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Georgia football: Ranking the greatest hits for Kirby Smart on the recruiting trail

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It is already a foregone conclusion that Kirby Smart has aced the recruiting portion of his job description in Athens.

Kirby Smart. The man is pretty good at this recruiting for Georgia football thing, eh?

The Bulldogs have finished with an average annual ranking of No. 3 nationally so far across his first four recruiting cycles leading the program. That number rises to No. 2 overall when taking into account what the program has accomplished on the trail after his first three full cycles of leading that charge.

Georgia has recruited better than any other program in the nation over the last three cycles. The Crimson Tide has finished with an average ranking of 2.2 overall dating back to the 2017 class.

With that, here’s an opinion which will assess the truly exemplary things that Smart and his staff (including an Augusta native in Director of Player Personnel Marshall Malchow) have done in their three-plus years of working to get elite recruits to commit to the G.

Kirby Smart has definitely given the Georgia faithful a lot of big wins to celebrate on the trail. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

No recruiting effort is ever perfect. The Bulldogs have seen priorities like Derrick Brown (Auburn), Jadon Haselwood (Oklahoma), Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame), Christopher Hinton Jr. (Michigan), Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Demetris Robertson (Cal) and Aubrey Solomon (Michigan) leave the state.

But the assumption here is the fan base has no problem with that (Shannon Sharpe meme time) to let those off-target efforts slide with respect to the talent that is now at UGA.

The Bulldogs have recruited or signed a total of 19 players who were once rated as 5-star recruits on the 247Sports Composite standard, but the rep here will try to go a little more parallel to the ground than that.

The topic header is accurate even though Smart and his charges have yet to sign the top player from the state of Georgia in any cycle.

  • Alabama: 5-star WR George Pickens in 2019
  • Florida: 5-star OLB Nolan Smith in 2019
  • Illinois: 4-star TE Luke Ford in 2018
  • Mississippi: 5-star ILB Nakobe Dean in 2019
  • New York: 5-star OT Isaiah Wilson in 2017
  • North Carolina: 5-star RB Zamir White in 2018
  • Pennsylvania: 5-star RB D’Andre Swift in 2017
  • Rhode Island: 4-star OT Xavier Truss in 2019
  • Tennessee: 5-star OT Cade Mays in 2018
  • Washington: 5-star QB Jacob Eason in 2016

It will get lost in the wash here, but the Bulldogs were able to add four new states in regard to this topic with their 2019 class.

As a courtesy, our research here on this topic will also reflect that the Bulldogs have signed the No. 2 player from a state on four other occasions. The Bulldogs have even managed that three times in Georgia.

4.  The repeat 1-2 punches on the board

This has become a Smart special. It calls to mind the Brandon Adams citation of the Montgomery Burns quote from Simpsons lore.

Georgia signed the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect this cycle in 5-star pass rusher Nolan Smith. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

“I would trade everything I have for ….. just a little bit more.”

We typically refer to what the Bulldogs have done here as Gordon Gekko recruiting from the movie “Wall Street” which was a thing already a generation ago.

Greed is good. Especially when it comes to elite recruiting. Smart’s program has now signed the nation’s No. 1 player at a specific position an impressive eight times. That’s not even counting the junior college ratings.

But the Bulldogs also have a track record here of going for first and seconds in the blue-chip recruit line before other rivals programs can take their turn.

Georgia has signed the following combinations in its classes:

  • The No. 1 overall high school prospect + the No. 1 overall junior college prospect (2019)
  • The No. 1 ILB and No. 1 WDE (2019*- ILB Nakobe Dean fell to No. 2 after he signed with the final re-rank)
  • The No. 4 and No. 5 WRs (2019)
  • The nation’s top-rated pass rusher (2018 and 2019)
  • The nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 OLBs (2018)
  • The No. 1 overall RB prospect and the No. 2 overall QB prospect (2018)
  • The No. 1 and No. 3 overall guard prospects (2018)
  • The No. 1 and No. 5 RB prospects (2018)
  • Signing the nation’s No. 5 and No. 10 offensive tackles (2017)
  • Signing the nation’s No. 2 and No. 4 safeties (2017)
  • The No. 1 ATH and the No. 1 TE (2016)
  • Recruiting RBs to the program with the following national ratings: No. 6 (2016); No. 4 (2017); No. 1 (2018); No. 5 (2018)
  • We’re leaving out a notable bullet point here because it will rank much higher on its own

3. 2018 in all of its “Glory Glory”

There is a lot to discuss here. The fact that the Bulldogs signed six of the state’s top nine prospects is one thing. That’s really just the water glass on the table here.

The Bulldogs would go on to sign …..

  • 3 of the nation’s top 10 prospects
  • 5 of the nation’s top 20 prospects
  • 7 of the nation’s top 25 prospects (No other program had more than four)
  • 9 of the nation’s top 50 prospects
  • 11 of the nation’s top 75 prospects
  • 12 of the nation’s top 100 prospects
Kirby Smart earned the first No. 1 overall class for Georgia in modern recruiting history with the 2018 signing class. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

The Bulldogs have since seen two of those top 75 signees (Justin Fields and Luke Ford) portal away to other programs. That still leaves nine of the nation’s top 75 recruits for 2018 on the roster. Ohio State (11) was the only other school to sign as many of the nation’s top 75 as the Bulldogs did.

The real meat of this topic is that the Bulldogs signed a record number of 5-star prospects based off their final 247Sports composite rating. Georgia set the new standard in that area with seven of those in 2018.

That allowed Georgia to break Alabama’s run of seven consecutive years in which it claimed the mythical recruiting championship by finishing as the No. 1 team on the 247Sports Team Composite recruiting rankings.

The 2018 class also marked the first time that the Bulldogs were able to sign what was regarded as the nation’s No. 1 overall class on that same composite formula since the debut of the modern college recruiting rankings in 2000.

It is also worthwhile to note that 5-star transfer Demetris Robertson was not included in any of the above totals. That is another former 5-star which was all part of the talent infusion between the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

2. Pulling a pair of Alabama 5-stars 

Alabama and Auburn recruit this state. Heavily. That is a clear understatement.

I’d equate pulling a 5-star out of this state with a degree of difficulty in signing any two 5-star prospects from any other state. At least.

Pulling 5-star Clay Webb out of Alabama? That was a very big thing for Georgia.(Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Consider this a first-hand account after having spent eight years of my professional life in the state. The babies in Alabama hospital nurseries which DO NOT have Tide or Tiger booties stick out. Maybe only slightly less so than toilet paper on the trees in Tuscaloosa would on the night of an Auburn win in Bryant-Denny.

Signing a 5-star from North Carolina or Tennessee is one thing. But pulling two from Alabama? That just does not happen.

That was my quick take on that but a little digging proves otherwise. It has happened once before in that state’s recruiting history. The safe bet here is that DawgNation would like to see it turn out the same way as it did back in 2012.

That’s when FSU signed two of the three 5-stars in Alabama. Those two helped lead the Seminoles to an eventual national championship.

Clay Webb was the Yellowhammer State’s top prospect this year when he signed with Georgia in December. He fell to No. 2 for the expected February signing day news cycle. George Pickens became the new No. 1.

Georgia signed him, too. Pickens had been committed to the Tigers for 566 days when he flipped to catch passes for Hankton and Smart.

Maybe you’ve read that Smart used to recruit the state heavily when he was the defensive coordinator in Tuscaloosa? Well, the Bulldogs have now signed 30 percent on the state’s 5-star recruits since he’s been in Athens. (That’s two out of the six.)

Bibliography note: There have only been 17 Alabama prospects this decade to achieve a 5-star rating. Alabama signed 10 of those. Auburn signed three. FSU and UGA have now split the other four.

1. Hitting on a 5-star QB trifecta

That item at No. 3 was initially my first choice. No staff had ever signed that many 5-stars before. But then I thought of what the Bulldogs did this year in Alabama.

That just seemed like a tougher task. But that’s when the thought of the 5-star QB trifecta popped up. It simply has to be the toughest of the Labours of Kirby presented here.

  • 2016: 5-star QB signee Jacob Eason (now with Washington)
  • 2017: 5-star QB Jake Fromm (for at least two of the major services)
  • 2018: 5-star QB Justin Fields (now at Ohio State)

The more I thought about it, the more it seems likely that a haul of seven prospects with a 5-star rating can be duplicated. It could happen again for UGA in 2020.

The case can be made – given what he’s done for the program so far – that Jake Fromm has been Kirby Smart’s most important recruit for Georgia up to this point. Alas, that is a column topic for another day. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Georgia might even pull a pair of 5-star recruits from Alabama again.

The odds are very low for that, but they are at least better than this one. The Georgia fan has seen living proof of how hard this is to do. The Bulldogs were able to recruit a 5-star QB to their campus in three successive recruiting cycles and did so after a true freshman started all but one game of the 2016 season.

That simply goes against the grain of every recruiting trend for that position at this time. That’s why the program has already seen two of those guys portal away by their second seasons.

The exploration undertaken here made a very strong point with three different potential No. 1 items.

That “Greatest Recruiting Hits” for Smart and his staff at Georgia is already looking a bit like the No. 1 hit parades from The Beatles, Mariah Carey/Rihanna, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Whitney Houston. Stevie Wonder and Drake catalogs.

(Yes, it is list season here on DawgNation. Ho hum. Duck if you see any flying stuffed Bulldogs.)

Would you re-rank them? Did I leave out one that really prompted the GIF below? Feel free to join in this discussion below. We welcome your comments.




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