Georgia’s 14 commitments for the Class of 2017 are rated very high nationally. You knew that, right?
The first two weeks of July were very good to the Bulldogs. Kirby Smart’s program received commitments from a quartet of 4-star prospects during the span of one week to climb to No. 2 nationally.
But that didn’t last through July.
Alabama had a huge week with a horde of commitments to vault back over the Bulldogs to claim the No. 2 spot nationally behind Ohio State.
Kirby Smart and the guys are bringing in the players, though. Here’s a quick read to share the skinny and the need-to-know on all 14 future Bulldogs so far. What’s their story? Better yet what are their chances of playing anywhere else? We’ll cover all that good stuff.
The need to know about UGA’s 14 commitments for 2017
(presented in the order they committed)
— Four-star S Richard LeCounte III (committed on 12/13/2015): LeCounte was driving a car when he was nine years old, wears No. 4 in tribute to a very special member of his family and avoids celebrating his September 11 birthday on that exact date. The LeCounte family feels the party can wait until the weekend instead of on that tragic day in American history. And the guy really knows how to recruit, too. He also goes in the books as the first prospect to commit to Kirby Smart at Georgia.
Commitment strength: Can anyone flip LeCounte? The odds are better of seeing Tom Brady convert a 3rd-and-55 on a quarterback draw in the NFL season opener for the Patriots this year.
— Four-star ILB Breon Dixon (committed on 12/25/15): His father Lee Dixon took his turn at a rap career. “Duke” and the Dixon family was connected growing up and always around hip-hop stars like Young Jeezy and Puff Daddy, among many others. That’s why Breon feels so comfortable around cameras. Dixon was also quite the baseball player growing up playing every position except catcher and the middle infield.
Commitment strength: He’ll flip when an Atlanta Braves pitcher throws a perfect game, belts a homer at the plate and then raps about his night to reporters afterward. He also committed on Christmas Day. Recruits also don’t flip away from a program they committed to on Christmas Day. That’s un-American.
— Four-star OLB Jaden Hunter (committed on 1/25/16): The son of UGA women’s basketball great Brandi Hunter and the late Brice Hunter plays to honor the memory of his father. He wore his father’s No. 88 on his wristbands last season. Hunter was without a doubt one of the finest receivers in Georgia history. Smart recruited him with a simple yet emotional “Come home, son” pitch shortly after he was hired.
Commitment strength: His commitment is about as strong as an angry Hulk on steroids. We’re talking Ivan Drago, behind the Iron Curtain, steroids too.
— Three-star OG Justin Shaffer (committed on 2/15/16): Shaffer will also go down in history like LeCounte during Smart’s tenure at Georgia. He was the fourth commitment in the class, but will be known as the first offensive player to commit to Smart at Georgia and also the first flip by this coaching staff. Shaffer flipped away from a Louisville commitment. Offensive line coach Sam Pittman was a major factor. Shaffer told DawgNation that when he committed the first thing Pittman told him was “Shut your freaking mouth” and wrapped him up in a big hug.
Commitment strength: He’ll flip the day the 335-pounder tries out at punter for Cedar Grove.
— Four-star QB Jake Fromm (committed on 3/3/16): The avid outdoorsman is immensely thankful for his blessings in life. To him, the perfect sporting life would be to become just good enough in football to one day have a hunting and fishing show on TV. That would mirror the way things worked out for Atlanta baseball legend Chipper Jones.
Commitment strength: He’d go to Georgia even if they changed the team colors to pink and gray and was told he couldn’t fish or hunt during his freshman season.
— Four-star CB William Poole III (committed on 4/16/16): He’s incredibly strong for a cornerback prospect. Poole could already bench press 225 pounds a whopping 15 times back in April. Poole also only had 15 balls thrown his way last season and didn’t allow a completion. He also picked off two of those passes.
Commitment strength: Poole is going to Georgia even if he has to walk there from Hapeville.
— Four-star OG Netori Johnson (committed on 4/19/16): Johnson is known for his vibrant personality and flashy hair color. Yet he’s endured at least two tough tragedies in his life, but one would never know it by the fact he’s always smiling. The former Alabama commitment can also do cartwheels at 340 pounds and slept in the house of NFL Hall of Fame members Deion Sanders when he played for Prime Prep Academy back in Texas.
Commitment strength: Netori will de-commit from Georgia the day after he shaves his head.
Four-star WR Trey Blount (committed on 5/1/16): Blount lives cross-country away from his younger brother Jared in Texas after his parents split up. So he wears a dog-tag with his younger brother’s name and birthday. He never takes it off and is inspired to set a good example for his sibling. Blount has been instrumental in the recruiting of two of his big-time high school teammates to join him. He’s halfway there in his quest to turn Pace into a Georgia pipeline.
Commitment strength: The odds of him backing away from Georgia are about the same as seeing him take the field without those dog tags on and dropping five catches in a row.
Three-star WR Matt Landers (committed on 6/1/16): Landers is the son of former UGA basketball player Toney Mack. He also just started playing varsity football as a sophomore. He’s a half-inch away from the 6-foot-5 mark. He’s just another example of the trend for bigger receivers in Athens.
Commitment strength: There’s a window of a possibility here, but Georgia receivers coach James Coley was on him harder and recognized the skills earlier than the rest of the Florida in-state powers did. That early appreciation can still go a long way.
Four-star OT D’Antne Demery (committed on 6/15/16): Demery had a daughter back in February and he’s committed to giving her a better life that the one he had growing up. He recently lost his mother after she had suffered through kidney problems over the last several years. His Brunswick High football team has dedicated their 2016 season to her memory.
Commitment strength: The chances of Demery going anywhere to Georgia rival the chances of Donald Trump giving Hillary Clinton a big hug before and after their first debate.
— Four-star CB Latavious Brini (committed on 7/3/16): He was expected to make his college choice in late July, but bumped up that decision by 28 days. The reason? He saw no need to draw it out. Receivers coach James Coley played a big part in this choice. Coley was in touch with him daily as he recovered from a sports hernia injury he sustained in spring practice. Brini is expected to be cleared to return to play by early September barring a setback. Brini is known to his friends as “Boobie” after the character from the classic “Friday Night Lights” book by Buzz Bissinger.
Commitment strength: Brini was recently quoted as saying he was only “90 percent” committed to Georgia. This one could get interesting if the in-state schools make him an even bigger priority.
— Five-star DE Robert Beal, Jr. (committed on 7/5/2016): Beal was once committed to Notre Dame, but backed off that pledge. He carries a very deep baritone voice that will serve him well in a potential broadcasting and communications career. That’s his expected initial field of study at Georgia. His older sister will be attending Georgia this fall. She was a fantastic student at Norcross High and also hopes to join the track team. He has transferred to play at IMG Academy in Florida in 2016.
Commitment strength: We’ll wonder about this commitment the same day folks think his voice sounds more like Betty White than Barry White.
— Four-star RB Toneil Carter (committed on 7/10/16): Carter is another recruit with a vibrant personality and an inspiring personal story. Carter plays to honor the memory of his mother who he lost a few years ago. He was also drawn to Georgia by the program’s vast tradition at the running back position. He became a big fan of the program by watching Herschel Walker clips and then later Nick Chubb highlights breaking off big runs for the Bulldogs.
Commitment strength: Carter’s older brother and father figure Byron Carter has already started looking to buy land in Northeast Georgia. DawgNation should worry about that only if Texas A&M moves its campus and Kyle Field to Oglethorpe County.
— Four-star OT Andrew Thomas (committed on 7/10/16): Thomas quickly became sold on Georgia once Pittman was hired. He wasn’t immediately a priority for the new staff, but quickly became attached to the program. Georgia makes the most sense for him academically and athletically and he’s also close to home. The depth chart at Georgia also sets up better for him to play right away as a freshman than any other program he was strongly considering. Pittman cinched this commitment by also recruiting him as hard as he made him laugh on his unofficial visits.
Commitment strength: Georgia fans would only need to worry about this one if Pittman gets hired away by Clemson. The odds are higher that Smart will name Georgia’s starting QB this week than they are of Pittman leaving Athens or that Thomas might change his mind.
Bonus round: The entire Class of 2017 has a group text message to stay in touch with one another fast about what is going on. The #SICEM17 commitments dominate the thread, but there are also a few priority uncommitted recruits who are also in the thread. Some former targets have also been a part of it and have since dropped out.
They talk about players, sports, pop culture and all things. Football and recruiting probably only makes up about 10 percent of the chat. Just imagine what a high school locker room might sound like before or after practice. Lots of laughs. That’s pretty much what goes down in that group chat.
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.