It is going to be a battle, but this guy will be worth it on Saturdays.
That’s the qualifying statement for what DawgNation has identified as the Top 5 recruiting battles ahead for Georgia’s football program for the Class of 2017.
Bear in mind this isn’t a measure of the best players UGA hopes to sign for 2017. There are other recruits as talented as anyone the program is chasing, but the race for that signature isn’t as wide-open as the prospects who are presented below.
The names below are the alphas the staff will have to roll their sleeves up with to just finish in the Top 2. Each name meets the following criteria: 1) They are publicly uncommitted and 2) They have not stated any team as their current leader.
The original list stretched to 10 worthy names, but these are the real pressing battles to keep an eye on.
UGA’s toughest recruiting battles for the Class of 2017
(presented in alphabetical order)
5-star RB Cam Akers (Clinton High School/ Clinton, Miss.)
Rankings: Nation’s No. 16 player overall / No. 2 RB in America / No. 1 player in Mississippi
The one-sentence why: No. 1 and No. 27 (Sony Michel and Nick Chubb) should be playing on Sundays in 2017.
Teams to watch out for: Florida State, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee
Georgia’s chances: The Bulldogs should be seen as one of the top contenders to sign Akers. They have built strong recruiting ties to his family over the years, have a storied running back position and a help wanted sign out for an elite back or two in 2017.
4-star WR Nico Collins (Clay-Chalkville High School / Pinson, Ala.)
Rankings: No. 76 overall / No. 13 WR / No. 1 player in Alabama
The one-sentence why: How many receivers are on campus right now that are 6-foot-6 with his ball skills and elite high school production?
Teams to watch out for: Alabama, Clemson and Michigan.
Georgia’s chances: Michigan seems like the new darling here after Collins spent the weekend in Ann Arbor. Everyone thinks Alabama, but the Tide are already hot on a lot of higher-rated receivers. The odds favor him leaving the state right now. Collins is already tight with UGA quarterback commit Jake Fromm and he’s made at least five trips to UGA over the last 16 months.
5-star CB DeAngelo Gibbs (Grayson High School / Loganville, Ga.)
Rankings: No. 34 overall / No. 4 CB / No. 2 player in Georgia
The one-sentence why: When he’s at the top of his game, he projects as a No. 1 receiver or a shutdown corner in the SEC.
Teams to watch out for: Florida, LSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee
Georgia’s chances: Gibbs, known to many as “D-Lo” on the trail, likes to keep his cards close to the vest. Yet he recently told DawgNation he “loved Georgia a lot.” UGA continues to recruit him as hard as possible. It should come down to UGA and Tennessee. The Volunteers have the lure of playing with his cousin Nigel Warrior, but UGA can counter that with an inseparable friend in 2017 commit Breon Dixon.
5-star ATH Jacoby Stevens (Oakland High School / Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
Rankings: No. 24 overall / No. 1 athlete / No. 2 player in Tennessee
The one-sentence why: The future safety broad jumped farther than anyone at the NFL combine this year and would give the Bulldogs the best signee tandem of safeties in America with 2017 commit Richard LeCounte III.
Teams to watch out for: Auburn, Alabama, Clemson and LSU
Georgia’s chances: Stevens — who once had UGA as his leader — has backed off that stance and said all the teams among his Top 7 right now are equal. Recent visits to Auburn and Alabama appear to have given him something to think about. He still has visits planned to LSU and Tennessee, among others. He will decide sometime next month, though.
5-star ATH Jamyest Williams (Grayson High School / Loganville, Ga.)
Rankings: No. 52 player overall / No. 6 cornerback / No. 6 player in Georgia
The one-sentence why: The way he smothers his man in coverage brings to mind former LSU All-American defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.
Teams to watch out for: Clemson, Ohio State and South Carolina
Georgia’s chances: The Athens native has the sense that something special is brewing there, but don’t discount the Buckeyes and the Gamecocks. The chances to play right away are very good at South Carolina and he likes the No. 1 ranking of the business school, too. Ohio State has also made him a priority.
Other big bouts looming: 4-star DE/OLB Robert Beal (IMG Academy / Bradenton, Fla.); 3-star OLB Walter Grant (Cairo High School/ Cairo, Ga.); 4-star WR Jeremiah Holloman (Newton High School / Covington, Ga.); 4-star ILB Nate McBride (Vidalia High School / Vidalia , Ga.) 4-star RB D’Andre Swift (St. Joseph’s High School / Philadelphia, Pa. ); 4-star CB A.J. Terrell (Westlake High School / Westlake, Ga.)
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.