UGA recruiting: ‘Wolfpack’ pairing of Jermaine Johnson and Nolan Smith seems lethal

Jermaine Johnson-Nolan Smith-Georgia football-UGA football
Jermaine Johnson (left) and 5-star Nolan Smith (right) form quite a tandem at OLB for the Bulldogs in the class of 2019.

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings at least four days a week. For today, let’s look at what the OLB spot for the Bulldogs for 2019 with 5-star Nolan Smith and 4-star Jermaine Johnson on board. 

Georgia labels its group of outside linebackers as “The Wolfpack.”

The latest addition to that clan speaks to the depth necessary to replenish those playmakers. Remember watching the big games last year for the Bulldogs?

Those OLBs would come out in well….packs. Waves of them.

It was Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter on the edges on one series or two. Then there would be a shift change. Walter Grant and D’Andre Walker would charge in to give Bellamy and Carter the chance to charge back up.

Jermaine Johnson (far left) joined Kirby Smart, Dan Lanning and 5-star OLB commit Nolan Smith (front center right) for a photo at the scavenger hunt visit weekend earlier this year. (Jermaine Johnson/Twitter)

That’s how Georgia will continue to look with 5-stars Brenton Cox and Adam Anderson on campus and Jermaine Johnson and Nolan Smith on the way. There will be also U.S. Army All-American Azeez Ojulari from the 2018 class, too.

The 2019 board now includes the nation’s top junior college prospect (per 247Sports) in Johnson. He’s in the same recruiting class with Smith.

Smith, the long-time UGA commit, is the nation’s No. 2 weak-side DE and the No. 2 overall prospect on the 247Sports composite standard.

Those two actually paired up back in May at the Georgia scavenger hunt recruiting event in Athens.

Seems pretty safe to say that those two got to know one another at that time. They’ve already “hunted” together, it seems.

The Google for “Wolfpack” reveals the following definition:

wolf pack

noun: Wolfpack
  1. a group of people or things that operate as a hunting and attacking pack, in particular, a group of attacking submarines or aircraft.

Just replace “submarines” or “aircraft” with opposing offenses and rival teams and that’s a great mesh point.

It also speaks to something more than a little Alabama-ish for the Bulldogs on the recruiting trail.

The Crimson Tide still deserves the nod for the greatest recruiting machine in the land. Especially over the long term. But Johnson’s decision did nudge the Bulldogs past the Tide for the nation’s No. 1 class on the 247Sports Team composite rankings.

Georgia now has 17 commitments. The Crimson Tide stands at 20. The chase for the nation’s top class for 2019 will be an interesting race to watch going forward. I do now see a way for the Bulldogs to claim the No. 1 class in the land.

But there is another comparison between those programs that might be worth a look.

Who recruits OLBs better over the last 2-3 years?

There’s a lot of meat on that bone. Let’s take a quick scan:

  • Alabama’s elite OLB signees since 2017: 7 (5-stars: 2)*
  • Georgia’s elite OLB signees since 2017: 6 (5-stars: 2)
  • Alabama’s elite OLB commits for 2019: 2 (5-stars: 0)
  • Georgia’s elite OLB commits for 2019: 2 (5-stars: 1)
*-Includes a nonqualifier

For the purposes of this exercise, we have defined an “elite” signee as one of the nation’s top 150 overall prospects per the 247Sports composite rankings.

We can crunch those numbers to find Alabama and Georgia have both enrolled six OLB prospects over the last two cycles. (Alabama had a non-qualifier opt for the JUCO route in its 2018 class.)

Nolan Smith currently ranks as the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect for 2019 on the 247Sports composite. He is also committed to play for the Georgia Bulldogs. In fact, he is the longest-tenured commitment in the class of 2019. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

That’s good stuff, but those numbers are still high. Both programs saw a signee shift to ILB. That’s 5-star Dylan Moses for the Crimson Tide and 4-star Jaden Hunter for the Bulldogs.

Alabama also recently dismissed former 5-star VanDarius Cowan. That puts them at four OLBs coming into the program over the last two years. The Crimson Tide also had the nation’s No. 4 overall prospect (Eyabi Anoma) sign in 2018.

Georgia saw 5-stars Adam Anderson and Brenton Cox sign with the program in 2018. Those guys did earn the nation’s No. 18 and No. 23 overall ratings on the composite, respectively.

Bottom line: Both programs have recruited the position of late at a very high level. Alabama also has a pair of commitments rated among the top 125 prospects for 2019, too.

Intriguing comparison about OLB development

What’s the simplest method to gauge how well players are developed by a program? I’m going with NFL draft selections.

That seems to be a logical means to evaluate each program in developing OLBs.

Alabama has had tremendous success on the field during the Nick Saban era (2007-current) but what the Bulldogs have done will stand out in a head-to-head comparison.

  • Crimson Tide OLBs drafted by the NFL during the Nick Saban era: 4 –– Ryan Anderson (2nd-2017); Tim Williams (3rd-2017); Xzavier Dickson (7th-2015); Courtney Upshaw (2nd-2012).
  • Georgia OLBs drafted by the NFL during the Nick Saban era: 5 — Lorenzo Carter (3rd-2018); Leonard Floyd (1st-2016); Jordan Jenkins (2nd-2016); Jarvis Jones (1st-2013); Justin Houston (3rd-2011).

UGA has an edge when it comes to former OLBs now on active rosters at OLB or DE. Justin Houston recently signed a six-year, $101 million dollar deal with the Kansas City Chiefs which included a whopping $52 million in guaranteed money.

There are currently two former members of the Crimson Tide on active rosters. Georgia has Carter, Floyd, Jenkins and Houston. There’s also Davin Bellamy. Bellamy did not get drafted but he is also in camp right now with the Houston Texans.

That’s one position where the Bulldogs have some good footing in any head-to-head competition with the Tide. That said, there are several other positions where the program still has work to do. Alabama has seen 76 of its former players drafted by NFL teams since Saban arrived, including 26 first-rounders.

Georgia has had 55 and 10 in total draft picks and first-rounders, respectively.

Look at what Jermaine Johnson can do

Johnson, who goes about 6 feet, 6 inches and 250 pounds, ranks as the nation’s No. 1 junior college prospect for 247Sports. He also rates as the nation’s No. 4 junior college prospect on the 247Sports composite scale.

RELATED: Jermaine Johnson chooses UGA

He’s fast enough to run with and do conditioning work with the defensive backs at Independence Community College. Those coaches there told DawgNation they even dabbled with playing him at safety at times.

Jermaine Johnson-UGA football-Georgia football-UGA recruiting-Georgia football recruiting
Jermaine Johnson ranks as the nation’s No. 1 junior college prospect for 2019 on 247Sports. (Jermaine Johnson/Instagram)

The 4-star recruit stands to become the first scholarship player at Georgia from the state of Minnesota in the modern era of the program. At least as far as records like that have been kept.

He is set to enroll at UGA in January of 2019. He will have three years to play two seasons of football. His Hudl highlights page lists him with a 4.51 showing in the 40 and a 4.13 effort in the pro agility shuttle. The 37.5-inch vertical leap number is also very telling about the type of athlete he can be.

When someone says he might only need one season at UGA before the NFL comes calling, they aren’t pulling your leg.

Look at what Nolan Smith can do

Nolan Smith ranks as the highest-rated commitment for the Bulldogs in 2019. He is also the longest-tenured commitment for the class. He goes all the way back to January 29, 2017.

Nolan Smith-UGA football-Georgia football-UGA recruitingThe Savannah native goes to boarding school at IMG Academy. He will also enroll early in the class of 2019. There was some measure of doubt in regard to Smith’s commitment during the summer and fall of his junior year but the Bulldogs found a way to strengthen that bond.

Smith told DawgNation after spring practice at IMG his connection to the Bulldogs was as strong as it has ever been. He listed several reasons why.  

The 6-foot-3, 233-pound senior earned the Nike football rating championship this summer at the Opening finals in Texas. There is probably not a faster and more athletic and more skilled pass rusher playing high school football this year anywhere in America.

  • Nike football rating: 141.65 (Best at the Opening this year)
  • Laser time in the 40: 4.55
  • Pro agility shuttle: 4.08
  • Powerball toss: 44.5 feet
  • Vertical jump: 42.2 inches

He also just happens to be a very active and vocal recruiter for the Bulldogs on the trail. Smith, a freshman in 2019, will spend at least three years in Athens.

Under the Radar came with a 5-star effort in its own right with their latest highlight package on Smith.

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.

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