Georgia high school football kicked off last week with the traditionally great Corky Kell Classic event, plus a renewal of Friday Night’s Lights across the state. It brings to mind this question: Which seniors belong in DawgNation’s first Georgia recruiting rankings for 2018?
DawgNation has watched these players compete at camps and in big games since May 2015.
Who stands out? Who is better than all those star rankings say?
This is the formula used to answer those questions:
- Recruiting reputation across the various services and with analysts.
- How the players performed in camps.
- On-field production. Can they do football in shorts and in pads? That was a big chunk here.
- Future college potential, as well as the likelihood of playing as a freshman and being an NFL draft pick in three to four years.
How did we do all of that? In-person evaluation, review of Power 5 offers, and conversations with high school and college coaches, college scouts and fellow recruiting analysts all went into the gumbo for our first ranking of the Peach State’s top 30 for 2018.
That’s it. Now, here we go.
Top 30 players in Georgia for 2018
(We will update this list monthly going forward.)
JUST OFF THE LIST: Buford 3-star RB Anthony Grant (Tennessee commit); Rome 3-star DT Jaquon Griffin (LSU commit); 4-star LB Michael Harris (Auburn commit); Athens Christian 4-star OLB Richard Jibunor (undecided); Archer 3-star DB Taiyon Palmer (Duke commit); Bainbridge 4-star RB Dameon Pierce (Florida commit); Thomason 4-star CB Christian Tutt (undecided).
30. 3-star DT Jamarcus Chatman (6-foot-2 1/2, 267 pounds), Rome; committed to Tennessee
Jamarcus Chatman always seems to play with an edge and produces beyond his star ratings. He collected numerous offers and once trended to Miami. Then he committed to LSU. He’s since flipped to Tennessee as that triple commitment to the Tigers from Rome High has unraveled.
It seemed there was a time he would’ve committed to Georgia if the school offered him. But he never did. Why that offer never came puzzles me when I watch his film and see his effort level in practice.
29. 3-star DT Darnell Jefferies (6-2 1/2, 275), Newton; committed to Clemson
The defensive line spot will weigh heavily in these rankings because that’s such a vital position. Unlike Chatman, Darnell Jefferies had a UGA offer, and he made more than 10 trips to Athens.
Clemson won this race, though. Chatman and Jefferies both stood out at the Rising Seniors practices last December. “Big Baby” has a very good head on his shoulders and a strong work ethic. The Tigers offered and accepted his commitment. That’s a strong tell about his ability since Clemson has a small class this cycle.
28. 4-star CB Jaycee Horn (6-0, 180), Alpharetta; undecided
Jaycee Horn, the son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn, has enough game to make his own name. It seemed as if he would commit to either Alabama or South Carolina at various times this year.
He still hasn’t made his decision. The Bulldogs haven’t been as big on him as on other targets. They’ve gotten one commitment at cornerback (Chris Smith II) but have made other out-of-state targets a bigger priority than Horn.
27. 4-star OG Dylan Wonnum (6-5, 285), Tucker; undecided
Dylan Wonnum rates on the 247Sports composite as the nation’s No. 9 offensive tackle for this cycle. But he doesn’t have elite size for a tackle and some college staffs — UGA, for instance — project him as a guard. He could be a great talent at guard.
The Tucker standout seems ready to decide in a few weeks, perhaps by mid-September. Auburn and South Carolina are two schools to watch.
26. 4-star DE/OLB Caleb Tannor (6-3, 225), Miller Grove; committed to UGA
Acceleration. Length. Size. Versatility.
Caleb Tannor has all of those attributes and will play outside linebacker for Kirby Smart at Georgia. Tannor chose the Bulldogs over Auburn. He said he always wanted to play for the in-state school.
25. 4-star DE Justin Mascoll (6-4, 237), South Gwinnett; committed to Clemson
Justin Mascoll’s stock was higher a year ago because he didn’t have a dominating junior year on the field or the showcase circuit. He was good-to-very-good but not quite elite. That’s what many had been predicting he would be since he starting picking up big offers as a freshman and sophomore.
Still, he is rated as the nation’s No. 8 weakside defensive end by the 247Sports composite. He is among the nation’s Top 175 players and falls in here as the state’s No. 25 player for 2018.
24. 4-star WR Marquez Ezzard (6-1 1/2, 213), Stockbridge; committed to Florida State
Marquez Ezzard was a rare 1,000-yard receiver last fall, and his standout performance against Rome High might have been the best game for any receiver in the state last fall.
He was one of the top 3 receivers on Georgia’s board this year but found himself more at home with the Seminoles in Tallahassee. Ezzard is tough and a relentless competitor. He reminds me of former Florida State star Anquan Boldin.
23. 4-star CB Myles Sims (6-2 3/4, 175), Westlake; committed to Michigan
Myles Sims has all the length and size that any college secondary would want to feature. He chose to play for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan despite major attention from all the big ACC and SEC programs.
He’s rated as the nation’s No. 22 cornerback prospect on the 247Sports composite, but he might be a ‘tweener between that position and safety. He shows flashes, but he hasn’t been as dominant as all the raw tools he has might one day allow him to be.
22. 4-star S Trey Dean (6-2, 185), Dutchtown; committed to Tennessee
Trey Dean stunned many, including me, when he chose the Volunteers this summer since Alabama had recently offered.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound prospect is a versatile defender who can fly in, support the run, and lock down receivers in the slot and outside on the edges. He was one of my top 5 performers last December at the Rising Seniors event.
21. 4-star OG Warren Ericson (6-3.5, 310), North Gwinnett; committed to UGA
Warren Ericson seems like the utility SEC lineman for the Bulldogs. He’s a dominant tackle in one of the toughest regions in Georgia, but he’ll likely play guard early on in the SEC.
His future might still be at another position. A lot of scouts have told me that he could be an NFL center one day. That’s no doubt a nod to the work he has put in with former Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Roman Fortin at that position.
20. 4-star CB Chris Smith II (5-10 1/2, 175), Hapeville Charter; committed to UGA
He’s a cornerback. Period. A pure cover corner, and a very physical one at that.
Chris Smith chose Georgia over Michigan. He’s been consistently underrated by analysts over the last 18 months, but he had a very strong showing on the spring and summer evaluation circuit. He verified this ranking with his showing at The Opening finals in Oregon.
19. 4-star WR Josh Vann (5-11, 175), Tucker; committed to South Carolina
Josh Vann can do a bit of everything on the field, including punting for Tucker.
He can create instant separation on intermediate routes and has good acceleration in and out of his breaks. He’s also got very good hands. UGA had its eyes on him for a long time and was one of the team’s top 2 targets at receiver until South Florida speedster Elijah Moore became a valid option over the last six weeks.
18. 4-star S Quindarious Monday (6-2 1/2, 185), Carver-Atlanta; committed to Auburn
Quindarious Monday also cracked my list of the top 5 performers at the Rising Seniors event last December. He’s got great length and a knack for finding the football.
Monday makes plays and does not shy away from any matchup opportunity. He’ll be tremendous once he gets into both a college nutrition and elite strength and conditioning program. Clemson made a hard run at him, too. His upside places him higher than a few more technically proficient DBs on this list.
17. 4-star OLB Quay Walker (6-4, 210), Crisp County; committed to Alabama
We’ve reached the point in this rankings where there’s really nothing but elite prospects left. These players would be top 10 talents in any state except for California, Florida and Texas.
Quay Walker, this versatile Crimson Tide commit, checks in here. He’s got an even bigger upside than his former teammate Markaviest “Big Cat” Bryant at Auburn. Walker can cover the slot receiver, rush the passer and tackle the ball out in space, too. Georgia was once a major factor in his decision.
16. 4-star CB Kyler McMichael (6-1/2, 196), Greater Atlanta Christian; committed to Clemson
Kyler McMichael had his choice of Alabama, Clemson, Florida State and Georgia — plus a lot of other big-time programs.
The Greater Atlanta Christian star is strong and tough. He also plays running back for his Spartans. He could start a lot of games for the Tigers in the ACC.
15. 4-star DT Robert Cooper (6-2, 370) South Gwinnett, committed to Florida State
I’d be surprised if Robert “Big Coop” Cooper does not bench press close to 470 pounds by the time he leaves the Comets. He made his college decision in June 2016 and hasn’t wavered much.
Alabama and Georgia would sure like him to, though. The nation’s No. 5 defensive tackle is the best of the bunch in a down year for tackles in the state of Georgia. He’s a two noseguard at that size and will soak up blocks in the ACC. He has good quickness and short-space acceleration for the 350-pound-plus club.
The thought of him being paired next to Marvin Wilson in the middle of the Florida State front will shred the rushing averages for the star backs in the ACC.
14. 4-star WR Matthew Hill (6-2, 185), Brookwood; committed to Auburn
Josh Vann will have a good career for South Carolina, but the prediction here is that Matthew Hill will be better than that for the Tigers.
Hill starred at Prince Avenue Christian and picked up an early SEC offer from Kentucky as a freshman. When I saw him make plays against Central Gwinnett as a sophomore, I knew this young man had star quality. Georgia never went hard after him.
13. 4-star S Derrik Allen (6-2, 211), Lassiter; committed to Notre Dame
Derrik Allen was a cornerback at Lassiter as a freshman but has kept on growing. He’s now a safety at the Power 5 level and will be a good one.
He handled himself well in the spring and summer 7-on-7 circuit. Allen made more plays than a lot of other top safety prospects in Georgia. UGA still wants to pull off a commitment flip, but the Bulldogs would have a chance if they hadn’t signed three All-Americans in Tray Bishop, DeAngelo Gibbs and Richard LeCounte in 2017.
12. 4-star WR Kearis Jackson (5-11.5, 205), Peach County; committed to UGA
Looking for a reason why the Bulldogs didn’t go harder after Matthew Hill? Look at Kearis Jackson. He’s an Under Armour All-American at receiver and a state champion in the shot put.
When’s the next time we will see something like that? Jackson chose UGA over Alabama last Saturday and will enroll early in January.
11. 4-star QB Emory Jones (6-2 1/2, 195), Heard County; committed to Ohio State
Emory Jones might have peaked during his sophomore and junior seasons on the evaluation circuit. He also doesn’t face the best competition playing for Heard County in Southwest Georgia. When Jones didn’t make the Elite 11 in Oregon this summer, it was a surprise to many. Ohio State is still glad to have him, and Alabama continues to court him.
How could it ever be considered a knock to be the No. 11 player in Georgia? It just feels that it is because he was once seen as a clear top 5 player in the Peach State for this class.
10. 4-star QB Jarren Williams (6-2, 201), Central Gwinnett; committed to Kentucky
Jarren Williams chose Kentucky over the powerhouses of the SEC. He made the Elite 11 competition this summer ahead of players such as Emory Jones. When I saw him in Oregon at The Opening, he clearly belonged. To me, he looks like one of the nation’s top 6 or 7 quarterbacks in 2018.
Kentucky fans are going to be spoiled watching him start for at least three years.
9. 4-star OLB Otis Reese (6-4, 210), Lee County; committed to Michigan
Otis Reese chose Michigan in June 2016, prior to his junior year. Georgia is working hard to flip him to the Bulldogs.
Reese is a physical thumper who committed as a safety but has kept growing. He’s now rated as the nation’s No. 8 OLB prospect for 2018. I’ve learned that UGA is the only team with a real chance to flip Reese away from the Wolverines. He would be a very good one.
He already looks like a future Sunday player.
8. 4-star OLB J.J. Peterson (6-1 1/2, 210), Colquitt County; undecided
J.J. Peterson, the nation’s No. 1 OLB for this year, is a player whom I still feel has yet to scratch the surface of his potential. He did well at the The Opening regional in Atlanta but didn’t elevate his game in Oregon at the national finals.
He looked very good, but not elite, at the Corky Kell Classic last weekend. Peterson was mostly deployed as a pass rusher. Alabama loves him, and I think that’s where he will end up. He has an impressive array of skills. I’ve seen him take a kickoff back on film, but I just don’t know if he has put it all together yet.
7. 4-star OLB Adam Anderson (6-4, 218), Rome; undecided
Adam Anderson, the nation’s No. 2 OLB, squeaks by Peterson on this initial ranking because of his upside. His 6-foot-4 frame looks like it could easily hold another 30 pounds.
He’s also incredibly explosive and doesn’t mind mixing it up in the trenches. The coaching staff at Rome has done an excellent job of teaching him the right way to play the game. He doesn’t come flying in off the edges like he’s at a high school track meet.
He can be another amazing athlete in the Leonard Floyd mold once he hits the training table and the weights at a major SEC program. Look for Alabama, Clemson and Georgia in the end here. The pick here is that he re-commits to the Bulldogs for good in the winter.
6. 4-star OLB Azeez Ojulari (6-4, 230), Marietta; committed to UGA
Azeez Ojulari chose UGA last week and said he’s ready to shut down his recruiting. The coaches at Marietta High say he has impeccable character and is one of the team’s best leaders.
When you mix that in with a 39.8-inch vertical leap, a 500-pound squat and a near 350-pound power clean, it seems that Ojulari blends the best of what both Anderson and Peterson can do.
5. 4-star OG Trey Hill (6-3.5, 345), Houston County; undecided
Can UGA sign the nation’s Nos. 1 and 2 offensive guards for 2018?
That’s the plan for Georgia line coach Sam Pittman. He wants to add Hill and Jamaree Salyer for the interior of his Bulldogs offensive line. The Bulldogs have a strong chance at doing that, too. Why? Because they have sold Hill on the notion that he can come in right away and command immediate playing time at center.
4. 5-star DE Brenton Cox (6-4.5, 250), Stockbridge; committed to Ohio State
Brenton Cox just keeps growing. Keeps putting on weight. Keeps making plays and keeps rising up the recruiting rankings. He was at No. 54 in the spring, but he’s now at No. 19 overall for 2018.
Georgia was the favorite to land Cox, but the Buckeyes swayed him because they convinced him they can develop him better for the NFL than the in-state school.
3. Five-star OG Jamaree Salyer (6-4, 340), Pace Academy; undecided
Jamaree Salyer is the most “can’t miss” prospect in the state this year. He won’t miss, and I have no doubts he will start multiple games in his freshman year — no matter where he goes. Clemson and Georgia seem like the teams with the best shot.
Players this good don’t come around that often. He’s the top-rated offensive line prospect for 2018. The only reason he stands at No. 3 on this list is that he doesn’t touch the ball every snap and play the game’s most important position.
2. 5-star QB Trevor Lawrence (6-6, 210), Cartersville; committed to Clemson
Trevor Lawrence has done nothing to lose his grip on the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect slot for 2018. He’s performed as he should and passed every test. His high school resume is impeccable, and he should break every career passing record for a high school quarterback in Georgia high school football history this fall.
Clemson is going to be thrilled to replace the best quarterback in school history, Deshaun Watson, with a player who will contend for multiple Heisman Trophies, too.
1. 5-star QB Justin Fields (6-3, 221), Harrison; undecided
Justin Fields somehow earned the right to be rated above Trevor Lawrence as the top player in the nation this year, according to the 247Sports rankings. I concur. Why?
When it comes down to it, he hasn’t had the supporting cast around him at Harrison to steer his team to the heights that Lawrence has at Cartersville. I gave Lawrence a lot of points in that column for the head-to-head analysis there.
What Fields does have is the sharpest mind for the QB position that those Elite 11 gurus might have seen. He has the ability to put up 300 yards passing and 150 yards rushing in a high school game and somehow make it seem like that it was something he was supposed to do.
Fields can clock a 4.51 laser time in the 40-yard dash at 221 pounds. That’s faster than the highest-rated receiver on this list can cover that ground.