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UGA dominated the rest of SEC East on the recruiting trail

Cy Brown

Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday. Signing day is over. It’s time to stack stock of what Georgia fared and how it stacked up to the rest of its competition.

UGA way ahead of its competition in the SEC East

If you’ve been reading DawgNation, you probably know what’s up by now. UGA signed a killer recruiting class on National Signing Day. It’s one of the best classes in the nation, ranked second or third by all of the major recruiting services, and probably the best recruiting class ever landed by the program. At least since the early ’80s when Vince Dooley and Herschel Walker were stomping around Athens.

But how Georgia does on signing day is only half of the equation a fan needs to pay attention to. How Georgia’s competition fared on the recruiting trail also matters a helluva lot. And Georgia fans will be pleased to know that no team Georgia plays every season — the SEC East, Auburn and Georgia Tech — finished with a class on the Bulldogs’ level.

2017 Recruiting Class Ranking
  247 Rivals ESPN Scout
Georgia  3 3 3 2
Florida 10 9 13 10
Auburn  9 14 9 11
Tennessee 17 15 15 15
South Carolina  21 17 19 19
Kentucky 29 25 30 35
Missouri 50 48 NR 46
Georgia Tech  46  41 NR 51
Vanderbilt 63 63 NR 71

Although most of the teams Georgia faces regularly signed fine classes, none of them came close to the quality or depth of Georgia’s. But SEC teams always find a way to get some fantastic talent. (Georgia Tech gets a good player every now and then, too.) So, I’ve listed the best player in each team’s class. You should be seeing some of these guys line up across from the Dawgs in the real near future:

Florida: Tedarrell Slaton, OG/DT, 6-4.5/360

Slaton chose the Gators on signing day to give a huge boost to a class that was ailing. The Army All-American played guard in high school, but projects on the defensive line in college. And as you can tell by his measurements, he has the size to play in college immediately. A transition to a new position could keep him from playing for a bit, but if coach Jim McElwain keeps him on offense, Slaton may earn snaps sooner than later.

Auburn: Calvin Ashley, OT, 6-6/310

This dude is more mountain than man. And he isn’t all size. He also has the talent to back it up. His pass blocking still needs some work, but he does a fantastic job paving the way in the run game. The thought of Kamryn Pettway running off his left shoulder is enough to keep a Bulldog fan awake at night. He won’t enroll until the fall, so he may not be ready to start by the time the season begins. By the time the DSOR comes around, who knows?

Tennessee: Trey Smith, OT, 6-5/310

Are you seeing a pattern. It’s not only Georgia that is beefing up on the offensive line. Every team in the SEC East is stocking up on big linemen to combat the continuously improving defensive lines in college football. Smith is a player with the ability to do just that. He’s a cornerstone tackle with flexibility and quickness. There is a reason Smith is ranked the 14th-best prospect in America by 247, the highest-ranked recruit signed by an SEC East school, UGA included.

South Carolina: Jamyest Williams, CB, 5-9/170

This one may sting a little, Dawg fans. Williams is from Georgia and picked the Gamecocks over the Bulldogs on signing day. Athletically and in a football sense, the guy has everything: speed, athleticism and intelligence. Except height. Add three inches to him and he’s probably the best cornerback prospect in America. And South Carolina is starved for talent on defense. Williams could be battling Georgia receivers between the hedges next season.

Kentucky: Lynn Bowden, ATH, 6-1/185

Bowden is just a freak athlete. He’s got the kind of highlight tape that makes you rewind a couple times and ask, “Wait. What did I just see?” He played QB in high school but might not have the accuracy to do that at the SEC level. He could be a killer receiver, tailback, defensive back and/or return man. It’s just a matter of where Mark Stoops decides is best to line him up. It looks like that’ll be receiver, and the Cats are already trying to think of inventive ways to get him the ball.

Missouri: DaRon Davis, ATH, 6-2/190

Here’s another guy who could find a home at a few different positions on the field, although he’ll likely end up at receiver, as well. Davis and Bowden are similar players. Davis is probably a bit more powerful and a little less dynamic than Bowden. But Davis, as solid a player as he is, would be a fringe guy in Georgia, Auburn or Florida’s class. Mizzou’s recruiting just isn’t close to being on par with the rest of the conference.

Georgia Tech: Bruce Jordan-Swilling, RB/OLB, 6-0/215

The Jackets were able to pull Jordan-Swilling out of Louisiana, but the OLB is a legacy at Tech. His father, Pat, played for the Wreck in the ’80s and in the NFL until the late ’90s. Jordan-Swilling could play on offense or defense at the college level. But with the number of options in the backfield Tech likes to keep on its roster, I’m guessing he ends up at running back.

Vanderbilt: Jacob Free, QB, 6-5/200

Vandy is always at its best when it has a good QB it can rely on. If nothing else, Free has the size to succeed in college football. If Derek Mason can mold Free into a competent passer and signal caller, it could be a huge boost for the ‘Dores in the future.

What they said about UGA

While national media outlets didn’t find much time to discuss Georgia during the season, it was a horse of a different color on National Signing Day. UGA’s class was one of the most talked about this season. And with good reason. It was one of the best classes in the nation, full of the best players from the school’s home state, put together by a coach in his first season, a season that was wholly mediocre on all accounts. The more I think about it, the more I’m amazed by what Kirby Smart pulled off with this class.

Here’s what some national media members had to say about Georgia’s Class of 2017:

Adam Kilgore, The Washington Post:

Who else is having a good day? Georgia, where second-year coach Kirby Smart has engaged in, and even won some, recruiting face-offs with (Nick) Saban, his former boss at Alabama, where Smart was the defensive coordinator. The Bulldogs might finish with the third-highest-rated class. They received another boost early Wednesday, when 4-star cornerback Ameer Speed of Jacksonville, Fla., chose Georgia over Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Michigan State and Oregon.

Paul Myerberg, USA Today:

Championship runs are built on recruiting classes like the one Kirby Smart and Georgia signed in 2017 — just ask Smart’s former boss, Nick Saban, who began a dynasty with the Tide’s 2008 class. While uneventful on signing day itself, the Bulldogs have to be ecstatic with a class that easily ranks among the best in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Morgan Moriarty, SB Nation:

In 2012 and 2013, Florida finished inside the top 5 nationally and first in the division. Tennessee had the upper hand in the East in 2014 and 2015. In the last two seasons, Georgia has reversed that trend, finishing first in the East in both 2016 and 2017.

Georgia finished this cycle with a 247Sports Composite class score of 301, topping any class by an SEC East school in more than half a decade. It’s also the highest score ever for a Georgia class in the years tracked by the Composite, going back to 2000.

Bill Bender, Sporting News:

 … Georgia, which had a top-5 class across the board under second-year coach Kirby Smart. … The Bulldogs will build around 5-star safety Richard LeCounte III, an in-state product, and Isaiah Wilson, a massive, 350-pound tackle from Poly Prep in Brooklyn, N.Y. Jacob Eason probably didn’t argue with that signing.

Chris Johnson, Sports Illustrated:

Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart and his staff had already done great work in this cycle before Wednesday by compiling a class that includes one of the best quarterbacks in the country (Jake Fromm), a group of talented offensive linemen and a collection of promising defensive backs, among other coveted prospects. However, Georgia came away empty-handed on its most highly regarded targets on signing day. Grayson (Ga.) High 4-star athlete Jamyest Williams rebuffed a late push from the Bulldogs to stick with South Carolina, (Aubrey) Solomon announced he’s leaving the Peach State to play for Michigan, (Nico) Collins revealed he’ll follow Solomon to Ann Arbor, Crisp County (Ga.) High 4-star defensive end Markaviest Bryant decided on Auburn, Slaton made the call for divisional foe Florida and Brookwood (Ga.) High 4-star linebacker Leonard Warner III settled on Florida State. For Georgia fans, it was a disheartening day of denials.

Zach Kram, The Ringer:

Honorable mention to Georgia, which was quiet on signing day itself but had spent the preceding months solidifying an impressive class. Of the top seven teams in the final rankings, six played in a New Year’s Six Bowl last season —  and the seventh was the Bulldogs, who tapped into their state’s rich vein of high school talent to great effect. Eight of the state of Georgia’s top 14 prospects faxed letters of intent to Athens, and overall, 18 of the Bulldogs’ 26 signees hail from the Peach State. Like (D.J.) Durkin, Kirby Smart was in his first full recruiting cycle, and he flexed his inner Nick Saban in collecting the No. 3 class. The state’s strong year continues.


Good dog

That puts a lid on all things signing day 2017. Time to nap it out until spring practice.