It was just last week that we wrote about Georgia’s looming numbers issue, when it came to next year’s team and the NCAA scholarship limit. And then things got really interesting.
Four key players who were candidates to turn pro announced that they wouldn’t. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel had been considered probable to go. They’re staying. Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy were at least question marks. Now they’re not.
Three other players (Rico McGraw, Juwuan Briscoe and Shaquery Wilson) were confirmed to be transferring, and at least one other (Kirby Choates) could be too.
Then came Isaiah Wilson’s announcement on Friday, followed by Monday’s de-commitment of tailback Toneil Carter, leaving Georgia again at 19 known commitments for this year. (Yes, the return of Chubb and Michel and the de-commitment of Carter would appear to be totally related. And very pertinent to what we’re writing about here.)
So where do things stand now?
The best we can tell, Georgia is now committed to 64 scholarships for returning players next year. That does not include walk-ons Rodrigo Blankenship, Trent Frix and Christian Payne, but does include Aaron Davis, although Davis, who graduated last week, is wavering on whether he’ll return. It also includes Choates, who’s still on the docket now. If he leaves, make it 63.
Georgia has its aforementioned 19 commitments, which if it stopped there, and didn’t lose anybody else, would mean 83 scholarships for 2017, two short of the NCAA limit. But we all know that recruiting and attrition will continue. It’s all very complicated, and it’s all very delicate.
Here are three things people need to remember:
1. You don’t have to get down to 85 for next year’s roster until the summer.
Georgia, or any team in the SEC, could sign more players than they technically have room for, and then attrition could happen later — veterans leaving after spring practice, or signees not qualifying, or both. It’s not ideal, as everyone will be aware it’s an issue. But it’s one way it could sort out.
2. A team still can’t be over 85 scholarships at one time.
So the spring counts, including early enrollees. That suddenly makes the upcoming early enrollee situation a bit more delicate. Few expected Chubb back. Now he’ll be on the 85 for the spring. Could that impact early enrollees? Perhaps, but that depends on how many current players remain “on the books” in the spring. There are 12 current seniors who were recruited to campus on scholarship. How many of them are sticking around for the spring semester? Are scholarships guaranteed to additional players in the spring? If you go by the known variables, it looks like Georgia should have plenty of room for early enrollees. But …
3. Only the team knows for sure its exact scholarship numbers.
There’s no official list online or anything. Reporters such as myself may keep a list and try to confirm it as best possible. But there might be players on scholarship the public doesn’t realize, for instance. Were some walk-ons promised scholarships for the entire year? Or is somebody recruiting on scholarship privately willing to forgo it and take HOPE scholarships, or something like that?
Kirby Smart may shed some light on it in the near future, but teams tend to keep things guarded.
The bottom line
Unless Georgia suddenly freezes its recruiting class at the current number, there almost certainly will have to be further attrition. And the team will be careful with the remaining recruits. The belief is it can sign at least five more players, according to the SEC signing rules. But that’s clearly not as much an issue anymore as the NCAA scholarship rules. That’s the main issue going forward.