HOOVER, Ala. — Kirby Smart wants to see his players cut it loose on the field. Those video snippets of his gameday mood have been well-documented for DawgNation.
But on the recruiting trail? He’d rather pump the brakes a little bit now.
“I don’t think enough is done on a kid’s senior year,” Smart said from SEC Media Days this week. “I think what you will find in the SEC is maybe 80 or 90 percent of the team’s spot are full going into the senior season where I feel like I need to look and see what they do their senior season.”
The trend does exist right now. Georgia can maybe sign 24 players in its 2020 class. If it scrunches and scooches them all in under the NCAA-manded 85-man student-athlete limit for football.
The Bulldogs currently have 14 public commitments at this time. Alabama has 20. LSU has 20. Florida has 18. Ole Miss and Mississippi State have 21 and 22 pledges, respectively.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart is now entering his fourth season in Athens. He has clearly already built a recruiting juggernaut. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Kirby Smart: Doing more from a prospect’s senior year
Will early senior year evaluation mean more for Georgia?
That does sound like the [expected] platform of a coach who already has a fully-stocked battle station of future Sunday talent. Georgia can do things more deliberately on the recruiting trail now because it can afford to.
The expected 2020 talent haul should definitely address the needs for the 2020 and 2021 teams at RB, TE and the entire defensive front. Future Bulldogs can now be vetted a little more.
It does resemble the days when the Alabama dynasty seemed to be in expansion mode every February.
The Bulldogs might also seek to avoid early and sometimes premature evaluations for in-state prospects in the future. They do not have a single public 2021 commit at this time.
How unique is that? Check this trend out along Smart’s first four recruiting classes:
- 2017: S Richard LeCounte (5-star) commits 13 months before enrolling early in January of 2017
- 2018: OT Max Wray (4-star) commits in March of 2016. That was almost 33 months before he signed with Ohio State during the early period.
- 2019: OT Luke Griffin (finished as a 3-star) committed 30 months before he signed with Missouri during the early period.
- 2020: DT Nazir Stackhouse (4-star) commits on the day Georgia claims its first SEC Championship since 2005. It will be more than 24 months in advance of the day he can sign during the early period.
- 2021: Zero commits. The 2021 class can sign early in just 16 months.
The landscape of college football recruiting has also switched up considerably since Smart’s first team at UGA in 2016.
There is a new NCAA signing calendar. It means April, May and June official visits before a prospect’s senior year. It created the early signing period. Georgia now also recruits off a national footprint.
“It has changed from the first year to now and it has a lot to do with the [early] signing date,” Smart said. “It definitely changed everything. It sped everything up. It made it where if you don’t sign guys in December there may not be guys available.”
He compared it to those July 4 grocery store runs for bread, ground beef and hot dogs that we have all experienced in this life. Nobody wants to see empty shelves that day.
“You want to go fill up your basket as soon as you can,” he said.
The program’s reach also now goes into places far outside SEC Country like Arizona, California, Nevada, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and even Utah.
Yet with that, it seems like Georgia is at a point where it can be more deliberate. Slow things down. It can set up on the recruiting trail like junior All-American candidate Jake Fromm does in a tight “Great Wall of Georgia” assembled pocket.
Smart and his staff can go through this evaluation progressions, too.
“We want to make certain we are getting the right kind of people and the right kind of players,” he said.
Richard LeCounte III-UGA football-Georgia football-Georgia recruiting” width=”3202″ height=”2135″ /> Junior All-SEC candidate Richard LeCounte III was one of those early anchor commitments for the 2017 class for Kirby Smart at Georgia. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Kirby Smart on what goes hand-in-hand in recruiting at UGA
The fourth-year Georgia coach shared his views of that at SEC Media Days on Tuesday.
When he thinks of a better way for Georgia to recruit its elite players every year, he doesn’t think of those early timelines like the ones followed by his former classes.
With that trend in mind, Smart brought up former Cobb County product Bradley Chubb. Chubb was one of those potential “homegrown” Bulldogs out of Hillgrove High School. Chubb, the cousin of former Georgia great Nick Chubb, signed with N.C. State.
Chubb was only about 230 pounds coming out of Hillgrove in 2014. Just a 3-star. He wound up with a first-team All-American and set the new Wolfpack record for career sacks with 26.
“Bradley Chubb jumps out to me,” Smart said. “He was a kid who was probably underrecruited. But when you watch his senior tape he was a good senior player. He missed out on some opportunities with SEC schools.”
When he left that program, he was a chiseled 275 pounds. The Denver Broncos selected him with the fifth pick of the 2018 NFL Draft and he had a banner rookie season which included 12 sacks.
He was a big miss for everyone in the SEC. Not just Georgia. No matter what those stars said. No matter that he finished high school as the nation’s No. 734 prospect for 2014.
But that’s easier said than done.
“I would like to be able to evaluate guys longer but once you have a player that wants to commit that is a really good player I think you have got to take that,” Smart said. “Especially if they have got great academics. Because those two go hand-in-hand at the University of Georgia. You don’t necessarily want to be full but we want to be able to go out and look at kids their senior year and find out how they are playing.”
DawgNation.com from SEC Media Days
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