide receiver named Riley Ridley, brother of Calvin.
The same thing happened in 2017 when a 4-star linebacker from Alabama, Monty Rice, just sort of showed up as an early enrollee. Retrospectively, it wasn’t that big of a deal, but I also remember what a surprise the late transfer was of Ahkil Crumpton from a California junior college that year. And, lest we forget Kirby flipped a quarterback named Jake Fromm from Alabama earlier that year.
Hey, it’s a bunch of spilled milk now, but there’s no underplaying what an absolute coup it was for Georgia to land quarterback Justin Fields last year. Maybe it didn’t work out in the long run, but Smart and staff still had to convince Fields to join the Bulldogs when they already had a quite-capable and well-established quarterback in Fromm. And though he didn’t stick around — it remains to be determined whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing — Fields signing with Georgia last year meant that he wasn’t signing with Florida or any of the Bulldogs’ other rivals. Ultimately, he remains fairly harmless at Ohio State, unless and until the two teams meet in the College Football Playoffs.
Obviously, Fields’ transferring didn’t have the adverse effect on Georgia recruiting many predicted it would. So now, a year after plucking the best player in Tennessee out of Knoxville in offensive lineman Cade Mays, the Bulldogs now have nabbed the two best players out of the state of Alabama in lineman Clay Webb of Oxford and Pickens (not to mention the top player in Mississippi in linebacker Nakobe Dean. If you haven’t noticed, Georgia continues to do quite well in Florida. Imagine had the Dogs closed the deal on running back John Emery of New Orleans!
Can’t sign ’em all, I guess.
I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but I kind of am. Amazed, really.