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Reevaluating expectations for Georgia football’s No. 1 2020 recruiting class

For the second time in three seasons, Georgia landed the nation’s top signing class. The Georgia 2020 class will feature four 5-star players and 10 of the top 60 overall recruits in the 2020 class.

But with the already suspension of spring practice, which hinders early enrollees like Kendall Milton and Major Burns, and the uncertainty of when Georgia’s campus will reopen and allow the rest of the 2020 signees to arrive in Athens, it might be a good idea to readjust or recalibrate what to expect from some of these newcomers.

And for as hyped up as the 2018 class was — the previous No. 1 overall class Georgia signed — it certainly hasn’t lived up to those lofty expectations so far. Five of the top 12 players from that class have already transferred and only Trey Hill, Tyson Campbell, Azeez Ojulari and Jordan Davis have emerged as double-digit starters for the Bulldogs, The 2020 season figures to see more from the likes of Jamaree Salyer and Zamir White, but it’s still unknown what they might bring to Georgia over the course of a full season.

Of course, the 2019 signing class, which finished No. 2 in the rankings, saw George Pickens become a borderline star and got meaningful contributions from the likes of Nolan Smith, Travon Walker, Tyrique Stevenson and Dominick Blaylock. Not every class ends up being created equally.

Georgia has signed four consecutive top-three recruiting classes. It isn’t exactly expecting this 2020 class to play a significant role in the future of this team. The best version of the 2020 Georgia football team likely features big seasons from White, Pickens and Walker, and not so much Milton, Marcus Rosemy and Jalen Carter.

The Bulldogs though do have some holes that need to be filled and a handful of 2020 signees were going to be counted on to do so. Jamie Newman more or less counts as a signee after transferring in from Wake Forest. In all likelihood, he was going to be the starting quarterback. We’ve already discussed at length the impact this situation puts on him.

Related: With suspension of spring football, even more pressure falls on the shoulders of Jamie Newman

At running back, Milton would’ve competed with White, James Cook and Kenny McIntosh for carries this spring. We felt pretty confident he was going to turn some heads this spring with his combination of size and athleticism and do still expect the same from him come the fall. But he likely wasn’t going to emerge as the starter or top option at the position.

If there’s one position were Georgia was going to need the most out of the 2020 newcomers, it was likely tight end. The Bulldogs signed 5-star athlete Darnell Washington, a monster athlete with the body to be an early mismatch at the college level. But he’s still a little raw, which is why the Bulldogs also brought in Florida State graduate transfer Tre’ Mckitty. Neither would’ve been practicing with the team this spring but both enter the fall with significant expectations.

Georgia also rarely features tight ends, and certainly not as much as some in the fan base would like. New offensive coordinator Todd Monken only adds further mystery to the position.

The picture at wide receiver is probably closer to the running back spot than necessarily tight end. The Bulldogs did bring in five pass-catchers in the 2020 class, with Rosemy, Arian Smith and Jermaine Burton all entering the program as top-100 prospects. Justin Robinson was set to go through spring drills and the Bulldogs also added in-state prospect Ladd McConkey.

While Rosemy and Smith have specifically stated that they’re coming to Georgia to possibly earn an early starting spot, the wide receiver situation isn’t quite as dire as it was a season ago. It’s still not great, but Georgia has a little bit more with the return of Pickens. Blaylock also should be a steady option if he’s able to recover from his ACL injury. And there’s also the likes of Kearis Jackson, Demetris Robertson and Matt Landers to name some known entities at the group.

As for the offensive line, where the Bulldogs signed seven prospects, Kirby Smart was already pumping the brakes on the idea of either Broderick Jones or Tate Ratledge coming in and pulling an Andrew Thomas, as the 2017 signee started every game at right tackle his freshman season.

“It’d be foolish of me to sit here and think that two of these tackles we just signed are going to walk in here and play,” Smart said on National Signing Day. “Based on the history of the SEC, you do the study on how many freshmen offensive tackles have played. That’s tough to find. It’s hard to do.”

RelatedRecent history shows it’s more likely Broderick Jones and Tate Ratledge redshirt than start

As for the defensive side of the ball, Georgia loses only three starters and a few rotational pieces. The bulk of the nation’s top-scoring defense in 2019 was set to return and somehow even improve. Carter, 5-star cornerback Kelee Ringo and Mekhail Sherman all were likely to be competing for spots in the rotation at their position, but none of them were expected to come in start early, as Campbell did as a member of the 2018 class.

Georgia might not need a lot of starters from the 2020 group right away. But over the course of the season injuries happen and depth gets tested. So the Bulldogs are going to need contributions from this class, as every team does. Quarterback, wide receiver and tight end figure to be the positions where Georgia will need the most help right away.

The 2018 team didn’t exactly get that kind of production and lost to Alabama in the SEC championship game. The 2017 team saw big-time contributions from the likes of Jake Fromm, Thomas and D’Andre Swift. That team ended up playing for a national championship.

That’s what kind of difference a few of these freshmen and transfers could end up making.

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