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How does Kirby Smart feel about the 2021 recruiting cycle?

Georgia football: Kirby Smart’s comments on the 2021 recruiting cycle laced with empathy, uncertainty

It seems like fourscore and four news cycles ago when Georgia football coach Kirby Smart joined the beat reporter corps on Zoom last Thursday.

It came before a weekend when America’s attention shifted away from the novel coronavirus to Minneapolis.

There were the actions of peaceful protestors and then those not-so-civil activists. It turned our heads away from the policies which would be in place this week for the return of Georgia’s players to Athens to begin preparations for the 2020 season.

This week marks a rite of passage for every new season. The UGA signees from the 2020 signing class that did not enroll early are officially moving away from home to join the program and campus life in Athens, too.

In the midst of all of that, the Bulldogs were also able to add another former 5-star QB prospect to first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s room. That JT Daniels stuff took on a life of its own, too.  Those events eclipsed a lot of what Smart said on that Thursday morning visit with the beat reporters who cover the UGA team on a regular basis.

It was specifically interesting what Smart had to say about recruiting.

“First off, it’s extremely different,” the fifth-year head coach said. “The recruiting world has changed as much as anything because you’re just not capable of going to high schools.”

He did not duck the obvious there. When we come to think of it, the Georgia staff has basically had three full weeks (weekends included) of on-campus recruiting in 2020. That’s now into the first week of June.

Those were the last three weekends in January. That was followed by the National Signing Day for the 2020 class in the first week of February, but then another dead period for the rest of that month.

Georgia only had a small number of unofficial visitors on campus in March. The Bulldogs were taking advantage of spring break before ramping up to roll the welcome mat out after the first weekend in March. Spring drills would be underway and the months of March and April would be big for visitors.

“We would be going out watching spring practices, going school-to-school,” Smart told the UGA beat on Thursday. “I wouldn’t be able to because I don’t get to go out in May, so that didn’t really change for me, but it changed for a lot of our coaches. We’ve done what you guys know to be the case. There’s no magic potion. There’s nobody doing something magically that everybody else isn’t doing. We’re jumping on Zoom. We’re communicating with parents, coaches, recruits—we’re doing everything virtually, and that’s really the best we can do.”

The staff was set to go on the road from April 15 to May 30 to further evaluate the top 2021, 2022 and 2023 prospects during their own spring practices. The pandemic made sure none of that took place. Throw away that calendar.

The NCAA also shared word last week that all on-campus recruiting would still be halted until July 31. too.

“They keep extending the period that you can’t come on campus…the ability to come on campus, they just extended that, so it’s looking like that’s not going to happen through the end of July,” Smart said. “So, it’s going to be a very different May-June-July period and that’s unique. Who manages that the best will be important—a lot of this is who had the best relationships leading into this because, at the end of the day, you can only develop so much of a relationship through a phone, through a text, through a virtual activity. We’ve tried to be creative in the way we use that. I’m certainly not going to divulge everything we’ve done because I don’t think that’s open for everybody to do, and I think we’re all competing in the SEC, trying to make ourselves different.”

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Georgia football: Kirby Smart continues to empathize with recruits

The Bulldogs are certainly not lacking in the recruiting department. They never will be under this staff.

Despite those obstacles, the Bulldogs still have the No. 13 overall recruiting class on the well-respected 247Sports Team Composite rankings. That ranking was boosted by the commitments of All-American Georgia prospects Chaz Chambliss and Dylan Fairchild over the last week.

That gave the Bulldogs nine commits for the 2021 cycle. It comes while still showing remarkable restraint in not taking commitments from prospects the staff still felt like it needed further in-person or more senior year film for a complete evaluation.

When it comes to those national team rankings, there’s not a single team above the Bulldogs that does not have at least two more verbal commitments at this time. The number of commitments those schools have on UGA at this time is even markedly higher than that in some cases. The average number of pledges for the top 12 comes out to 15.8 commits per school.

Georgia is well-positioned based on the fact that the average 247Sports Composite rating of each of its commitments currently stands at 94.05. That’s a focus on quality rather than an impressive volume of commitments at this time.

Tennesse sits at No. 2 overall due in large part to its 24 commitments, but those prospects merit an average individual player rating of 89.73. Ohio State has the No. 1 class right now due to its average rating of 95.34 for each of its 18 commitments. Clemson also has a mean rating of 94.55 for each of its 13 pledges.

Smart wonders about the effects on the 2021 recruits in general with all of this downtime. The alpha recruiters on every major Power 5 staff have had nothing consequential to do over the last three months except focus on the core recruits on the board.

“I can tell you this: it’s probably created a bigger burden on our recruits, and if I was a recruit or a recruit’s parent, I would be more concerned with that volume of virtual usage and phone usage, and it’s probably led to more kids committing because you can make the case that they’re committing because they can’t go anywhere,” Smart said. “I would make the case that they’re sick and tired of being barraged by phone calls and virtual activities.”

National recruiting analyst Bud Elliott of 247Sports continues to do an admirable job tracking the number of 2021 commitments to this point and comparing it to previous the same timestamp in previous cycles.

Will this class just be different? Or will the real recruiting cycle for the 2021 class take place in the span of just seven months?

Could we see official visits in August in the thick of fall practices?

When prospects do get the NCAA green light to return to campus again, it will mean they will have less than five months before the first day of the early signing period to figure out where they want to go. That same condensed time frame will also influence the schools handing out these scholarships, too.

Smart wondered what that might lead to.

“Will we see more kids come November or December de-commit, or go back and start visiting?” Smart said. “I don’t know because I don’t know when we’ll be able to bring kids to campus. All that will probably come out at the end of July when we know more about what kids are going to be able to do in recruiting.”

DAWGNATION RECRUITING

(the recent reads on DawgNation.com)

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