UGA recruiting: Did the Bulldogs miss big on anyone in their No.1 class?
Want to attack every day with the latest UGA recruiting info? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. The play sheet today calls for a topic that feels a bit like that “Where’s Waldo?” we’ve all seen before. We’re going to look far and wide for any “misses” for UGA out of some pretty dead-eye aim for 2018.
Was Kirby Smart pretty much “Robin Hood” with the 2018 class? Probably so. It also seems like he was joined by “Deadshot” Dell McGee (see the movie “Suicide Squad” for the reference) and “Hawkeye” Sam Pittman (the famed archer from Marvel’s “Avengers” series) on the trail for 2018.
Assistant coaches Jim Chaney and Glenn Schumann could also be cast as “Arrow” in this narrative, too.
Those guys didn’t miss many of their targets with the nation’s top-rated recruiting class. The haul should also go down as the greatest class for UGA in the modern history of college recruiting and the many rankings which oversee that.
Yet for the purpose of today’s blog, we’re going to talk about the big misses of 2018. (Yelp, this could be a 300-word blog).
That story arc is one that readers will see running across Diehards.com, Landof10.com, SECCountry.com and all of Cox Media Group’s college football media properties.
Yet, when it comes to Georgia, we’ll have to flip the script. “Big” misses? Eh. Thise will have to be relative.
The Bulldogs signed 11 of the nation’s top 62 prospects. That stretch expands out to 12 of the nation’s top 100 and 15 of the nation’s top 150 recruits. This is sort of like chronicling Tom Brady’s missed opportunities in the AFC playoffs. Or the overthrows of his love life.
But somebody has to be the huckleberry and take on this topic.
UGA recruiting (ahem) misses for 2018: The elites
When it comes to any prospect which could be considered a miss, there were actually 12 names that came to mind. But we chopped a player like 5-star DE Xavier Thomas because he was always going to play for Clemson or South Carolina. Thomas will be fantastic and dominant for those Tigers. He’s just that good.
We’re also going to stay in a tight lane and only reference elite talents that the staff placed a significant time investment in which would have also improved the class.
That governor called for a requirement that the player had to fall within the top 150 on the final 247Sports composite ranking. Pay attention to the asterisks next to a few of these names. Those signify a prospect who also took an official visit to UGA.
The Bulldogs did have some misses, but there’s also a clear theme that runs through this topic:
- QB Trevor Lawrence/Nation’s No. 1 overall prospect: Lawrence chose Clemson over Georgia in December of 2016. The 5-star from Cartersville might rank as one of Kirby Smart’s biggest misses so far at UGA, but the Bulldogs managed to sign that Justin Fields fella. He was the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect. Did UGA off-set this miss: Most definitely. They signed a player that is considered by many to be his equal. At least.
- *DE/OLB Micah Parsons/Nation’s No. 5 overall prospect: We’re going to have to stretch a little here. Parsons chose Penn State and it sure seems as if everyone else was vying for second place. But he did take multiple visits to UGA and was a top target. Fields wanted him in this class. Parsons would’ve been a great addition, but the Bulldogs added a pair of 5-stars (Adam Anderson, Brenton Cox) at his position plus another pair of top 5 OLBs at his likely position. Did UGA off-set this miss: Picture a Monopoly player trying to place two hotels on Boardwalk. That’s what this class would’ve looked like with Parsons.
- *DE/OLB KJ Henry/Nation’s No. 14 overall prospect: The Bulldogs were definitely in this race for a time. He brought along both of his grandfathers on his official. He definitely enjoyed himself but wound up choosing Clemson. Yet we can simply Ctrl-V from the summation on Parsons. See Brenton Cox or Adam Anderson. Or Otis Reese. Or Quay Walker and Azeez Ojulari. Did UGA off-set this miss: Clearly. The Bulldogs will never get them all, but it looks like they got five of their top 8 targets at OLB.
- OLB JJ Peterson/Nation’s No. 48 overall prospect: Peterson chose to play for Jeremy Pruitt. That connection with Colquitt County coach Rush Propst dates back to his Hoover High (Ala.) days. It was a major factor here. Peterson was likely going to play for Pruitt in Tuscaloosa or where ever he might have taken a head coaching job. There’s some irony to consider here. If the Volunteers didn’t bumble their coaching search so badly, the Tide likely winds up with Peterson and Walker. Pruitt might still be there. Peterson was definitely wanted by UGA. At least until the early summer of 2017. Did UGA off-set this miss: See the Parsons and Henry entries. Georgia signed eight players which rated higher than Peterson. That level of context belongs in this discussion at this point.
The UGA recruiting (ahem) misses for 2018: The top 150 guys
CB Kyler McMichael/Nation’s No. 56 overall prospect: McMichael was a strong and physical cornerback from Greater Atlanta Christian in Norcross. He also shined in the U.S. Army All-American Game practices. He checks off every box and will be playing for Clemson. Georgia will never sign all the nation’s top players or even all the top players in Georgia. If McMichael would have signed, he would’ve been the 11th highest-rated prospect in the UGA class. Clemson also signed six players with a higher rating than McMichael. Did UGA off-set this miss: Georgia signed the nation’s No. 2 CB in 5-star Tyson Campbell. He was the highest-rated signee on defense and the team’s top target at CB. Campbell checks in as the No. 12 overall prospect for 2018.
- DE/DT Stephon Wynn Jr./Nation’s No. 74 overall prospect: Wynn signed with Alabama. The Bulldogs were his second choice and this is probably the first time where the Bulldogs missed on a prospect who would have clearly upgraded the class. Wynn seems like he’s going to be an interior defender on Saturdays. UGA could’ve used a trench player who is already well over 300 pounds at the prep level. Did UGA off-set this miss: 4-star junior college signee Devonte Wyatt seems like a comparable talent. Especially given his speed. But the Bulldogs clearly do not have several players of Wynn’s caliber in this class. Wynn serves as a good example for the type of player the Bulldogs needs to sign more of in 2019 to finish with the nation’s top class again.
- S Derrik Allen/Nation’s No. 102 overall prospect: Allen chose Notre Dame. He did give the Bulldogs a late visit deep into his signing timeline, but that was seen as a mere formality. Allen clearly values his education. He’s the type of guy who hangs out with peers who build computers in their spare time. That degree mesh and the playing opportunity in South Bend was too perfect of a match. Allen’s name shows up here because he was a U.S. Army All-American and another in-state gem. It resonates because the Bulldogs didn’t really sign another true safety prospect other than Michigan flip Otis Reese. Did UGA off-set this miss: When Smart said on signing day that Reese would start out as a safety, it rounds out the 2018 class to cover missing out on Allen. Nabad Joseph, another 4-star CB signee, can also line up deep at safety.
- DT Robert Cooper/Nation’s No. 117 overall prospect: Cooper, a huge size athlete from South Gwinnett, was another in-state option that the Bulldogs wanted for 2018. The nation’s No. 9 DT chose Florida State. He’s immensely strong (440-plus pound bench press) and has remarkable short space quickness given he goes well north of 350 pounds on the scale. Did UGA off-set this miss: There’s really no prospect the Bulldogs chased that fits the mold of what John Atkins did quite like Cooper. Those chains would’ve fit well around his thick neck. Here’s a trend to consider: The Bulldogs signed six of the state’s top 7 players for 2018, but only wound up with nine of the state’s top 30 beyond that.
*ATH Alontae Taylor/Nation’s No. 122 overall prospect: Taylor chose to stay home and play for Tennessee. He did deeply consider UGA late into his signing process. The 4-star ATH wanted to play receiver, but he could’ve also fit in into the UGA secondary. The Under Armour All-American should have a good career in Knoxville for Pruitt. Did UGA off-set this miss: The Bulldogs did find several players on both sides of the ball (Tyson Campbell, Kearis Jackson, Tommy Bush, Nadab Joseph) to replicate what Taylor would have meant to this class.
- *DT Rick Sandidge/Nation’s No. 141 overall prospect: This might very well have been Georgia’s biggest public miss of the class. The Bulldogs went in heavy and late with big guns like personnel director Jonas Jennings and Smart’s “smart copter” as the Sandidge family often called it. He chose South Carolina. If he opted for Athens, then he would’ve been the 15th-highest rated player in this class. That said, he’s the top-rated signee for the Gamecocks. Did UGA off-set this miss: The Bulldogs did sign three defensive tackles, but Sandidge was clearly a higher-rated prospect than the pair of 3-stars at that position in this class.
Well, that’s that.
If pitchers and catchers are on your mind this week, then that sort of feels like cataloging the free agent starting pitchers that the Atlanta Braves missed out on from 1991-2001.
Miss any Intel? The DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to speed just as fast as former Georgia All-American LB Roquan Smith found the ball after the snap.