National Signing Day is on Wednesday. That means there are two days left until the pinnacle of the off-season for every college football fan.
Can new UGA coach Kirby Smart really pull off a stunner like landing a quartet of five-star prospects in one signing class? There’s an outside chance at adding another five-star recruit, too. That would be quite the feat considering he’s been on the job for less than 60 days.
The 247sports composite — which ranks recruits based on their ratings across all the major recruiting services — only names 32 recruits as five-star prospects every year. Can UGA really sign anywhere from 12 to 16 percent of that lot?
If so, here’s how they need to close. These are UGA’s “Most Wanted” recruits, who have not yet made their commitment to UGA, but could be pledged to another school.
The five biggest needs left for UGA’s Class of 2016:
1. At least two more defensive linemen
This would be a lot easier if UGA wasn’t (supposedly depending on how the wind blows) off the lead pack for five-star defensive tackle Derrick Brown (Sugar Hill, Ga.) at this moment. Brown is a monster who projects to the NFL in “when” terms rather than that “if” stuff.
If Brown winds up at Auburn or Tennessee, then UGA can offset that with 4-star defensive tackle Michail Carter (Jackson, Ga.) and 3-star Auburn commit David Marshall at defensive end. Carter is too good of a prospect in his own right to be labeled as Brown insurance. But UGA can miss on Brown as long as it signs Carter, flips Marshall and puts the cherry on top with another flip in Syracuse 3-star defensive end commit Jaquwan Nelson.
2. Four-star OL EJ Price (Lawrenceville, Ga.)
UGA currently has just three committed offensive linemen and only one of those (four-star early enrollee Ben Cleveland) is expected to grab good playing time by the mid-point of their freshman season. Cleveland is 6-foot-7 and powerful, but some analysts think he might wind up at guard. Price, at 6-foot-6 and 323 pounds, is a classic bookend tackle.
He’s another Top 10 prospect on the line and would be another candidate to earn some PT for new line coach Sam Pittman as a freshman. Smart made it clear UGA needs to get bigger and badder on both lines, and signing four offensive linemen aids that cause.
3. Five-star ATH Mecole Hardman, Jr. (Elberton, Ga.)
Hardman can come in right away and shine in the defensive backfield and in the return game. He’d also be an asset in the passing game because one SEC coach told DawgNation that he will enter the SEC and become one of the conference’s fastest players. He’s rated as the nation’s No. 1 athlete.
4. Five-star ATH Demetris Robertson (Savannah, Ga.)
The only other trouble spot for UGA’s crop of 16 commitments is at receiver. Hardman helps out the fear factor there, but UGA does have not a Top 10 receiver in this class yet. That’s disappointing considering the nation’s top QB (Jacob Eason) has been committed to UGA since July of 2014. Robertson, the nation’s No. 1 receiver, would be the fourth five-star prospect in this class if Hardman also signs with UGA.
Robertson is not expected to sign until about 10 days after National Signing Day, but landing him would be a coup. He currently favors Stanford and Notre Dame and was committed to Alabama for almost a year. Look for him to still visit UGA after National Signing Day.
5. Four-star DE/OLB Brian Burns (Plantation, Fla.)
Is he going to go to Florida State? That’s the main rival to UGA. The Bulldogs do have a pipeline in their favor with the likes of Isaiah McKenzie, Sony Michel and Marshall Morgan. Each of those Bulldogs went to the same high school as Burns in Florida.
A flock of about 15 Bulldogs even came to see Burns and American Heritage for a road game in Metro Atlanta. UGA assistant Kevin Sherrer has put in a lot of time with Burns over the last two years. He’d have the same type of length and skill set that UGA is sending to the NFL in Leonard Floyd. That’s the position he’d play for Smart. He likes that role.
Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.
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.