UGA recruiting: How do the Bulldogs bounce back after losing Brenton Cox?

Georgia-Georgia football
April 22, 2017, Athens - Members of the red team wait to take the field during the G-Day game in Athens, Georgia, on Saturday, April 22, 2017. (DAVID BARNES / DAVID.BARNES@AJC.COM)

Want a daily lap through UGA recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way this 4-star like Brenton Cox might lean plus add some perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.


Georgia took an “L” last night with the decision of Brenton Cox. How does it bounce back?

That important thing is it is not just the Cox decision at play here. The Bulldogs lost a commitment from 4-star OLB Adam Anderson on G-Day last Saturday. Georgia also saw longtime pledge Max Wray de-commit earlier this year.

The first two commitments for Georgia’s 2018 class are now with other programs. Wray had been committed for almost a year. Anderson had been on board since August of 2016. Cox was clearly one of the program’s Top 5 targets for 2018. He has elite pass rush (29 sacks over his last two prep seasons) ability.

The current class now contains a well-regarded 3-star ILB in Donovan Georges from South Florida. He told DawgNation recently he was still very strong with the Bulldogs. Georgia also picked up a commitment from the nation’s No. 1 kicker in Jake Camarda on G-Day.

Brenton Cox was a big loss for UGA recruiting in 2018. (Jeff Sentell /

Those two recruits equate to the nation’s No. 68 class (per the 247Sports Composite) at this time. That’s one spot behind Vanderbilt and next-to-last in the SEC.

What’s the immediate triage? Simple. Focus on the state of Georgia.

The opening of the spring evaluation window last week couldn’t come at a better time. The coaching staff will live on the road for the next few weeks.

The 2018 class will rise in those rankings by targeting the players that Georgia is pre-disposed to recruit well every year. Those are the in-state recruits and the other prospects along the SEC footprint which reside within a five-hour drive of Metro Atlanta.

Don’t look for this class to be built with another 12-to-15 high-ranking prospects from the state, but the majority of the class will still have to come from Georgia. If not, that’s a big problem.

We’ll show you why in the paragraphs that follow.

The 2018 class is what it is right now

This passage from the Cox decision story bears further review here.

The decision continues an alarming trend for the program when it comes to in-state recruiting for this cycle. UGA has missed on the commitment of six of the state’s Top 10 prospects (per the 247Composite rankings) for 2018.

A deep dive through those rankings will not reveal a lot of hope. A best-case scenario among the Top 20 offers up the nation that UGA might eventually sign 3-4 prospects from that lot. That’s the way things are trending as of now. 

This is another indicator the Bulldogs will have to pull top talent from outside the state to produce a Top 10 class like they did a year ago. That’s a stark contrast to what the program did in building the nation’s third-ranked class for 2017. The Bulldogs signed five of the state’s Top 10 prospects and 12 of the state’s Top 20.

That said, the Bulldogs already have the nation’s No. 3 class for 2019. Georgia has four commits in place for that cycle. That class has a pair of 5-star commits rated among the nation’s Top 10 prospects in Nolan Smith and Jaden Haselwood.

There’s going to be a mass of perspective like that in this update. That’s both the good and bad. The best way to convey that is by showing that top classes can run in cycles when a school does not reach 11-12 wins on an annual basis.

Fans should not expect the Bulldogs to sign another Top 5 class at this time. It just hasn’t been done lately by any program not named Alabama, FSU or Ohio State.

Trendspotting top-rated classes

Let’s try for an apples-to-apples comparison here. As best we can. Here are the programs which finished No. 3 overall in the overall 247SportsComposite recruiting rankings over the last six years.

We’ll present the team which finished third, their record from the previous fall which foretold that playing time could be up for grabs and what that team then did in the two follow-up years after that big class

Are the rankings supposed to dip? There’s a lot of conjecture out there that generalizes that. Let’s actually be sure about it before bringing that up over a tailgate.

  • 2010 No. 3: USC (9-4); 2011 recruiting finish (8-5): 3rd; 2012 finish (7-6): 9th
  • 2011 No. 3: USC (8-5);  2012 recruiting finish (7-6): 9th; 2013 finish (10-4): 13th
  • 2012 No. 3: FSU (9-4); 2013 recruiting finish (14-0): 11th: 2014 finish (13-1); 4th
  • 2013 No. 3: Florida (11-2); 2014 recruiting finish (4-8): 9th; 2015 finish (7-5): 21st
  • 2014 No. 3: Ohio State (12-2); 2015 recruiting finish (14-1): 7th; 2016 finish (12-1): 4th
  • 2015 No. 3: FSU (13-1); 2016 recruiting finish (10-3): 2nd; 2017 finish (10-3): 6th
  • 2016 No. 3: LSU (9-3): 2017 recruiting finish (8-4); 7th; 2018 finish (N/A): TBD
  • 2017 No. 3: UGA (8-5); 2018 recruiting finish: TBD; 2019 finish: TBD

There’s an immediate trend here: Sign a bunch of players one year. Miss the mark on matching those blue-chips over the next two years. 

  • 2010: No. 3 USC had an average rankings decline of six spots over the next two cycles
  • 2011: No. 3 USC had an average rankings decline of 11 spots over the next two cycles
  • 2012: No. 3 FSU had an average rankings decline of 7.5 spots over the next two cycles
  • 2013: No. 3 Florida had an average rankings decline of 15 spots over the next two cycles
  • 2014: No. 3 Ohio State had an average rankings decline of 5.5 spots over the next two cycles
  • 2015: No. 3 FSU had an average rankings decline of four spots over the next two cycles
  • 2016: No. 3 LSU dropped four slots in its next recruiting cycle.

That’s true in every year presented here except for USC in 2011 and FSU in 2015. Those two Southern Cal years also featured a coaching change when Lane Kiffin take over. That’s an indicator of a similar climate that UGA is experiencing. The 2012 Seminoles signed the nation’s third-rated recruiting class after their second season under coach Jimbo Fisher.

It looks like UGA will have to buckle down over the summer to build up its 2018 recruiting class. (Jeff Sentell /

There’s a natural sense of joining a program that is re-starting after a coaching change. It always brings a flurry of recruiting buzz. The 2013 Florida Gators and 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes were also in their second years of Will Muschamp and Urban Meyer, respectively.

There’s the cold hard data that shows how one great class affects the ones to follow. Especially when the team that signed all those players is not a perennial championship contender. Alabama and Ohio State have been the only programs which have had sustained success in stockpiling elite recruits.

Why? That’s because the recruits know that if they have to wait their turn for playing time, then they know they will be at a program which still plays for championships while they do.

When an elite prospect like Cox decides between the Bulldogs and one of the nation’s elite programs, those losses to Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt get noticed along that 4-4 conference record in 2016.

Raiding Georgia

We presented this stat on our message board last night. It shows where the Bulldogs have to go to gain ground in their home state.

FSU: 2 LSU: 2 Michigan: 2 Ohio State: 2 Clemson: 2 Alabama: 1 Auburn: 1 Notre Dame: 1 Penn State: 1 Georgia: 0

Just what is happening here? 

I’ve spent a lot of time with readers on our message board over the last 12 hours. Here are the most popular questions.

  • What’s going on with UGA recruiting?
  • Has it ever been this bad?
  • How does the program go from signing the nation’s No. 3 class to this?
  • Is there something amiss that the fans don’t know about? Some secret scandal?

This, to me, looks like undiscovered country. It is also a unique mix of recruiting strengths from the previous signing classes affecting 2018 in varied ways. As discussed, the trend is for recruiting to dip after signing a highly-rated class like the Bulldogs just landed for 2017.

Consider this: Georgia finished third nationally in the recruiting ratings. They did so while signing 5-star quarterbacks in back-to-back recruiting classes.

That affects a bountiful crop of quarterbacks that will be rising seniors this fall in Georgia. Everything starts with the quarterback position. The recruiting in that area can set the tone for an entire class. Quarterbacks generally commit early. They are pressured to because programs use them as cornerstones for their recruiting classes.

Quarterbacks generally commit early. They are pressured to because programs use them as cornerstones for their recruiting classes. Elite quarterback commitments can be lightning rods for momentum. Everyone wants to play with that guy.

The state of Georgia was home to the nation’s No. 1 player in Trevor Lawrence this year. But the Bulldogs missed there. That came after placing a lot of their recruiting attention in that basket. That was a risk they likely had to take for the nation’s top overall prospect given they had already secured a lot of young depth at that position.

Emory Jones, another in-state 5-star QB, signed with Ohio State before Lawrence even made his decision. While the Bulldogs wooed Lawrence and to some extent Jones, they also missed a golden chance to lay the foundation for garnering a commitment from Harrison High 5-star Justin Fields. He committed to Penn State back in December.

Those three misses now also serve as a lightning rod for criticism for Georgia’s recruiting in 2018.

When have the Bulldogs signed back-to-back 5-stars to play quarterback? When has UGA also had the chance to also sign another three 5-stars at QB in the immediate recruiting cycle after that?

That just doesn’t happen. If there’s no Eason or even Fromm at UGA right now, we can safely assume that one of those 5-stars would already be committed to Kirby Smart right now.

If they were, then DawgNation wouldn’t be feeling so bad about 2018 recruiting this morning.


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