UGA football recruiting: What big questions remain?
Want a daily lap through UGA football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and add some daily perspective to the UGA Big Board to help fans figure out what it all means.
I’ve got an interesting early theory for the Class of 2018. My most informed guess as to how things will work out with the trial run of the NCAA’s new permissible early signing period is that the majority of commits will be expected to sign during the new mid-December window.
If they are committed, their tethered schools probably will strongly urge them to grab their pens and then sign that National Letter of Intent.
I’m sure the nation’s elite might be granted the chance to stall, but for all intents and purposes, that will mean they are not really “committed” in even the weakest sense of that term as it applies to college football recruiting.
Those prospects simply have a favorite.
That means that the decision for a lot of these players is closer than before. That early signing period will open in about four months and a week. Give or take a day or two there.
The Bulldogs have nine commitments for 2018. That ranks No. 58 overall per the 247Sports team composite rankings and No. 13 in the SEC.
I expect to see the Bulldogs sign about 21 to 22 players in this class. The current “blueshirt” options for this fall muddy those waters just a bit.
Where do things stand up for Georgia’s recruiting efforts for 2018? Well, five big talking points stand out.
What will be the next move for 5-star QB Justin Fields?
Consider this to be another informed guess. I think the next big thing for Justin Fields to do is to watch some games. Closely.
What does Florida State look like? How do the in-state Bulldogs look this fall? How well do the quarterbacks play? Do the starters in Auburn and Tallahassee look like they might be trending toward the NFL draft?
Fields will need at least the first month of the season to cement his decision, I think. At least his public declaration.
He told me earlier this month that the only thing he needs to see from his two favorites is what they do on the field this fall.
The current dead period for this month — schools can only contact recruits via text messaging and social media — will give the nation’s No. 3 overall prospect, per the 247Sports composite, the chance to sit back and relax without the pressure of having to take a visit somewhere every weekend.
If Fields chooses Georgia, look for the class to soar to a top-3 finish. Again. That’s how close he is with a lot of other top prospects.
If Fields bolts the state, then the Bulldogs will scramble to find their 2018 quarterback. A top 10 class might be the best-case finish in this scenario.
Two more blockers for the ‘Great Wall of Georgia’ in 2018?
Georgia might have signed its best offensive line crop of recruits in the modern era of recruiting in 2017. What’s left for the 2018 haul would include the nation’s No. 1 guard (Jamaree Salyer) and No. 2 guard (Trey Hill) in this cycle.
Salyer rates as the nation’s No. 7 overall prospect for 2018. Hill also slots in on the 247Sports composite at No. 31. Both of these massive 330-pounders instantly would compete for playing time.
Hill is being pitched an immediate slot at center. The powerful Salyer would compete right away to get reps at guard.
The best-case scenario for Georgia’s 2018 class would include Fields, Salyer and Hill. If the Bulldogs were to add that trio over the next six months, then that means the program would have commitments on the offensive side of the ball from four of the nation’s Top 32 players for 2018. That would also mean the Bulldogs will have signed four of the nation’s top 18 offensive prospects, too. The fourth would be 5-star RB Zamir White. White, a UGA commit, rates as the nation’s No. 1 RB and No. 6 overall prospect for 2018.
Salyer told DawgNation this month he might now make his choice during that early signing period. Hill still doesn’t have a public leader, and his decision will likely come after his five official visits.
Look for both of these trench players to take the majority of their officials this fall before they make their respective decisions.
Who will come on board to shore up the defensive line?
Fields, Salyer and Hill are the high-ranking priority targets left for 2018. That’s why those names popped up first. But the reality is the biggest question left for UGA will be who comes in to fill out the depth on the defensive line.
Georgia loaded up at that position in 2016. Devonte Wyatt was the lone signee for the interior in the last cycle, but he wasn’t able to qualify and is now at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.
The Bulldogs have some options at that position, but they’ve also missed on a few names of note, such as Stephon Wynn Jr. (Alabama), Kingsley Enagbare (South Carolina), Emmit Gooden (Arkansas) and Darnell Jefferies (Clemson) for their front.
North Carolina 4-star DT Rick Sandidge definitely likes UGA, but South Carolina still might have a slight edge there. Sandidge rates as the nation’s No. 11 DT for this cycle.
Trevor Trout, a 4-star DT from Missouri, also has the Bulldogs in his top 11. Trout has yet to visit UGA but has a sense that there’s a good reason to keep the Bulldogs in contention. The 6-foot-3, 315-pound prospect is ranked as the nation’s No. 17 DT.
Tramel Walthour, an in-state prospect from Liberty County High School in Hinesville, might be the best bet to join the class of 2018 at UGA. The 3-star recruit is regarded as the nation’s No. 47 DT prospect in this class.
He grew up loving the Bulldogs and has made his share of trips to Athens. He played high school football with freshman safety Richard LeCounte III.
Georgia needs to sign at least two to three prospects at DT in this class. That position is just too vital for the program to go light across the front across in back-to-back classes.
The pass rush crop has a lot of promise
The Bulldogs missed out on 5-star defensive end Brenton Cox, but things still appear very promising at that spot. North Carolina 5-star weakside DE K.J. Henry has the Bulldogs in his Final 5. Look for his decision to come after the bulk of the season has been played.
Henry has indicated he likes both Clemson and Alabama, too. A lot. The Bulldogs might have a puncher’s chance at this decision with a big year and a hiccup from the Tigers. If Georgia wins the SEC East, that should give the program its best shot at Henry.
The West Forsyth (Clemmons, N.C.) standout rates as the nation’s No. 2 weakside DE and No. 14 prospect overall.
That said, the Bulldogs are also very much in the decision for Marietta High standout Azeez Ojulari and Rome pass-rusher extraordinaire Adam Anderson. Anderson was once committed to UGA and might very well come back in the fold. Look for him to stay close to home with his final decision. Alabama and Georgia should have a strong shot there.
Ojulari might actually have his decision made within the next few weeks. His stock has soared over the last few months. He now checks in as the nation’s No. 6 weak-side DE and No. 136 overall prospect.
Anderson slots in as the nation’s No. 2 OLB prospect and ranks as the No. 40 overall player for 2018.
Florida’s Kayode Oladele also has the Bulldogs among his yop 5 teams. The 3-star recruit looks like he was chiseled from well-shaped stone. The 247Sports composite regards him as the nation’s No. 15 strongside defensive end.
The chance of UGA signing at least one or two recruits from a pool that includes Anderson, Henry, Ojulari and Oladele does not appear to be wishful thinking at this time.
Which targets will catch on at receiver?
Wide receiver is one of the most fluid positions on the big board for 2018. The Bulldogs have offered a reported 281 prospects for this year’s class.
For now, 47 offers have been shipped out to pass catchers. That’s almost 17 percent of all the offers sent out for this class.
That said, the Bulldogs do not yet have a wide receiver committed at this time.
That’s an interesting comparison to the number of offers at guard (10) or for the entire offensive line (46) for 2018. The latter total even includes 12 offers for tight ends. That level of deviation often indicates that coaches aren’t quite sure what their chances are with a number of their top targets at a certain position.
Peach County 4-star WR Kearis Jackson has said he will announce his decision on Aug. 19. Georgia receivers coach James Coley has prioritized Jackson for quite some time.
If Jackson chooses UGA over strong late interest from Alabama, then the Bulldogs might sign only one or two more receivers in 2018.
Who’s next after Jackson? That still looks to be another in-state player, Tucker 4-star WR Josh Vann. Vann has said he likes both UGA and South Carolina, but he could wind up with the Gamecocks unless Fields picks UGA.
Vann is one of the most likely targets to swing to Georgia if Fields, the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat QB, opts to play for the red and black.
St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) 4-star WR Elijah Moore is another undersized receiver getting a strong look from the Bulldogs. Moore ranks as the nation’s No. 38 receiver for 2018.
Jackson, Moore and Vann are all under 6-f00t and 205 pounds. That’s the trend for 2018 when it comes to this position. That runs counter to what the Bulldogs signed a year ago. Georgia’s signees all were at least 6-foot-2.
If the Bulldogs wind up with any two of these players, then that’s probably all the program needs to look for, given how well that all of the 2017 newcomers have performed in early camp. The Bulldogs look like they might get contributions from early enrollees J.J. Holloman, and then at least Trey Blount and Mark Webb Jr. this fall.