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The Georgia offensive line class for 2017 looks mighty good.

UGA’s current OL recruits rank as the biggest haul in recent history

Want a daily lap through Georgia football 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 or 5-star might lean and add a dab of perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.

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The addition of 5-star OT Isaiah “Zay” Wilson to the Class of 2017 adds a lot to the big picture of UGA recruiting.

Wilson’s decision made him the second 5-star prospect in the class. His recruitment shows that Georgia overwhelmingly addressed the need to improve at tackle with this year’s class.

Remember when Kirby Smart pointed out last National Signing Day that the program had not recruited to a championship standard at tackle?

Wilson’s addition means that UGA now has a trio of All-American recruits at tackle in this year’s class. The 6-foot-7, 360-pounder with the size-18 feet and 84-inch wingspan is now the second-highest rated member of the “SicEm17” class at Georgia.

Georgia has commitments from three high school prospects at offensive tackle, but also signed a likely plug-and-play starter at left tackle with D’Marcus Hayes last week from the junior college ranks.

Johnson has great feet and agility for his size. He's rated as the nation's No. 6 guard for this year's class. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Johnson has great feet and agility for his size. He’s rated as the nation’s No. 5 guard for this year’s class. (Jeff Sentell/AJC)

That’s four tackles for Christmas, and every one of them is 6-foot-5 or taller. Those big boys all weigh in at more than 320 pounds.

Offensive line coach Sam Pittman has dramatically transformed the depth chart at offensive tackle with those four guys. The fact that he’s done it in the span of less than a year on the job deserves a headline unto itself.

But there’s a bigger picture beyond that. And we’re not talking about the buffet line next fall.

When the entire class of O-line commitments is measured as a whole, it is clear the program has never recruited this well in the modern era. At least as long as the recruiting rankings have been around. Let’s go back to 2002 and add up the total number of offensive line recruits in each class which rated among the nation’s top 16 players at their respective positions.

  • 2002: 1
  • 2003: 2
  • 2004: 2
  • 2005: 1
  • 2006: 3
  • 2007: 5 (Included a trio of 3-star junior college prospects)
  • 2008: 2
  • 2009: 2
  • 2010: 2
  • 2011: 1
  • 2012: 2
  • 2013: 1
  • 2014: 1
  • 2015: 0
  • 2016: 1
  • 2017: 5 (All rated with at least 4 stars)

The only comparable year looks to be back in 2007. But that year was beefed up by a trio of 3-star junior college prospects. The junior college rankings pool is much smaller than the high school crop.

Hayes — the only JUCO option this year — is even rated as a 4-star recruit.

There’s another nugget found by looking Georgia’s lowest-rated commitment along the offensive line this year. That’s 3-star Cedar Grove guard Justin Shaffer.

Shaffer is as fundamentally sound and has as much potential as any lineman UGA will sign this year. Yet he’s only rated as the nation’s No. 20 guard for 2017.

That chart is also a fairly telling reflection of the type of groceries that UGA has annually been bringing in to stock those depth charts on the offensive line.

There is clearly a new emphasis on getting the elite players at that position.

It wouldn’t surprise me if …………

Here’s a disclaimer. Our next topic is going to be fairly polarizing. I can see everyone taking the following statement in one of two ways.

  • Man, I love following recruiting!
  • Man, that’s why %$#@ recruiting drives me up the wall.

I’ll end the suspense and bring to attention the recruiting story of Monty Rice. The 3-star ILB was a silent commitment to Georgia for the majority of the 2016 season.

Rice stunned many with his public commitment last week. He chose LSU.

Rice is one of the inside linebackers high on UGA's board for the Class of 2017. (Chris Kirschner / AJC)
Rice committed to LSU last week. It will still be interesting to see where he ends up. (Chris Kirschner/AJC)

This could turn out to be a Lee Corso (not so fast, my friend) commitment. I’m told Georgia’s current commits are still lobbying Rice to join the Class of 2017.

A source close to Rice told me yesterday that Georgia still continues to recruit him.

Well, at least until the decision was made by Davin Bellamy, Lorenzo Carter, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to all return for their senior seasons.

That decision will leave a lot of ripples on the program. It should rapidly morph Georgia’s timetable to contend for the SEC East banner in the short term, but it will also have long-ranging roster issues.

Walk-on scholarships could be compromised for next season. The Bulldogs also might not be able to sign as many players as they wanted to at defensive back, linebacker and wide receiver.

Will there be a scholarship available to walk-on kicker Rodrigo Blankenship? That’s a high-profile decision, but it won’t be the only tough call.

I also feel Georgia’s ability to sign 27-29 prospects in the Class of 2017 has been reduced.

Looking for help on Georgia’s current roster management issue? My DawgNation colleague Seth Emerson covered that topic last week.

That sets everything up nicely for our next item.

What’s going on with Toneil Carter? 

Toneil Carter committed to UGA back in July. He’s been nothing but the definition of a stone-cold-lead-pipe-lock to Athens ever since. The nation’s No. 7 RB dismissed any further interest in LSU or Texas A&M.

He also rebuffed interest from Texas just last month.

Carter is taking his only official visit to UGA this weekend. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Carter only took one official visit. That was to Georgia. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

The rumor of the weekend was whether he was sticking to Georgia. I never deemed that to be the case. The only issue here is whether he will be able to enroll in January as he had planned previously.

We’re also operating under a dead period on the NCAA recruiting calendar. That means even if Carter wanted to look around, he’d only be able to visit schools by himself. He would not be allowed any face-to-face contact with the schools that might be interested in him.

Carter is one of two commitments Georgia has for the Class of 2017. Pennsylvania RB D’Andre Swift rates as the nation’s No. 4 RB this year.

The Bulldogs now return Chubb and Michel and also have to like what they saw from true freshmen Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield in 2016.

Does Georgia still take two backs in this class? Does keeping Carter mean roster attrition or National Signing Day attrition elsewhere?

Those are the major moving parts when it comes to Georgia managing its roster for next year. I’d say the biggest concern right now is whether or not Carter can enroll early at UGA.

Did you miss, Part I

The “wow” moments over the last three-plus days (5-star QB Trevor Lawrence to Clemson, Wilson to UGA) might have taken up a lot of everyone’s attention.

Rightfully so.

I will — at least at the current time — be sure not to advance any conspiracy theory that the latest news on 5-star RB Zamir White has anything to do with Lawrence’s decision.

White set his commitment date and also noted that he will enroll early.

That’s something he told me he would do last month after his last visit to UGA which went very well for the red and black. But he has now attached a date to that decision.

It will honor his mother. That’s a fitting tribute to a lady who has guided him along his path every step of the way.

White presents another roster management issue for the 2018 class. If Georgia signs both Carter and Swift, then the Bulldogs will likely only take one special talent at RB in 2018.

White fits that description. Definitely.

Did you miss, Part II

Wilson is expected to eclipse defensive ends and linebackers when he gets to Athens. His decision Friday also overshadowed the decision made by another top recruit on the wish list for 2017.

It was another 5-star offensive tackle, but DawgNation should be very happy with the one that’s already under the tree this year.

Walker Little, another 5-star tackle who took an official visit to UGA, committed to Stanford within the same hour as Wilson’s decision.

Wilson proved to be a very lucky pull on another front. Little, the nation’s No. 4 OT this year, had trimmed his list to just Stanford and Texas prior to his announcement ceremony.

Little will be charged with protecting Greater Atlanta Christian standout Davis Mills during their time together in Palo Alto. Mills is rated as the nation’s No. 1 overall pro-style QB for this year’s class.

Mills rates No. 17 overall nationally. Little currently follows him at No. 18.

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