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Kirby Smart and Ed Orgeron have both cleaned up on the recruiting trail of late.

Georgia-LSU: Which team has the edge from the recruiting trail?

Plays. Players. How does the Georgia-LSU game break down in those areas for the SEC championship on Saturday?

The edge in plays would tilt in LSU’s favor. The Tigers have the leading Heisman Trophy contender in Joe Burrow. The redshirt senior transfer has put up perhaps the greatest statistical season for any quarterback in SEC history. Especially just the pure passing numbers.

His top receiver, Ja’Marr Chase, is up for the Fred Biletnikoff Award after ripping off 70 catches for 1,457 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2019.

Junior RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire actually has produced better stats in the ground game than Georgia’s nationally-respected tailback D’Andre Swift.

LSU seems to have more players up for more hardware. Its season highlight reel — at least offensively — may be in need of some Ken Burns help on the mini-series side. Georgia’s resume will counter with a strong dose of defensive prowess.

Defensive rankings (Georgia)

  • Rushing defense (1st in the SEC; 2nd nationally)
  • Scoring defense (1st in the SEC; 2nd nationally)
  • Total defense (1st in the SEC; 5th nationally)
  • Pass efficiency defense (1st in the SEC; 3rd nationally)

The continued discussion here, at least for the purposes of this narrative, leads to the recruiting trail. Which team has recruited better over the last few cycles?

The answer there would be Georgia.

Check out the overall national ratings from the 247Sports Team Composite rating for each program over the last four cycles:

  • 2016 rankings: LSU (2nd); UGA (6th)
  • 2017 rankings: LSU (7th); UGA (3rd)
  • 2018 rankings: LSU (15th); UGA (1st)
  • 2019 rankings: LSU (5th); UGA (2nd)
  • Average ranking: LSU (7th); UGA (3rd)

Which team has signed more 5-star prospects over that period? The team with the edge there would again be Georgia.

  • 5-stars signed (2016-2019): LSU 8; UGA 18

DawgNation has pointed to the well-documented “blue-chip” ratio with its weekly matchup coverage for this season. That ratio tracks the number of 4 and 5-star prospects that have been signed by each school over the last four cycles.

The players with those ratings are seen as the most desired and highest-rated recruiting prospects in each year. There are approximately 380 players every cycle that earn at least a 4-star rating. It means that those are by and large the players targeted heavily by all 130 of the programs in the NCAA’s Football Bowls Subdivision.

The Bulldogs have gone into each game week having signed a decided edge in talent over its biggest SEC rivals. The blue-chip ratio was +69 for Georgia Tech last week, but also +30 against Texas A&M, +23 against Auburn, +29 against Auburn and +26 against Notre Dame, among others.

The Bulldogs will again have the edge on Saturday in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but the gap isn’t as wide.

  • Blue-chip signees (2016-2019): UGA 75; LSU 59.

Georgia-LSU: The signees no longer with each program

The figures presented so far offer a concise way to look at which sideline should have the edge in talent on Saturday, but there’s a fallacy to that.

There are better ways to try to find a truer reading in terms of which team was made up of the more talented recruits. That’s found by taking a deep look at the 2016 classes for each team.

Georgia signed three of its 5-stars from that previously-stated tally in 2016. Those three are already in the NFL. LSU also no longer has one of its three players in the program that carried a 5-star rating in 2016.

Those 2016 classes will not be well-represented on Saturday. Georgia has only retained five of its 13 blue-chip signees through the 2019 season and two of those have not been a major factor this season.

LSU is missing eight of its 2016 signees, too. It speaks to the attrition rate, the transfer portal business and it also detracts from that 75-59 edge for Georgia in blue-chip signees over the last four cycles.

The Tigers no longer have 12 of its 59 blue-chip signees since then in their program.

The “actual” blue-chip ratio now rings truer with a 59-47 edge for the Bulldogs. The summation of the 5-star signees that are still with each program will also reflect those roster subtractions.

Georgia’s 5-star count drops to 13. LSU will also still have seven of its 5-star signees since 2016 available to take on the Bulldogs.

Georgia-LSU: The unexpected data from the recruiting trail

While presenting the many different ways to look at each team’s recruiting of late, we must be clear here to point out a few things.

Nobody gets any points on the scoreboard for signing more 5-stars or 4-stars.

Burrow was also not a part of any of those calculations. He was a 4-star redshirt transfer. Not a signee. The future All-American was “just” the No. 280 overall prospect in the 2015 class.

The same goes for Edwards-Helaire, too. He was just a 3-star all-purpose back in the 2017 class. That young man certainly has out-played his recruiting evaluation. Georgia coach Kirby Smart said this week he back was the pristine image of what you look for in any program.

That thinking will also apply to a pair of Bulldogs that definitely rate among the top players on that stingy Georgia defense. Senior safety J.R. Reed was a 3-star transfer from Tulsa and yet he’s up for the Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe Awards.

Eric Stokes, who has been Georgia’s top cover corner over the balance of this season, was also just a raw 3-star recruit. There are other examples of player development and the notion of 3-star recruits still being mighty fine players across both rosters.

The expected starting lineups for each team will also provide a final full example of how the work on the recruiting trail has shaped both rosters for Saturday’s SEC championship game. (NOTE: The rankings and star ratings presented below are all culled from the 247Sports Composite ratings on each player.)

Blue-chip ratio: Georgia offense versus the LSU defense 

Take a look at the grids below. Georgia’s offense would seem like it had the talent potential to be the more effective unit compared to its defense. That’s not exactly the case.

Georgia starting offense (probable) Star rating Pos. rank Blue chip
QB Jake Fromm (Jr.) 4 No. 4 PRO Yes
RB D’Andre Swift (Jr.) 5 No. 4 RB Yes
WR Tyler Simmons (Sr.) 3 No. 65 WR No
LT Andrew Thomas (Jr.) 4 No. 9 OT Yes
LG Solomon Kindley (RS-Jr.) 3 No. 89 OT No
C Trey Hill (So.) 4 No. 3 OG Yes
RG Ben Cleveland (RS-Jr.) 4 No. 10 OT Yes
RT Isaiah Wilson (RS-So.) 5 No. 5 OT Yes
TE Charlie Woerner (Sr.) 4 No. 25 WR Yes
WR Kearis Jackson (R-Fr.) 4 No. 23 WR Yes
WR Dominick Blaylock (Fr.) 4 Yes
Total blue-chip starters on offense 9
Top 10 recruits on offense (position ranks) 6
LSU starting defense (probable) Star rating Pos. rank Blue chip
DE Glen Logan (RS-Jr.) 4 No. 18 DT Yes
NT Tyler Shelvin (RS-So.) 4 No. 4 DT Yes
DE Rashard Lawrence (Sr.) 5 No. 5 DT Yes
OLB Damone Clark (So.) 4 No. 20 ILB Yes
MLB Patrick Queen (Jr.) 4 No. 17 ATH Yes
MLB Jacob Phillips (Jr.) 4 No. 1 ILB Yes
OLB K’Lavion Chaisson (Jr.) 4 No. 4 WDE Yes
CB Derek Stingley (Fr.) 5 No. 1 CB Yes
FS Jacoby Stevens (Jr.) 5 No. 1 S Yes
SS Grant Delpit (Jr.) 4 No. 9 S Yes
CB Kristian Fulton (Sr.) 5 No. 3 CB Yes
Total blue-chip starters on defense 11
Top 10 recruits on defense (position ranks) 7

That LSU defense was also filled up by big recruiting wins. Every member of that unit was a blue-chip prospect coming out of high school, including seven starters which rated among the nation’s top 10 recruits at their positions.

Blue-chip ratio: Georgia defense versus the LSU offense

The same point applies to LSU and its offense. That prolific unit didn’t have as many upper-echelon athletes as the Tigers on the defensive side of the ball. At least when they arrived in Baton Rogue.

The same can be said for Georgia’s nationally-elite defense.

The point can be made that the meeting between the LSU offense and the Georgia defense has the potential to be as good as any offensive vs. defensive matchup that fans have been treated to so far season.

 

LSU starting offense (probable) Star rating Pos. rank Blue chip
QB Joe Burrow (Sr.) 4 No. 8 DUAL Yes
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Jr.) 3 No. 5 APB No
WR Justin Jefferson (Jr.) 3 No. 308 WR No
LT Saahdiq Charles (Jr.) 4 No. 18 OG Yes
LG Adrian McGee (RS-Sr.) 3 No. 45 OT No
C Lloyd Cushenberry (RS-Jr.) 3 No. 82 OG No
RG Damien Lewis (Sr.) 3 No. 2 OG (JUCO) No
RT Austin Deculus (Jr.) 4 No. 10 OT Yes
TE Thaddeus Moss (RS-Jr.) 3 No. 17 TE No
WR JaMarr Chase (So.) 4 No. 15 WR Yes
WR Terrace Marshall (So.) 5 No. 3 WR Yes
Total blue chip starters on offense 5
Top 10 recruits on offense (position ranks) 3
Georgia starting defense (probable) Star rating Pos. rank Blue chip
DT Tyler Clark (Sr.) 4 No. 27 DT Yes
NT Michael Barnett (R-Sr.) 4 No. 14 SDE Yes
DE Malik Herring (Jr.) 4 No. 4 SDE Yes
OLB Azeez Ojulari (R-Fr.) 4 No. 10 DE Yes
MLB Tae Crowder (R-Sr.) 3 No. 221 WR No
WLB Monty Rice (Jr.) 4 No. 18 ILB Yes
CB Eric Stokes (R-So.) 3 No. 63 CB No
S Richard LeCounte II (Jr.) 5 No. 2 S Yes
S J.R. Reed (RS-Sr.) 3 No. 157 CB No
CB D.J. Daniel (Jr.) 4 No. 2 CB (JUCO) Yes
STAR Mark Webb (Jr.) 4 No. 21 WR Yes
Total blue-chip starters on defense 8
Top 10 recruits on defense (position ranks) 3

Check the values from the above table.

It is surprising to note this specific on-field matchup will only feature six combined players which individually rated as top 10 national recruits at their positions coming out of high school.

The fact that LSU receiver Justin Jefferson (81, catches, 1,02 yards, 13 TDs) was not a true blue-chip recruit speaks to the inexact sciences of recruiting rankings. While the scouting accuracy for recruiting has never been better given the prevalence of college schemes and evaluation camps now common to high school football, nothing is absolute.

Of the 18 prospects with the 5-star ratings that Georgia has signed of late, there are only three or four of those that present a good chance to start on Saturday.  Sometimes college football (elite coaching, player development, player work ethic traits for the good or bad) happen and those rankings serve as motivational chips for the other players on these rosters, too.

Georgia-LSU: The stories so far on Dawgnation