Would you like to receive DawgNation news alerts? Excellent! News alerts will be displayed in your browser.
Jeff Sentell/DawgNation
Cedar Grove teammates Rashad Cheney Jr. (left) and Jadon Haselwood (right) have already committed to Georgia's 2019 class.

Can UGA reel in the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class for 2019?

Jeff Sentell

Want a daily lap UGA recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll use this rain-sogged morning to share a broad view of how UGA is doing with the coveted 5-star and 4-star prospects for the 2019 cycle. 

_______________________________________________________

DawgNation has started to update the program’s Top 5 uncommitted targets for 2018 on a weekly basis. Our latest rating of that group assessed it this way:

  • 1a. 5-star QB Justin Fields (Kennesaw, Ga.)

The 1-sentence why: The nation’s top overall prospect won the Elite 11 QB derby this summer and has also posted faster 40 times than UGA’s current commitments at WR.

  • 1b: 5-star OG Jamaree Salyer (Atlanta, Ga.)

The 1-sentence why: The nation’s best OL this year also holds the distinction of being the highest-rated interior line prospect (247SportsComposite) since 2006.

  • 3. 4-star OLB Adam Anderson (Rome, Ga.)

The 1-sentence why: Did you see how many times he sacked Fields earlier this year?

  • 4. 4-star OG Trey Hill (Warner Robins, Ga.)

The 1-sentence why: The Notre Dame game showed that UGA still doesn’t have what it needs to get a significant push from the interior of its line.

  • 5. 4-star DB Tyreke Johnson (Jacksonville, Fla.)

The 1-sentence why: The Bulldogs can really use another big and physical defender with his versatility in their secondary.

That’s the 2018 snapshot, but we’re going to pull a page from Urban Meyer’s book today. If you are looking for a reason why Ohio State recruits so well, it is because Meyer recruits one year ahead. At least.

Why 2019 recruiting already matters to an elite program

When Kirby Smart and his staff was trying to lock down their first big class in 2017, Meyer used some of his recruiting time to also work on priority 2018 targets. He could do that because the Ohio State brand has long been established as an elite destination for recruits. The UGA staff does not yet have that luxury.

The Bulldogs need to stack up at least 10-11 wins this year to trend in that direction. Ohio State was already at that level and Meyer could focus on elite 2018 prospects across the South. That’s a big reason why the Buckeyes currently have the nation’s No. 1 class for 2018 and should very well retain that spot.

Travon Walker-UGA recruiting
4-star DE Travon Walker plays with great passion and energy and is a top target for the Class of 2019 at Georgia. (Jeff Sentell/SEC Country)

Ohio State works one year ahead with the elite guys. That runs counter to the way most recruiting fans feel while reading about 2019 prospects. They scan past those guys because they feel that it is just too far away.

The feeling there is a lot can change with all of their options with so much advance time to go before their respective signing days. That is a valid point.

Meyer runs his program differently than that. That’s kind of like the A-plus student who sits in the front row that was locked in on this week’s material for this week’s quiz two weeks ago.

With that said, let’s look to 2019. Georgia currently has the nation’s No. 3 class per the 247SportsComposite. It can legitimately contend for the No. 1 ranking in 2019.

Georgia has the nation’s No. 3 class for 2019

Let’s rattle off a few quick-hit thoughts:

  • Georgia already has a trio of 5-star recruits (Jadon Haselwood, Nolan Smith and Dominick Blaylock) committed for 2019.
  • The Bulldogs have already lined up perhaps the top WR class in program history. Haselwood is the nation’s top-rated WR for 2019. Blaylock is at No. 2. Georgia has not signed a Top 5 receiver since Marlon Brown in 2009.
  • This class is filled with just 5-star and 4-star prospects.
  • UGA has six total commitments. The average ranking of that sextet at their respective positions
    Dominick Blaylock-UGA recruiting
    Walton High junior Dominick Blaylock is the nation’s No. 2 prospect at receiver for 2019. (Jeff Sentell/SEC Country)

    comes in at No. 11 nationally.

  • There are four members of the class who already rate at No. 11 overall or better at their respective positions. It is also split evenly at three prospects on each side of the ball.
  • Don’t expect an offer to go toward a specialist with the recent scholarship award to Rodrigo Blankenship. Jake Camarda, an elite leg at kicker and punter, is also committed in the 2018 class.
  • Do the Bulldogs sign another RB? That’s a good question. The program aims to always have at least five backs on scholarship at all times. At least. If Georgia signs 5-star Zamir White and 4-star RB James Cook in 2018, it might not need a back in 2019. The only reason would be if the Bulldogs saw a transfer issue affect that depth chart.

The worries about 5-star Nolan Smith 

The name Nolan Smith comes up here. As it should. Smith is everything any defensive coordinator would want in a prospect: Athletic. Skilled. Physical. Tenacious.

He’s also very well-connected to his peers in 2019. Smith committed to UGA back in January and transferred to IMG Academy. The 4-star recruit showed out at the Nike Opening regional in Orlando shortly thereafter and his stock quickly rose to the 5-star level.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder posted a 40-inch vertical leap and also one of the nation’s top “SPARQ” ratings this year. Smith was that odd DE/OLB prospect wedged in with all those receivers and skill guys. Smith also quickly assumed a starting spot at IMG.

Nolan Smith-UGA recruiting
Nolan Smith is one-third of a UGA trio of 5-star commitments in the Class of 2019. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

But he also developed a tight relationship with 5-star IMG senior DE Xavier Thomas. Thomas is a very strong commitment to Clemson.

Those two have grown very close. Smith has also made at least two visits to Death Valley this year.

Smith was in Clemson with Thomas for the Auburn game last week. The media accounts of that game showed he had a very good time. But he also visited UGA on his way back from Clemson that Sunday.

If he de-commits, it wouldn’t surprise me. If he de-commits and eventually re-commits back to UGA, it would also not stun me. If UGA wins the SEC East this year and signs another strong class with Fields and Sayler, that could help things with Smith, too. He respects those guys a great deal.

He’s still committed to UGA at this time, but Alabama and Clemson will be relentless coming after him until he’s enrolled in January of 2019. They should. He’s just that good. Here’s one other thing to remember: Thomas told me back in July that he didn’t think a de-commitment would come from Smith anytime soon.

5 names to commit to memory for 2019

Who else is UGA going after in 2019? Here are the 5 priority targets for that class who have yet to make a decision. The main criteria with each of these names is a strong mutual interest from both parties.

  • Callaway 4-star OG Keiondre Jones (Rated No. 46 overall by the 247SportsComposite): He’s a guard on Saturdays. If UGA signs Hill and Salyer in 2018, how much will it affect the chances for Jones? He’s also very close to Smith and was with him at Clemson last Saturday. Jones has also had Clemson in his top schools for quite some time.

 

  • Upson-Lee 4-star DL Travon Walker (Rated No. 58 overall by the 247SportsComposite): Look for the stock for this guy to continue to rise. The nation’s No. 2 DT prospect was also an asset for Upson-Lee’s state basketball team earlier this year. Walker has also liked UGA for quite some time. Alabama and Clemson are also in the mix here, too.

 

  • Clinch County 4-star LB Trezman Marshall (Rated No. 72 overall by the 247SportsComposite): Marshall recently established his Top 6 and included the in-state Bulldogs in that lot. I saw him two years ago on a visit to see former UGA DE/OLB Chauncey Manac. He was the real deal back then.

 

  • Riverdale 4-star DE Dante Walker (Rated No. 97 overall by the 247SportsComposite):  The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder is another aggressive DL with great size that has performed well in all the “True19” events. Alabama is also vying for his services, but he took an unofficial visit to UGA for the Appalachian State game.

 

  • Troup 4-star OLB King Mwikuta (Rated No. 70 overall by the 247SportsComposite): I like his game a lot. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder is another rangy edge player. His final decision could also come down to Alabama or Georgia.

 

JUST OFF THIS LIST: Rahway (N.J.) 5-star DE Antonio Alfano; Amos P. Godby 4-star S/OLB Cortez Andrews; Milton 4-star S Joseph Charleston; ECI 4-star DL Curtis Fann Jr.; Kennesaw Mountain 4-star TE Ryland Goede; Grayson 4-star DE/OLB Kevin Harris; IMG Academy 4-star OLB Mikel Jones; Tucker 4-star DE/OLB Derrick McLendon; Brunswick 4-star OT Warren McClendon; Buford 4-star OL Harry Miller; Nolan Catholic (Tx.) 4-star OLB NaNa Osafo-Mensah; Grayson 4-star OT Wanya Morris (current FSU commit); Grayson 5-star ATH Owen Pappoe.

 

 

Miss a day of Intel? Well, the DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to Mecole Hardman speed before your tailgate crew can worry anymore about all the freshman offensive linemen who will have to play this fall.