The top five storylines from Georgia’s signing class, which reached 26 official signees on Wednesday:
1. AN HISTORICALLY STRONG CLASS
Georgia finished with the nation’s third-best class, according to the 247Sports Composite, which culls the major rankings. Georgia finished behind only Alabama, the perennial winner of the recruiting rankings, and Ohio State.
That ties for Georgia’s highest-ranked class since the early 2000s, when recruiting services became widespread. The 2002 class was ranked third by Rivals. The 2006 class, which featured Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, also ranked fourth.
Georgia has had top five and top 10 rankings recently. There were three top 5 classes between 2001-15.
But for Kirby Smart and his staff to do so well after an 8-5 year in which they only made the Liberty Bowl was astounding.
Smart didn’t harp on the rankings Wednesday. Instead he emphasized loyalty – the fact that 12 players made Georgia their only official visit – and championship pedigree – that 12 also won rings in high school.
“I think you can speak volumes to the group as a whole, not just what a number is by their name, or a number by their class,” Smart said. “That’s important to you guys, that’s not as important to me, their ranking, as is what kind of kids these young men are.”
2. IN-STATE DOMINANCE
A year ago, Kirby Smart was asked by a fan about not losing Georgia prospects to other schools. Smart, knowing what it’s like to recruit the state at another school, tried to tamp down expectations. But he ended up exceeding them.
According to the 247Sports Composite, Georgia signed four of the state’s top six prospects, and 11 of the top 16.
That’s astounding compared to previous years: Last year in Smart’s first recruiting class, Georgia only signed two of the state’s top 10 prospects, and six of the top 20. The year before, in Mark Richt’s last year, Georgia only signed three of the top 10 and eight of the top 20.
Not every kid will stay. We recognize that,” Smart said. “It’s not really been about that to me, as much as it is getting the right guys in the state, not just getting the top guys in the state. We need to get the right guys that we need. And we’ve got to be able to go outside the state when we need guys that the state doesn’t provide.”
3. NOT FINISHING STRONG, BUT ….
If there’s one criticism of Georgia’s class, it’s that signing day was relatively uneventful. Defensive lineman Aubrey Solomon chose Michigan. So did receiver Nico Collins, as Jim Harbaugh’s southern invasion and satellite camps appeared to pay off.
Cornerback Jamyest Williams stuck with his commitment to South Carolina after a strong push from Georgia. Linebacker Markavious Bryat chose Auburn. Linebacker Leonard Warner chose Florida State.
Of course, Georgia did so well prior to signing day that the late misses only prevented it from being one of the nation’s top two classes. As it was, the Bulldogs still finished third nationally.
Fans may leave the day feeling a bit down about Williams, Solomon and others. But it’s more a matter of timing: If some of the major prospects – such as Wilson (No. 16 overall in the nation, per 247Sports), Thomas (No. 42), and Swift (No. 33) – who did wait until signing day to make their announcement, the perception would have been different.
“It was a pretty uneventful day,” Smart said. “An exciting, uneventful day, if there is such a thing.”
4. OFFENSIVE LINE HELP
Georgia’s front five was the weak link on last year’s team, and that was with three senior starters. So what now? Well, Georgia may have signed the best offensive line class in the country, with second-year offensive line coach Sam Pittman living up to his reputation as a great recruiter. Five-star Isaiah Wilson headlines the six-man group, which also includes junior college transfer D’Marcus Haynes. The latter enrolled early and thus could earn a starting job at one of the tackle spots as soon as this spring.
And they come ready as far as size, according to offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
“There isn’t a young man that we’re bringing in that you could say, Boy he’s going to have to sit out a few years and gain that size and that strength the way the old days we used to do it,” offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. “Most of the kids these days are walking in with the size and the speed that you’re looking for to be able to compete. Now how quick can they pick up the playbook, how quick can they adjust to the speed of the SEC game, who knows those questions. But they walk in and they look right when they walk in the door.”
5. RECEIVER HELP TOO
Georgia’s next-biggest problem on its struggling offense was at receiver, at least in the eyes of the coaching staff, which prefers taller, more physical receivers. And their two best receivers last year were 5-6 (Isaiah McKenzie) and 5-10 (Terry Godwin). The former is off to the NFL early after leading the team in receiving. So there figures to be a lot of opportunity available, and Georgia brought in a number of candidates.
Three receivers that Georgia signed are rated four-stars, and all are 6-foot-2 or taller. Matt Landers, a three-star prospect, is 6-foot-5.
Jeremiah (J.J.) Holloman, an early enrollee, is already on board. Georgia held off Penn State for Mark Webb, a prospect from the Philadelphia area, while keeping Atlanta’s Trey Blount in state.
“I like the group of kids coming back, and I really like the young men that we’ve signed to add to that room,” Chaney said, before adding: “I think everybody does on signing day. We all like everything we’ve got done.”