ATHENS – Georgia received a verbal commitment on Sunday from Dominick Blaylock. You might have heard of his dad, Mookie Blaylock, of Atlanta Hawks and NBA fame. But that’s not the Bulldogs’ interest in Dominick.
They like him because he’s a wide receiver at Walton High in Marietta — and a highly regarded one at that. The 6-foot, 175-pound player is a 5-star prospect, according to the 247Sports recruiting rankings for the Class of 2019, with the other recruiting services ranking him as a 4-star. Clearly, he’s supposed to be good.
Blaylock actually is the second 5-star wideout who has pledged to sign in Georgia’s Class of 2019. So has Jadon Haselwood of Cedar Grove, whom some consider to be the top receiver prospect in the country in the 2019 class.
What perplexes me is why UGA hasn’t been able to recruit receivers similarly well for the 2018 recruiting class, or for the past few, for that matter.
Not to bash the Bulldogs’ previous recruits or the ones currently suiting up at that position. Georgia’s current receiving corps is probably undervalued. But when it comes to inking the biggest and baddest receivers in the country, per recruiting rankings at least, Georgia has struggled to land its share. And I don’t get that.
You’d think the best of the best would be lining up to come play with Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm and possibly Justin Fields. But currently the Bulldogs don’t have any receivers committed for the Class of 2018. That’s not because there aren’t any available. Au contraire.
Two of the finest receiver prospects in America, supposedly, reside less than an hour away in metro Atlanta. Matthew Hill of Snellville’s Brookwood High carries a No. 13 national rating by 247Sports, and Tucker’s Josh Vann is ranked 14th at the position. But neither seems to be giving the Bulldogs a very hard look. According to the 247Sports well-informed Crystal Ball predictions, Hall will end up at Auburn, and Vann eventually will commit to South Carolina. Those projections were unanimous for each player.
Now I don’t know all the ins and outs of their recruitment, or the things such as school and family connections that DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell might. But on the surface, that doesn’t make a lot of sense from the standpoint of college prospects seeking quality of education, opportunity and statistical legacies.
Certainly the Gamecocks look to be set at quarterback with the return of sophomore Jake Bentley, who finished strong while starting the last seven games of his freshman season. And, my goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a transfer who has never played a down of SEC ball command more hype than has former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham at Auburn. But the body of offensive work by those respective programs and their legacies at the position don’t warrant them beating the Bulldogs head-to-head for wide receiver talent.
And, let’s be clear, at least in the case of Auburn. The Tigers have hammered Georgia on the recruiting trail of late. Just look at last year’s recruiting class, in which Gus Malzahn’s staff was able to land highly rated 4-star players, such as Kyle Davis from Gwinnett County’s Archer High and Darius Slayton from Norcross. That is literally in UGA’s backyard. Auburn also managed to land another 4-star prospect from Florida at the position in Nate Craig-Myers.
How’d that turn out? Slayton had 15 catches, Davis had 12 and Auburn finished dead last in the SEC in passing offense. South Carolina, for what it’s worth, was last in the league in scoring and 13th in total offense.
Georgia also whiffed on a couple of other highly rated receiver prospects in the state last year. Most notably, Demetris Robertson of Savannah went to Cal and had a big year for the Bears. Also, North Gwinnett’s Josh Imatorbhebhe landed at Southern Cal.
That’s going to happen. Some kids just want to get away to distant outposts and play for storied programs far away. But Georgia simply can’t afford to lose head-to-head battles with conference rivals over elite prospects at positions of need.
I appreciate the job receivers coach James Coley and Georgia’s staff has done at receiver for the Class of 2019. But they needed to do better with signing receivers in 2016, they could’ve done better in ’17 and they better get it going for ’18.
But, hey, that’s simply recruiting battles. The wars are won on the field in the heat of competition. Georgia has owned the series with both of those teams in recent years — three of the last four vs. the Gamecocks, nine of the last 11 vs. the Tigers. And, as I said, the Bulldogs are holding their own in terms of talent and development at receiver.
Jeremiah “J.J.” Holloman is shaping up to look like a good get in the 2017 class, and we have yet to see what they got in the other three wideouts they landed: Trey Blount III, Matt Landers and Mark Webb. I like other recent acquisitions who now are lining up at wide receiver for the Bulldogs, such as Riley Ridley and Javon Wims, neither of whom were the bluest of chips. And Terry Godwin, a 5-star when he inked out of Hogansville, is undervalued as a wideout. He’s had 73 catches and 20 other touches as either a ball carrier, kick returner or “wild-dog” quarterback in his two seasons with Georgia. Coach Kirby Smart keeps talking about how excited he is to see what he will get from Godwin this season.
But UGA is the school of A.J. Green and Hines Ward and Malcolm Mitchell and Terrence Edwards. It’s where quarterbacks Aaron Murray and Matthew Stafford and David Greene set offensive records. I realize no program can sign them all, but if Georgia is fully vested in landing a certain in-state receiver – or quarterback for that matter – and they’re battling Auburn or South Carolina or Alabama or Tennessee for him, the Bulldogs should get him. They should win that battle every time.
Georgia did when it landed these two fine-looking receivers for 2019. Good job. Maybe they can turn it around for ’18, but the Bulldogs need to get busy.