Grading Georgia football’s recruiting efforts for the 2023 recruiting cycle
For the most part, the 2023 recruiting cycle has come to a close. The various recruiting sites have already updated their player rankings to reflect the 2024 signing class and Georgia assistants are currently on a brief vacation thanks to the dead period.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look back on Georgia’s recruiting efforts for this past cycle. Obviously it’s far too early to judge any of these players, but Georgia had some obvious needs that had to be addressed in this signing cycle. It’s worth seeing how they did, especially knowing the Bulldogs bring in the No. 2 overall signing class for this cycle.
*All rankings come via the On3 Consensus
Georgia did not sign a quarterback in this cycle. It put all of its eggs in the Arch Manning basket, only for the 5-star quarterback to end up picking Texas.
The reason it’s not an outright F is that Georgia didn’t exactly need to take a recruit at the quarterback position. There are always going to be quarterbacks in the transfer portal and none of Georgia’s returning quarterbacks entered the transfer portal.
This is the first time since Smart became the program’s head coach that Georgia did not end up taking a quarterback. In the event that one of Carson Beck, Brock Vandagriff or Gunner Stockton end up transferring prior to the start of the 2023 season, the decision to not take a quarterback could prove to be an issue. But Georgia seems very comfortable taking two quarterbacks in the 2024 cycle, with Ryan Puglisi already committed.
Related: Georgia football community celebrates commitment of big-time quarterback Ryan Puglisi
Running back: B-
Georgia signed only one running back this cycle, as it was able to flip Roderick Robinson from UCLA. The 4-star running back offers an impressive size and speed combination and we’ve seen enough from Dell McGee to know that you can absolutely trust his running back evaluation.
The reason this grade is a B- though is because of who Georgia missed out on. Justice Haynes finished the cycle as the No. 2 running back. He is the son of Georgia great Verron Haynes and played his entire high school career in the metro Atlanta area.
Yet Georgia was unable to land his services, as Haynes instead signed with Alabama. It was one of the more shocking decisions of the cycle and one that will no doubt have an impact on the future of the SEC. Haynes is that good of a prospect.
Related: Roderick Robinson II: The stuff you don’t know about the next great UGA running back is pretty special
Wide receiver: A
Bryan McClendon made a strong statement in his first year back at Georgia. He added some serious speed to the room with all three of his high school signings. Yazeed Haynes looks like he may be in a position to help early, while Tyler Williams is the highest-rated wide receiver signee since the 2020 cycle.
But McClendon also went out and landed two players from the transfer portal that should help next season. The Bulldogs imported Dominic Lovett and RaRa Thomas from Missouri and Mississippi State. Those two led their respective teams in receiving last season.
The loss of AD Mitchell no doubt stings for this group. But the additions coupled with the return of Ladd McConkey should have the wide receiver position in a very good spot for the 2023 season.
Tight end: A
Don’t ever doubt Todd Hartley. He went out and landed two of the top tight end prospects in the country in Pearce Spurlin and Lawson Luckie. Both players are already on campus and working to contribute for the 2023 team.
They will be needed, as Georgia saw four tight ends depart the program after the 2022 season. The Bulldogs do bring back Brock Bowers, while Oscar Delp is primed to play a bigger role for Georgia next season.
Related: Todd Hartley shares how Georgia’s tight end room became one of the best position groups in college football
This grade isn’t just finished yet, as the Bulldogs are waiting on the decision of Duce Robinson. He’s the No. 1 tight end in the country and Georgia is very much in the thick of it for his recruitment. He’s weighing a potential baseball career, but Robinson is expected to make a decision prior to move-in day for summer enrollees.
If Hartley were to land him, this grade would be bumped to an A+.
Offensive line: A
For all the concerns about Stacy Searles’ ability to recruit, he pretty much put those to rest in this cycle. The crown jewel of the class is 5-star offensive lineman Monroe Freeling, who is already on campus.
But Georgia also added Bo Hughley, Kelton Smith, Joshua Miller and Jamal Meriweather. Offensive linemen rarely play early at a place like Georgia but all five offensive line signees have the tools to be potential players for Georgia down the line.
Most importantly, Freeling, Hughley and Meriweather all have the body types required to play tackle in the SEC. It’s hard not to come away impressed with what Georgia brings in on the defensive line.
Defensive line: B+
Defensive line coach Tray Scott went out and brought in two players who should become fixtures on the Georgia defensive line in Jamaal Jarrett and Jordan Hall. The latter is a 5-star prospect with the ability to wreck shop from multiple defensive line positions. The former has been dubbed Jordan Davis 2.0.
Perhaps the one knock on this haul that prevents it from being an A is that Georgia signed only two defensive linemen in this class. The Bulldogs have four senior defensive linemen on this season’s team and they will need to be replaced. Perhaps Gabe Harris moves down to play the defensive end position, which would help ease some of the concerns about the lack of future depth on the defensive line.
Inside linebacker: A+
No coach may have done a better job in the country recruiting his position group than what Glenn Schumann did at the inside linebacker position. He inked the No. 3, 6 and 7 overall linebacker prospects in the cycle in Raylen Wilson, CJ Allen and Troy Bowles.
Making it more impressive is that Schumann couldn’t sell immediate playing time, as Jamon Dumas-Johnson, Smael Mondon and Jalon Walker all return. Trezmen Marshall transferred to Alabama of all places to find more playing time.
Wilson is a 5-star prospect. Bowles is the son of Tampa Bay head coach Todd Bowles. Allen earned praise from Smart after the national championship. There’s a reason players why Georgia is considered “LBU” and Schumann landed a group of players that will help uphold the Georgia standard at the position.
Outside linebacker: A
Chidera Uzo-Diribe needed to land a stellar group of pass rushers, as this position had somewhat fallen off from its previous highs. And the outside linebackers coach more than delivered.
In signing Damon Wilson, Sam M’Pemba and Harris, Georgia landed three top 100 overall players who can line up and play outside linebacker for Georgia. Wilson is the closest to contributing but M’Pemba and Harris have already spent time at IMG Academy, readying for the college grind.
With Nolan Smith and Robert Beal off to the NFL, Georgia is going to need immediate help from this trio as the Bulldogs will have to lean heavily on Chaz Chambliss and Marvin Jones Jr. early next season.
Related: Georgia football, TCU gush about Chidera Uzo-Diribe: ‘He’s going to be a real star’
Fran Brown went out and made a difference in this first recruiting class. Landing AJ Harris is a massive win, as he was one of the most coveted cornerbacks in the country and fits the profile of past successful players at Georgia.
Bringing in Daniel Harris and Chris Peal will also help provide depth at cornerback for Georgia moving forward. The Bulldogs don’t rotate at cornerback as much as other positions, so playing time is hard to come by.
Early playing time may be tough to find thanks to the return of Kamari Lassiter, Nyland Green and Daylen Everette but Georgia’s cornerback room is in a much better position than what Brown inherited last offseason.
Landing Joenel Aguero was big for Georgia, even if the Bulldogs weren’t able to bring in Caleb Downs. He is the No. 1 safety in the country and will play for Alabama going forward. Aguero though is more than capable of replacing Chris Smith, even if he can’t do so immediately. Smith was a First Team All-American after all.
Related: WATCH: Georgia football star Christoper Smith cherishes final outing wearing the ‘G’
Georgia also has some interesting developmental pieces in Justyn Rhett and Kyron Jones, who could help down the line.
Maybe the splashiest addition for this group comes in landing Smoke Bouie out of the transfer portal. He has the ability to play either the safety or the star position and should be an interesting weapon for Will Muschamp to use going forward.
Special teams: A
With Jack Podlesny off to the NFL, Georgia went out and added one of the top kicking prospects in the country in Peyton Woodring. Even though he won’t arrive until this summer, look for him to push for a starting spot as he battles Jared Zirkel.
The Bulldogs also landed a long snapper in Will Snellings.
Final grade: A
Sure there are a few points you could quibble over. But Georgia signed the No. 2 overall class and filled plenty of holes. Twelve players in the class finished as top 100 overall prospects. It was another stellar effort from Smart and his assistants in the 2023 recruiting cycle.
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