Editor’s Note: From time to time, the staff at DawgNation will answer direct questions from readers about subjects pertinent to UGA football. This installment reflects an insider’s view of what is going on with UGA recruiting after three pledges from the 2019 class have reopened their recruiting.
This has been the most popular UGA recruiting question this week: What’s going on with all these de-commitments?
We will effort to be brief with an answer here, but it is hard to do so regarding all the moving pieces.
There was a time period this summer where the Bulldogs picked up commitments from nine prospects in the span of 31 days. (That’s not even counting Cal transfer Demetris Robertson or a top 5 DT for the 2020 class in that tally.)
It once again vaulted the Bulldogs past Alabama to the status as the top-ranked team on the 247Sports Team Composite recruiting rankings for 2019.
When they did, I knew a simple phrase any high school student understand would soon apply: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
It won’t be easy for the Bulldogs to sign a full class of 25 scholarship players in 2019. To do so, it will require program attrition (like transfers from current Bulldogs who are not seeing the field) and maybe even strong seasons from draft-eligible juniors on their way to the NFL.
The NCAA only allows its member schools in the Bowl Subdivision to have 85 student-athletes on scholarship at any time. That’s a key number to always keep in mind with recruiting.
When the week began, the Bulldogs had 19 commitments. The program still had the honor of being the nation’s top-ranked class on those 247Sports Team Composite ratings heading into this year. The Bulldogs also have their eyes on about 7-8 desired recruits to finish out this class.
Something had to give. It started to this week.
What went down for UGA recruiting this week
The Bulldogs have seen three of their long-standing in-state commitments opt to de-commit from the program. Those were:
When they shared the news on their respective Twitter accounts, they requested that “no interviews” be asked of each of them at this time.
That doesn’t allow for direct on-the-record reporting as to the exact reasons for those de-commitments. That’s even in the event that they wish to share them.
But we can take a good look at recent history and get a good sense of what this feels like. With at least two of these cases, it feels like exactly what the Bulldogs did on the way to the No. 1 class in 2018.
- Georgia would “lose” the commitments from eight commitments in the class of 2019. When it did, the program managed to “upgrade” each of those spots as recruiting season went along.
- The Bulldogs wound up signing 11 prospects in their 2018 class who were committed to another school at one time.
It feels like the natural order of things regarding Kirby Smart’s program. The Bulldogs will try to sign the very best players it can every year. End of story.
I have said that at least a couple of times on the DawgNation forum this week. The only other expectation for UGA recruiting going forward is it will try to hover as close to that NCAA mandate of 85 student-athletes on scholarship for football as it can. (Give or take a summer graduate transfer or other transfer.)
If there’s anything else, it would be this: The Bulldogs will not get out-worked for a player they want to keep in their class, especially an in-state commitment.
If a rival wants a recruit that the Bulldogs covet, they will have to pry them out of this staff’s hands with the grip like the titan Thanos from the latest “Avengers” movie.
The series of events regarding at least two of these three players does not seem like that from my perspective.
The Jadon Haselwood de-commitment
Haselwood is still an extreme priority for this class. He was taken aside and given a special perch to watch the Bulldogs warm up for the Tennessee game last week.
The 5-star recruit has been labeled as the best receiver prospect since A.J. Green by many analysts, including former Georgia all-time Terrence Edwards.
The Cedar Grove senior rates as the nation’s No. 1 receiver for 2019 and the No. 3 overall prospect for this cycle. The Bulldogs would welcome him back with open arms at any time. He’s on his official visit to Miami this weekend and that program is a true contender for his services.
Kirby Smart doesn’t do backflips. But I bet the entire staff would join him in a few of those if the Bulldogs eventually sign Haselwood in the 2019 class. This departure stung. There’s no other way to look at it.
Hasewlood had been committed for 19 months when he made the move to officially reopen his recruiting. UGA will still get one of his three remaining official visits along with Auburn and LSU or Ohio State.
J.D. Bertrand and Jalen Perry
These decisions feel like a little more behind the scenes was at work. That is my opinion.
Bertrand, a lifelong UGA fan and an Eagle Scout, is a tremendous player. He led a spirited Blessed Trinity defense last year against Clemson freshman QB Trevor Lawrence and defending state champion Cartersville in the state playoffs last year. Bertrand and company harassed the 5-star QB and knocked them Hurricanes out in the postseason.
He’s going to be an asset to whichever program signs him. Georgia already has commitments from two ILB prospects in the 2019 class who rate higher than the Blessed Trinity star.
They also hope to sign 5-star ILB Nakobe Dean out of Mississippi in this class.
Bertrand was a 4-star recruit in his own right. I even feel he is undervalued. That said, he did rate as one of Georgia’s lowest-rated 4-star commitments at No. 312 overall in the 2019 class.
The same can be said about Perry. He was highly-rated to some extent nationally, but it is also clear the Bulldogs are going after two other cornerbacks that rank higher than his status as the nation’s No. 18 cornerback for 2019. The Dacula star also rated as the nation’s No. 165 overall prospect.
Georgia will look to fill that spot in the class with a pair of elite corners from South Florida.
South Florida CB Tyrique Stevenson rates as the nation’s No. 5 cornerback for 2019. He also slots in as the nation’s No. 39 overall prospect for this cycle. The same can be said for North Palm Beach (Fla.) standout Kaiir Elam. Elam ranks as the nation’s No. 8 CB prospect with a No. 71 overall rating for this cycle.
If the Bulldogs are not providing the level of attention necessary to retain a pair of long-time in-state commitments like Bertrand and Perry, it is not a stretch to theorize the program could once again have its eyes on more desirable targets.
Another thing to think about here with UGA recruiting
We’ve covered a few of these elements earlier in the week on the DawgNation forum. The blog here today sums up maybe the meatiest of these topics.
But there’s another thing to consider. When they Bulldogs sign these tremendous classes (No. 6 in 2016, N0. 3 in 2017, No. 1 in 2018) it is apparent that not all of these guys are going to play.
Watch those early commits going forward who do not rate within the nation’s top 100 prospects. If higher-rated players join the class and sign with the program, that could be an issue. These are the same things that have been happening for years and years over in Tuscaloosa regarding Alabama.
Some might say that recruiting rankings do not matter. But the Bulldogs have played 10 of their freshmen prospects in all five games this season. We know that nine of those guys were among the 13 highest-rated players that UGA signed in that cycle. 5-star RB Zamir White was one of those, but he’s out for the year with another ACL injury. OL Jamaree Salyer and TE Luke Ford have already played in four games apiece, respectively.
Punter Jake Camarda was the only Bulldog who has played in all five games that did not rank among the 13 highest-rated signees the Bulldogs had for 2018.
Final thoughts about the de-commitments this week
I posted this on the DawgNation message board forum last night after the Bertrand news. It is another way to look at this issue.
Since Jalen Perry committed in October of 2017 the Bulldogs have …….
- Signed 5-star Tyson Campbell
- Seen that 4-star CB signee Chris Smith II is very much a future SEC contributor in the secondary
- Learned Eric Stokes can be a very good CB in the SEC
- Really started working hard on Elam and Stevenson
- Signed Divaad Wilson and saw first-hand in spring practice he was good enough to play early at UGA.
Since J.D. Bertrand committed in July of 2017, the Bulldogs have …
- Seen Monty Rice can be a strong player at ILB
- Signed near 5-star ILB Quay Walker and seen what he can do in fall camp
- Signed near 5-star ILB Channing Tindall and also seen what he can do in camp
- Taken a commitment from the nation’s No. 5 LB in Rian Davis
- Taken a commitment from a Top 100 true inside thumper in Trezmen Marshall
- Continued to pursue 5-star ILB Nakobe Dean heavily
There were elite players both in Athens and on the way to UGA which complicated the depth chart pictures for both of those guys at their respective positions.
Let’s check back in December after the early signing period and again after the first Wednesday in February for the traditional signing day. The hunch here is that the Bulldogs will see that at least two of these three vacated scholarship slots were filled by higher-rated players.
There might even been 1-2 more of these de-commitments to chronicle, too.
That’s not too big of a leap based on what the Bulldogs have done so far under Kirby Smart.