Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way this 4-star or that 5-star might be leaning and sprinkle in a dab of perspective to help folks figure out what it all means.
The first Wednesday of every month presents another opportunity to update a regular DawgNation feature. National Signing Day is the first Wednesday in February, so it is appropriate to weigh in on who the most important remaining recruiting targets are for the program leading up to Feb. 1.
Things can change. Players improve. New faces emerge. This month’s update offers another possibility because Georgia received a commitment at a position of need along the last 30 days.
Georgia has 16 commitments in its 2017 class. Here’s how last month’s needs list shaped up. DawgNation also projects UGA to sign 27 players this year. That’s expecting some attrition given the limited amount of seniors on this year’s football team and several early entries in the NFL draft.
Want to see the whole class? Here’s our first mock class of 2017. DawgNation also looks for UGA to eventually sign 7 of the top 10 players in Georgia for the Class of 2017.
The 5 players Georgia needs to fill out its 2017 class
1. 4-star DT Aubrey Solomon (Lee County/Leesburg, Ga.)
Last month’s DawgNation priority ranking: No. 1
National ranking: No. 5 in the nation at DT and No. 77 overall (no changes)
Biggest contenders: Alabama, Auburn and Michigan
Why: Look for the best defensive tackle prospect in the Southeast to always be among the top 5 in every recruiting-needs list on DawgNation. That’s because elite trench players are vital to stopping the run in the SEC and harassing the quarterback.
The two most important positions in football are the quarterback and the players who affect that position. Solomon definitely qualifies.
There’s also something to keep an eye out for with Solomon. He recently told 247Sports.com his recruitment might stretch past National Signing Day. He decommitted from Michigan during the summer, but it is never a good sign to see a prospect already feels he might pull a D-Rob (the 5-star receiver who took his decision all the way to May 1) before his team hits region play.
Solomon is the No. 8 player in Georgia this year. The Bulldogs already have commitments from two players rated higher than Solomon on that list and still appear to be the team to beat for Solomon.
2. 4-star S Deangelo Gibbs (Grayson/Loganville, Ga.)
Last month’s DawgNation priority ranking: No. 2
National ranking: No. 3 safety in the nation and No. 41 overall (Gibbs moved up from No. 44 overall)
Biggest contenders: Alabama, Florida, Florida State, LSU and Tennessee
Why: Gibbs — like Solomon — is a pivotal recruit in this class. He recently enjoyed another great unofficial visit for the Tennessee game. That must have been his 15th or so since Kirby Smart was named head coach.
Gibbs and Solomon are true swing guys. They are rated this highly because of their worth, but the impact of Georgia’s 2017 signees won’t be the same if the program misses on either Solomon or Gibbs.
Gibbs is the top remaining uncommitted prospect in Georgia. He’s rated as the third-best overall prospect in the state behind Stanford QB commit Davis Mills and UGA 5-star commitment Richard LeCounte III. LeCounte is the nation’s No. 1 prospect at safety. LeCounte and Gibbs would be a terrific tandem in Athens for at least three seasons.
His uncles (Dale Carter and Jake Reed) both played 12-plus years in the NFL. Gibbs has been rated among the nation’s top 5 prospects at athlete, receiver and safety in his prep career. He could be a No. 1 receiver in the SEC or a lockdown corner, but his ball skills and striking ability at safety would create a tantalizing back end of the Georgia defense.
Look for DawgNation’s No. 2 priority recruit not to include Georgia among his officials. That shouldn’t be anything to worry about because Gibbs is so familiar with the program. He also plays his options very close to the vest.
He’d make a good White House press secretary because he’s that good at it, but Georgia remains the team to beat here. Want to know why recruiting has gotten so totally out-of-hand? Gibbs told SEC Country during the last month that he has more than 3,000 text messages.
3. 4-star ILB Nate McBride (Vidalia/Vidalia, Ga.)
Last month’s DawgNation priority ranking: No. 3
Ranked: No. 1 ILB in the nation and No. 78 overall (no changes)
Biggest contenders: Alabama, Auburn and Oregon
Why: If we’re going to kick the tires on the nicest sports car on the market, then I guess McBride could be about 2 inches taller. If so, then he’d have everything a coach could ask for physically at inside linebacker.
400-pound bench press? Check. Great speed for a linebacker? Check. Can we make him faster than the guys SEC programs recruit to score touchdowns? Check. Son of a longtime football coach? Check.
Look for Georgia to sign up to five more linebackers in this class. McBride is at the top of that list because of his 10.6 speed in the 100 meters. He’ll take an official visit to Oregon. How well that trip goes will shape his decision going forward.
McBride might know what he wants by then but might wait until the U.S. Army All-American Bowl to let the world know. A few well-respected scouts around the South would like him to bring more of that speed and power to the field consistently. But he’s rated this highly because of those rare tools at his position.
Alabama is poised to gain another ILB recruit in 4-star Jacob Phillips out of Nashville. If so, I can’t imagine them being able to prioritize McBride the way Georgia will down the stretch. Phillips would be the Tide’s fifth commitment at linebacker and should close out their needs at that position.
4. 4-star OLB Walter Grant (Cairo/Cairo, Ga.)
Ranked: No. 17 OLB in the nation and No. 265 overall (no changes)
Biggest contenders: Alabama and Florida State
Why: Grant is woefully underrated in recruiting circles. He’s listed as the No. 30 player in Georgia this year, and that’s sort of like hearing someone in your office doesn’t like Oreos.
How is that possible? Everyone likes Oreos. Coaches crave physical linebackers with the length to stretch like Plastic Man all over the field. They also look for intelligent players like Grant. He can play three positions and also line up everyone on defense from play to play.
When that same player is also a sure tackler, then that’s really a special find.
Georgia got some great news recently in the chase for Grant. I had Grant pegged as a slight Georgia lean regardless, but when Alabama got a surprise commitment from 5-star OLB Dylan Moses, it changed the perspective on Grant. Moses should close out Alabama’s recruiting at outside linebacker.
Moses was assured of going to LSU before Les Miles was fired. Why does that matter? Grant has Alabama and Georgia as his top 2. I now consider that to be a top 1. Look for Grant to make his commitment sometime during the next four weeks.
Florida State plays closest to his home and now seems like Georgia’s chief competition. But the Bulldogs (and especially assistant coach Kevin Sherrer) have done a good job of making him feel like a priority.
Grant’s ratings are low compared with the other blue chips on this list, but the Scout.com evaluation is the closest to his real value. He’s ranked as the nation’s No. 7 OLB and the No. 93 player overall by that service.
5. 4-star WR Jeremiah Holloman (Newton High School/Covington, Ga.)
Ranked: No. 23 in the nation at WR and No. 153 overall
Biggest contenders: Miami, LSU, Notre Dame and Tennessee
Why: This was the toughest slot to fill for the third month in a row. It has to be another receiver. That’s evident watching Georgia on the field this fall. The program needs more help at receiver, and that is on the way.
Pennsylvania 4-star Mark Webb Jr. committed to Georgia since our last top 5 ranking. He’s now the highest-rated pledge at receiver. He became the program’s third verbal commitment at that spot, but that’s not enough. Jacob Eason needs more weapons. A lot more weapons.
This decision came down to Holloman and Alabama 4-star receiver Nico Collins. Collins was rated at No. 5 last month, but I’ve moved Holloman ahead even though he’s been out recently with an ankle injury.
I went to see Collins play recently, and I saw a lot to like. It was not enough to keep him ahead of the explosive Holloman this month. Collins didn’t do enough to pump up his team when it fell behind. He let his body language affect other players. The other player considered to be the best player in Alabama was on the field that night, too. LaBryan Ray was at defensive end, and he essentially took over the game. He was the best player on the field.
I didn’t see Collins raise his effort level and game enough to make that a much tougher call. That said, Collins clearly would be at No. 6 on this list.
But that’s not enough words about Holloman. The 6-foot-2, 192-pounder was one of the most explosive athletes at Nike’s The Opening this summer, and he’d definitely stretch the field at Georgia. He’s also decided he will enroll early, and he told DawgNation that his older brother LJ would be a package deal. He said his older brother would walk on at the school he chooses. Holloman will enroll early in January, and his brother will follow later that fall.
Holloman already has taken an official visit to Notre Dame and plans to take his second to Miami for the Florida State game this week.
Georgia’s needs at receiver, his brother’s walk-on status and in-state tuition option seem to position the in-state school as an attractive option for Holloman. The 4-star wideout also has a close connection with most of UGA’s recruiting class this year, too.
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Follow Jeff Sentell 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.