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5 signees who could play in 2018
Georgia dominated the first-ever December signing day. It inked what is being considered the No. 1 class in the country by most recruiting outlets, a class that could lay the groundwork to make UGA the team to beat in the SEC for the foreseeable future. But the Dawgs dominance wasn’t just about who it signed Wednesday — 18 players, six of whom of are 5-stars, and another five of whom weren’t committed before signing day — it was also about where it kept them from going.
Recruiting is a zero-sum game. Whenever you beat a rival for a recruit, it’s a classic twofer. Not only do you get that player, but you keep him from playing for someone else. Kirby Smart and Georgia did plenty of that.
Take the cases of four guys who picked the Dawgs Wednesday. Five-star T Cade Mays is a Knoxville-native and was once committed to Tennessee. He’s a Dawg. Four-star DB Divaad Wilson was a one-time Florida commit. He’s a Dawg. Four-star DB Nadab Jospeh was publicly committed to Alabama until the moment he faxed in his letter-of-intent. Now a Dawg. Four-star OLB Channing Tindall is from Colombia, S.C., home of the Gamecocks. Dawg. (Tindall was committed but not signed as of Wednesday night.) That’s not even to mention the guys who at one point or another flipped from schools such as FSU, Penn State and Ohio State.
Which is all to say, the recruits see the writing on wall: Georgia is in the ascendancy, and now is the time to hop on board.
But getting these uber-talented teens to Athens is only half the battle. Coaching them up and preparing them to win titles is the other. So here are five signees who I think could play and help Georgia fight for a second consecutive SEC title in 2018.
5. Nadab Joseph, 4-star CB — The departures of senior CBs Aaron Davis and Malkom Parrish will leave a lot of minutes up for grabs in the secondary, and Joseph is among the favorites to snag them. Smart has been working to get more height at corner, and at 6-foot-2, Joseph, a Miami native, meets that criteria. The potential to play right away could be one of the factors that swayed Joseph to switch from Alabama to UGA.
4. Brenton Cox, 5-star DE — Although Georgia is already running pretty deep along the defensive line, Cox — a former Ohio State commit who picked UGA Wednesday — has a good shot to jump into the rotation. He has the size and athletic ability that you typically see from defensive ends who can spend three years in college then bolt to the NFL. You just don’t redshirt guys like that.
3. Jamaree Salyer, 5-star G — Georgia is practically drowning in offensive line talent, which is an almost unimaginable improvement from the state of the line a few years ago. Of that group, I see Salyer — who gave Georgia his pledge Wednesday — as the most likely to earn minutes. Fellow 5-star Mays might be more talented, but he’ll have a harder time breaking through at tackle. When the line reshuffles before next season, I figure guard is the position most likely to have an opening, which would give Salyer a leg up toward getting on the field.
2. James Cook, 4-star RB — If he’s anything like his brother — former FSU tailback Dalvin Cook — Cook is going to be a helluva ballplayer. But he’s not even the top-rated RB in this class. That distinction goes to 5-star Zamir White, the No. 1 RB in the class of 2018. So why is Cook more likely than White to get minutes early? White is recovering from an ACL injury, and Smart sounded unsure if he’ll be ready to go by the time next fall rolls around. I have no doubt White will be an excellent back at UGA. But his injury means it’s more likely Cook splits carries with D’Andre Swift and the other Georgia backs early next season.
1. Adam Anderson, 5-star OLB — In his signing day press conference, Smart specifically mentioned Georgia’s need to replace the production that will be lost with the departures of outside linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy. Of the current signees, Anderson is the best positioned to do that. Long and quick, Anderson is built in the mold of recent UGA OLBs such as Carter and Leonard Floyd. D’Andre Walker and Walter Grant will likely take up the reins as the first-team OLBs, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Anderson and fellow signee Tindall get work as their understudies.
5-star Justin Fields is an ‘alpha dog’
The biggest name in this signing class is also one of the least likely to see the field in 2018. Five-star QB Justin Fields will have to sit behind Jake Fromm (and maybe Jacob Eason) for a few years, but he is the future of UGA football. And Smart already sounds smitten with his QB of the future. From Seth Emerson of DawgNation:
“He was one of the Alpha Dogs of the Alpha Dogs,” Smart said. “He took over The Opening. He won a lot of games. He made throws. And he did it all while keeping a calm, cool, presence that is kind of unmatched. He’s never real high, never real low. He’s really exciting. He can win the game with his feet but he can win the game with his arm.”
Fields has not decided yet whether he will enroll early. He said Wednesday he plans to decide next week. Fromm and Eason each enrolled early.
“He’s not afraid of competition,” Smart said of Fields. “He’s been very adamant that he wants to come in and compete. And he knows we’re going to give him the opportunity to do that.”
DT Devonte Wyatt already practicing with Dawgs
While the recruits who decide to graduate high school in December and enroll at Georgia a semester early are still a few weeks away from arriving in Athens, one member of the class of 2018 is already practicing with the team. DT Devonte Wyatt signed with Georgia in 2017, but went to junior college for a season after he didn’t qualify. But he stuck out his commitment and is a Dawg now, practicing and helping his teammates prepare for the Rose Bowl, despite being ineligible to play. From Emerson:
“I think it’s great. I think it was probably the best thing for him,” Smart said of Wyatt sitting out the year and then ending up back at Georgia. “He comes from a situation where he … was still going to take some developing in order to play. Here you are coming in with a couple senior defensive linemen. So he gets to go and play (in junior college). …
“It’s almost like a mini-13th grade. It was really good for him. He’s a lot more mature having been out on his own. I think it gives him a better chance at success here.”
Dawgs on Twitter
— Coach Kirby Smart (@KirbySmartUGA) December 21, 2017
— Coach Sam Pittman (@CoachSamPittman) December 20, 2017
Walking around the office like…….#RareBreed18 🐶🔥
THESE DAWGS READY TO BALL! pic.twitter.com/CujLpxWLaP
— Mel Tucker (@Coach_mtucker) December 21, 2017
The most impressive part of UGA’s recruiting class is the emphasis on bringing in elite players at “Premier” positions.
QB – ✔️
OL – ✔️
DL – ✔️
Those are the most important positions that you must have to win Championships and @FootballUGA is cleaning up.
— Greg McElroy (@GregMcElroy) December 20, 2017
want to see my dog jump through gate pic.twitter.com/vlYtWPaB8x
— rudy mustang (@rudy_mustang) December 19, 2017
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