There’s one week until National Signing Day and by this time next week everyone will have labeled it “nirvana” or a “dumpster fire” for Kirby Smart at UGA.
The reality will fall somewhere in between because the best way to look at UGA’s signing class for 2016 is to know your numbers.
- 2: That’s how many five-star prospects (Jacob Eason, Isaac Nauta) are already a part of the class.
- 5: The number of additional 5-star recruits UGA is a finalist for. That’s a big deal because there are at only 32 of those nationwide by the 247sports composite, which blends the ratings from all the major recruiting services.
- 6: The number of early enrollees who are already at UGA.
- 9: The number of current commitments to UGA.
There are two other numbers to consider when it comes to projecting what this class will ultimately look like. Those are 18 and 25. The first is the number of recruits that it seems somewhat logical to project to sign with UGA at this time.
The latter number is the maximum amount of players UGA should sign this year, but don’t expect that to happen. That would hinge on a lot of those top-tier targets saying yes.
Will Smart and his staff get half of those guys? No. But expect at least a couple.
Projecting UGA’s 2016 Signing Class
The six early enrollees:
- 3-star DB Chad Clay (Suwanee, Ga.)
- 4-star OL Ben Cleveland (Toccoa, Ga.)
- 5-star QB Jacob Eason (Lake Stevens, Wash.)
- 5-star TE Isaac Nauta (Dacula, Ga.)
- 4-star DL Julian Rochester (Powder Springs, Ga.)
- 4-star WR Riley Ridley (Deerfield Beach, Fla.)
UGA’s other nine commits:
- 3-star OT Chris Barnes (Leesburg, Ga.)
- 4-star DT Tyler Clark (Americus, Ga.)
- 4-star RB Elijah Holyfield (Atlanta, Ga.)
- 3-star OL Solomon Kindley (Jacksonville, Fla.)
- 4-star ILB Jaleel Laguins (Watkinsville, Ga.)
- 4-star DE/OLB Chauncey Manac (Homerville, Ga.)
- 3-star CB Tyrique McGhee (Fort Valley, Ga.)
- 4-star WR Javon Wims (Jackson, Miss.)
- 4-star WR Charlie Woerner (Tiger, Ga.)
The next three “likely” signees:
- 5-star ATH Mecole Hardman, Jr. (Undecided/Elberton, Ga.)
Why: Great relationships within this class. Strong family ties and opportunity to play early are big factors. He’s visited UGA as much as any other school. Always follow the visits
- 3-star DE David Marshall (Auburn commit/Thomaston, Ga.)
Why: He’s an Auburn commit, but Smart has made him a priority. He took a great official visit last week and currently plans to return for an unofficial. Also getting close to Clark.
- 4-star OL EJ Price (Undecided/Lawrenceville, Ga.)
Why: Was committed to UGA for a time. Already loves new line coach Sam Pittman. Great opportunity to play right away.
The “cross your fingers” guys:
- 4-star DL Michail Carter (Undecided/Jackson, Ga.)
Why: Given a lot of sensible reasons why he loves Alabama of late. Academics are big for him and he thinks a UGA degree stands out. UGA, the team he loved growing up, was also his first offer. He said that means a great deal to him.
- 3-star DB Jeawon Taylor (Florida commit/Montgomery, Ala.)
Why: Bit of a reach here but the playing opportunities at UGA stand out. He also knows Smart and UGA assistant Glenn Schumann well. UGA does not have a big physical free safety type in this class.
The big misses:
- 5-star DL Derrick Brown (Projected to Auburn)
- 4-star DE/OLB Brian Burns (Projected to Florida State)
- 5-star ILB Ben Davis (Projected to Alabama)
- 5-star OLB Lyndell “Mack” Wilson (Projected to Alabama)
Late surprise after National Signing Day:
- 5-star WR Demetris Robertson (Undecided/Savannah, Ga.)
Why: He’s going to wait maybe up to two weeks after National Signing Day, but he will feel most “at home” playing at UGA. Bear in mind that he really values a great degree. That’s why Notre Dame and Stanford are big contenders here.
Best player with the least hype: Tyler Clark
Biggest chance to miss among these projections: Michail Carter (to Alabama)
Biggest upside: Jacob Eason
Biggest potential losses from this board: Mecole Hardman, Jr. and EJ Price
Biggest potential signing day surprise: Brian Burns
Dream signing day headline: Lyndell “Mack” Wilson to UGA
Most exciting player in the class: Mecole Hardman, Jr.
Most likely to play right away: Isaac Nauta and Javon Wims
Most underrated commitments: Chauncey Manac and Charlie Woerner
As with anything with National Signing Day, look for a couple of these “likely” guys to fall off the list. UGA’s best hope among those big misses at this time is likely Burns at this point. Davis and Wilson will prove too hard to pull away from Nick Saban and Alabama.
There are a couple of in-state prospects in Savannah athlete Arkeem Byrd and Colquitt County receiver Kiel Pollard who could join the class with late offers. Justin Crawford, a junior college running back from Mississippi, is another popular name who could sign with UGA with a late offer.
UGA also needs punters and kickers so there’s a chance that a late scholarship offer could go out to a top-tier recruit at one of those positions if several other targets sign elsewhere. But that doesn’t seem to be the way UGA will approach at least the kicker position under Smart.
Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.