FRISCO, Texas — DawgNation is in Texas to cover UGA recruiting for the 2018 Opening Finals.
The all-star showcase opens on Saturday morning. It is set to showcase 162 of the nation’s top prospects. Those recruits were chosen after a national tour of regional qualifying events to compete against their peers in drills, competition, and 7-on-7 games.
The players in Texas this week are among the best in the country in the 2019 and 2020 classes. The Opening will run through Tuesday afternoon.
Georgia will have four of its 10 commitments for 2019 at the expansive practice headquarters of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys: 5-star outside linebacker Nolan Smith (No. 2 overall on the 247Sports composite); 5-star wide receiver Jadon Haselwood (No. 6 overall); 5-star WR Dominick Blaylock (No. 23 overall) and 4-star tight end Ryland Goede (No. 167 overall).
The event will also feature several major UGA targets including:
- 5-star RB Trey Sanders (N0. 7 overall)
- 5-star C Clay Webb (No. 11 overall)
- 5-star ILB Nakobe Dean (No. 20 overall)
- 5-star DT Travon Walker (No. 28 overall)
- 4-star RB Noah Cain (No. 58 overall)
- 4-star CB Kaiir Elam (No. 72 overall)
- 4-star ILB Rian Davis (No. 75 overall)
- 4-star CB Tyrique Stevenson (No. 78 overall)
- 5-star junior DE Bryan Bresee (No. 1 overall for 2020)
- 4-star junior LB Mekhail Sherman (No. 17 overall for 2020)
- 4-star junior WR Jermaine Burton (No. 80 overall for 2020)
Notable UGA recruiting targets not at the Opening: 5-star CB Andrew Booth; 4-star RB John Emery Jr.; 4-star S Lewis Cine
What The Opening is all about
Can a big-time defensive end from Florida slip past a 5-star tackle from Texas?
The players from those states would never meet up in terms of traditional high school competition, but The Opening affords a platform to do that.
Especially in this day and age when the recruiting world has a captive audience that wishes to know whether the best OLB in Florida is better than that higher-rated peer in California.
A few UGA recruiting related storylines to watch this week:
- Can 5-star pledge Nolan Smith convince everyone in Texas he’s the best player in the land?
- 5-star Jadon Haselwood should continue to show the industry he’s the nation’s top WR
- How will Bulldogs targets at ILB (Nakobe Dean and Rian Davis) hold up in pass coverage?
- How close is 5-star priority Travon Walker to his decision?
- The Bulldogs do not have an elite QB recruit or target at The Nike Opening Finals this year after back-to-back showings from Jake Fromm and Justin Fields.
What The Opening means for UGA compared to years past
Let’s look at the UGA commitments and eventual commitments in the first two years of the Kirby Smart era at Georgia.
- 2016: The Bulldogs sent six commits to the event and wound up with eight total pledges on the last day of The Opening. Andrew Thomas, a known commodity now, chose the Bulldogs on the final day of the event. Eventual UGA signees: 14 (Jake Fromm, DeAngelo Gibbs, Richard LeCounte III, Jeremiah Holloman, D’Andre Swift and Andrew Thomas, among others.)
- 2017: That was a big difference even though the Bulldogs wound up with the nation’s top-rated Class for 2018. Georgia sent just one public 2018 commit (Chris Smith II) to The Opening Finals a year ago. Smith was also there for the 2019 class. Yet while the Bulldogs had just two commitments at the 2018 edition, they would wind up cleaning up at the event. Eventual UGA commits or signees: 13 (Brenton Cox, James Cook, Tyson Campbell, Justin Fields, Luke Ford and Jamaree Salyer, among others.)
Where the Bulldogs rank heading into The Opening 2018
UGA enters The Opening with 10 commitments and the nation’s No. 13 recruiting Class for 2019, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. That’s even though it is the only program with fewer than 12 pledges in the top 18.
Georgia also leads the country with a total of three commitments with the coveted 5-star rating. That’s part of the reason why Bulldogs have an average ranking of 95.16 for its commits, and that figure leads the nation.
That’s much better than where the Bulldogs were a year ago at this time, when UGA had just seven commits and rated as the nation’s No. 55 class. That was even after picking up the commitment of 5-star Zamir White as the nation’s No. 1 RB on June 27.
Can the Bulldogs pull another top-5 class this year? That seems very likely. Follow DawgNation and UGA recruiting reporter Jeff Sentell (Twitter: @jeffsentell) for live updates of all things Georgia football recruiting.
Refresh the live blog for daily bursts, analysis and highlights from the top recruiting event in the country.