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Joshua L. Jones / Special
UGA coach Kirby Smart sure hopes his 2017 signing class looks this big next February.

Sentell’s Intel: Projecting Georgia’s eventual signing class for 2017

Let’s play time capsule and resist fancy sizzle like “Time Capsule Tuesday” to get everyone’s attention. The subject matter should be plenty good enough and it involves a simple math equation.

The subject matter should be plenty good enough and it involves a simple math equation.

14 (UGA commits) + 13 (projected UGA commits) = 27.

As it stands now, Georgia is just halfway past its projected class size of 27 signees for 2017. That 27, of course, is a fluid number that depends on factors such as graduation, NFL early entries, etc.

Keep in mind Georgia recently awarded three scholarships to veteran walk-on players for this fall. That is a tell the program had at least three grant-in-aids available to still be in compliance with the NCAA-mandated number of a maximum of 85 scholarship players in the program.

The Bulldogs have 14 commitments. Look for several of those recruits (Richard LeCounte III, Jake Fromm, among several others) to enroll early. But Georgia will eventually get to 27.  At least. The Bulldogs have signed 21, 30 and 22 players over the last three cycles.

But early enrollees to prior years also affect their scholarship count. Kirby Smart’s not giving out that number and will never be expected to, but it is within reason to expect the Bulldogs to exceed 25 signees because they can back-count some of the six early enrollees for 2016. The same goes for the three previous classes.

Here are my best projections at how they will arrive at their eventual signing class next February on National Signing Day.  We will also look at the class count a different way than most. I track each class by the needs at each specific position.

DawgNation has learned those needs by asking the current commits how many players the coaches have told them they expect to sign at their position.

Current commits (14)

  • 1 of 1 QBs: 1. 4-star Jake Fromm/ Houston County/ Warner Robins, Ga.
  • 1 of 2 RBs: 2. 4-star Toneil Carter/ Langham Creek/ Houston, Tex.
  • 2 of 5 WRs: 3. 4-star Trey Blount/ Pace Academy/ Atlanta, Ga; 4. Matt Landers/ Lakewood/ St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • 4 of 5 OLs: 5. 4. 4-star OT D’Antne Demery/ Brunswick High/ Brunswick, Ga.; 6. 4-star OG Netori Johnson/ Cedar Grove/ Ellenwood, Ga.; 7. Justin Shaffer, Cedar Grove, Ellenwood, Ga.; 8. Andrew Thomas, Pace Academy/ Atlanta, Ga.
  • 0 of 0 TEs: I do not expect Georgia to sign any tight ends in 2017. Have you seen the depth chart?
  • 1 of 2 DTs: 9. 3-star Devonte Wyatt/ Towers High/ Decatur, Ga.
  • 1 of 3 DEs: 10. 4-star Robert Beal/ IMG Academy/ Norcross, Ga.
  • 1 of 6 LBs: 11. 4-star Jaden Hunter/ Westlake High/ Atlanta, Ga.
  • 3 of 4 DBs: 12. 4-star CB Latavious Brini/ Mater Academy Charter/ Hialeah, Fla.; 13. 5-star S Richard LeCounte III, Liberty County High/ Hinesville, Ga.; 14. 4-star CB William Poole III, Hapeville Academy/ Atlanta, Ga.)
  • 0 of 0 Ps: True freshman Marshall Long is the prototype four-year plan at this position.
  • 0 of 0 PKs: Kirby Smart prefers to award scholarships to preferred walk-ons that earn the job in fall camp and then also perform well in games.  I project Georgia will use a scholarship that could have went to this class and award it to the winner of the Rodrigo Blankenship/William Hamm battle.

Projected additions to 2017

No. 2 of 2 RBs: D’Andre Swift of St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia is expected to make his college decision known this Thursday. Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Florida State and Penn State are his finalists. Georgia is the favorite here. Swift is rated as the nation’s No. 4 running back and No. 37 overall prospect. (15 of 27)

No. 3 of 5 WRs: Mark Webb, Jr. of Archbishop Wood has been trending toward Georgia for several months. Swift is his first cousin and Webb made it clear at The Opening that he expects that they will be a package deal. Georgia has major needs at both of their positions. Webb, like Swift, would become the highest-rated commitment for this class at his position. Webb is rated as the nation’s No. 19 receiver and No. 134 player overall. (16 of 27)

Four-star receiver Jeremiah Holloman would be a welcome addition to Georgia's 2017 class at any time. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Four-star receiver Jeremiah Holloman would be a welcome addition to Georgia’s 2017 class at any time. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

No. 4 of 5 WRs: Jeremiah Holloman of Newnan High in Covington will take a long look around. The nation’s No. 23 WR will think hard about Miami and Notre Dame, but it will come down to Georgia and Tennessee. He speaks to Vols coach Butch Jones daily, but the family feel (Leonard Floyd is his cousin) plus the attachment to Georgia’s #SICEM17commitments will keep him home. (17 of 27)

No. 5 of 5 WRs: Nico Collins (Clay Chalkville/ Pinson, Ala.) will be a Signing Day surprise. It will be a major coup for the program to swipe the top offensive recruit in The Yellowhammer State. The 6-foot-5 Collins will eventually he will see Alabama just won’t need him as much as Georgia and Michigan do. It will come down to a matter of location plus a stacked Georgia depth chart at quarterback. Folks that are paying attention have seen him backtrack from Michigan as his outright leader to a three-way tie between Alabama, Georgia and Michigan. Collins is rated as the No. 13 prospect at his position. He’d be the top-rated receiver in Georgia’s class, but Alabama should have at least two signees at his position with a higher rating. Georgia didn’t plan to take five receivers in this class, but the chance to add Collins and Holloman will force the Bulldogs to pull a player away from another position. My expectation at this time has that scholarship coming away from the offensive line. (18 of 27)

Solomon is one of the few elite defensive tackles in the Southeast this cycle. (Michael Carvell / AJC)
Solomon is one of the few elite defensive tackles in the Southeast this cycle. (Michael Carvell / AJC)

No. 2 of 2 DTs: The second DT for this year’s class will eventually be four-star Lee County standout Aubrey Solomon. Solomon recently de-committed from Michigan. Georgia has continued to recruit him harder than any other program and his mother definitley feels a connection to several staff members in Athens. Solomon also has strong relationships with several current players on the Georgia team. (19 of 27)

No. 2 of 3 DEs:  This projection requires a brief explanation. Crisp County four-star DE Markaviest Bryant (Cordele, Ga.) will play a lot of linebacker and defensive end on Saturdays. Especially in the odd fronts preferred by Kirby Smart and Mel Tucker. He’s rated as a defensive end, but his situation mirrors that of Robert Beal. He’s rated as a weak-side defensive end (No. 13 overall) but will be standing up and have him hand on the ground at the college level. (20 of 27)

Herring was also a very frequent visitor to UGA over the summer. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Herring was also a very frequent visitor to UGA over the summer. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

No. 3 of 3 DEs: Mary Persons senior four-star defensive end Malik Herring (Forsyth, Ga.) will eventually be a part of this year’s class in Athens. The nation’s No. 5 strong-side defensive end doesn’t plan to make his decision until after he’s taken all of his official visits. Look for that to happen sometime in December. That would be at the earliest. Beal, unlike the other two players at his position, is a bona-fide defensive end at nearly 6-foot-4 and 256 pounds. (21 of 27)

No. 2 of 6 LBs: Look for Brookwood High four-star ILB Leonard Warner III to make his decision within the next five weeks. Georgia and Georgia Tech seem like the teams to watch out for with this choice. Warner also wants to visit Stanford before he makes his commitment. There’s a chance he could make a silent commitment by October and then wait to reveal that choice at an All-American game. The nation’s No. 9 ILB prospect feels very comfortable with both the academic and athletic fit at Georgia and has been to Athens more than 20 times. (22 of 27)

No. 3 of 6 LBs:  Cairo four-star OLB Walter Grant (Cairo, Ga.) should make his decision between Alabama and Georgia sometime in October. The median of his senior season sounds about right to him and when he does that choice will be cause for back-flips from outside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer along with Smart and Tucker. Grant is the most underrated prospect in Georgia for this year’s class because of his versatility. He could easily play Smart’s brand of “winning football” at inside or outside linebacker and at defensive end. Grant recently received his fourth star after a spot-on rating from Scout.com tagged him as the nation’s No. 7 OLB prospect and No. 93 overall recruit. (23 of 27)

Four-star linebacker Nate McBride is at the top of the UGA recruiting board at his position for 2017. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Four-star linebacker Nate McBride is at the top of the UGA recruiting board at his position for 2017. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

No. 4 of 6 LBs: Nate McBride, a four-star inside linebacker from Vidalia High School, is probably the dream recruit of linebacker coaches everywhere in real life. If they could go mad scientist and conjure up the perfect prosect, then McBride’s tools might apply. He might be an inch shorter than the ideal, but the fact he’s the son of a longtime defensive high school assistant coach and his 400-pound bench press would fit the bill. The X-factor would then be his sprinter’s speed. He’s been timed at 10.6 seconds in the 100 meters and has ran with and sometimes beaten the times of Georgia prep stars like Mecole Hardman, Jr., Demetris Robertson and Tyler Simmons. That’s rare air for an inside linebacker. He want to visit Oregon before he makes his mind up and Alabama and Auburn are also viable contenders. But look for him to stay in-state and commit to Georgia at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl next January. (24 of 27)

No. 5 of 6 LBs: James Clemens ILB Monty Rice is a prospect that fits a couple of themes that have surfaced so far in this class. The Alabama native hails from Huntsville and the coaches on the Georgia staff that used to be in Tuscaloosa have been recruiting him for awhile now. Rice, at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, is a true inside linebacker that isn’t as highly rated by the recruiting services as he is by the coaches in Athens. The three-star prospect really likes Auburn and LSU, but he continues to state that Georgia is his current leader at this time. Alabama is a wild card in this race, but it looks like the Tide will meet its quota at linebacker for 2017 with a host of other higher-rated recruits. (25 of 27)

No. 6 of 6 LBs: Lanier High linebacker Tyler Taylor (Sugar Hill, Ga.) becomes the final asset among a long list of potential linebacker signees for Georgia in 2017. The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder rates as the nation’s No. 12 ILB prospect is a four-star recruit, but he has definite out-of-state interest in programs like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State at this point. Auburn is also a distinct possibility. It might even be a coin flip to see whether he winds up at Georgia and another prospect at this position (like KJ Britt) winds up at Auburn. For now, we’ll bet on the in-state school winning that recruiting battle at this time. (26 of 27)

Gibbs is now rated as the No. 3 safety in America for the Class of 2017. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Gibbs is now rated as the No. 3 safety in America for the Class of 2017. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

No. 4 of 4 DBs: Gibbs continues to feel like he just doesn’t know about this eventual decision at this time. He knows he will enroll early and should make his decision public at the U.S. Army All-American game. Yet sooner or later, he will make a decision. When he does, it will come down to Georgia and Tennessee. What we do know is he took just about as many trips as humanly possible to Georgia over the summer, that he loves the program, the coaches and already knows the roster well. He’ll eventually decide to stay in-state and play for Georgia. The thought of Gibbs and LeCounte at safety for Georgia for the next 3-4 years will help Smart sleep at night during his honeymoon years in Athens. (27 of 27)

 

 

So that is that. Consider this to be the Georgia Mock Class of 2017 1.0 from DawgNation. I’ve got a few remaining rapid-fire thoughts about these projections and will cover them quickly.

Shakiest commitment: Matt Landers at WR. I don’t feel that he’s going anywhere per se, but the South Florida resident should receiver increased attention from his in-state schools if he performs well this fall. Georgia receivers coach James Coley got in on him early.

Most likely commitment that’s not in this projection: ILB Kenney “KJ” Britt. The three-star linebacker from Central Alabama looks to be headed to Georgia or Auburn, but we think he will stay in-state at this time. His decision might hinge on which school makes him a bigger priority down the stretch. The wish lists for both programs at linebacker appear to be extremely fluid at this time.

Biggest remaining question mark: Sam Pittman wants to sign five OLs every year, but the numbers might crunch Georgia out of if this year. If Georgia does sign a fifth offensive lineman in this class, there is not really an ideal match for the program at this time. The junior college ranks seem like a definite possibility. I’ll just be honest: There’s not a real strong Georgia candidate to project as the fifth offensive line signee for this class at this time.

Position group with the biggest margin of error: The projections of Collins and Holloman to Georgia will provide a gigantic exclamation point to this year’s class, but both of those guys are still very far away from their decisions at this point.

 

 

 

 

Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.

 

 

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