ATHENS – “A pretty uneventful day.”
That’s how Kirby Smart referred to Wednesday, which represented his second National Signing Day as Georgia’s head football coach. “An exciting, uneventful day, if there is such a thing,” he said.
There is such a thing, and this was a good example of it.
No real recruiting drama, no unexpected twists or turns. The Bulldogs went into signing as “a favorite,” if you will, and nobody upset them or markedly damaged their objective. Sure, there were a couple of losses, but those were expected ahead of time. It’s those ones you don’t see coming on signing day that will drive you mad.
And at the end of it, Georgia ended the day where it started in the 247Sports composite team rankings – No. 3 in the country. If that’s an uneventful signing day, UGA fans should be praying for more like it.
Smart tried not to beam, but he was pretty cheery afterward.
“To bring these guys into the program is really exciting for us as a staff,” Smart said at a media briefing Wednesday afternoon in Georgia’s team meeting room. “I don’t think people out there realize how much goes into each kid. If you counted the man hours, the phone calls, the text messages, the Saturdays and Sundays that people spend away from their families up here, I think it’s pretty incredible the amount of time that goes into each one of these guys that we’re able to bring into our program. We’re really excited.”
To put it into perspective, that’s the fourth-best Georgia class ever. Or at least since recruiting rankings have been kept in some sort of quantifiable way. According to Patrick Garbin, a UGA historian and author who does some work for UGASports.com, it comes in behind the classes of 1982, ’98, ’90 and just ahead of 1976. That’s subjective, of course.
Getting down and looking at it closely for what it means to the here and now, the Bulldogs definitely met “their needs.” That can be a terribly tiresome and overused phrase in the recruiting game, but it aptly applies to the work UGA did in its 2017 class.
Georgia set out with the primary goals of bolstering their size and numbers on both the offensive line and in the defensive backfield. It did that embarrassingly well.
The Bulldogs inked seven defensive backs and six offensive linemen. All of them would appear to be upgrades physically.
Most everybody’s talking Georgia’s group of mammoth offensive linemen, and justifiably so as those guys average 6-feet-6 and 334 pounds. But the defensive backs will give them a run for the money for being at the top end of the position scale. Three of them are 6-feet-2 or taller and only Richard LeCounte, at 5-11, is below 6 feet. They average 6-1.5, 193 pounds as a group.
Which is not to say they can’t move. Covington’s Eric Stokes is said to be the fastest individual in the state. He won state titles in the 100-, 220- and 440-yard dashes.
“Ideally you like to have a tall, fast guys,” Smart said. “Everybody wants a tall, fast guy.”
Stokes and fellow DB Latavious Brini (6-2, 196) were the day’s closest thing to surprises, and they were both pleasant ones. Brini, of Miami Gardens, had previously been on the board but de-committed before finally signing with the Bulldogs on Wednesday.
There were two players Georgia hoped to sway in the 11th hour but didn’t, and they were both defensive linemen. Aubrey Solomon went to Michigan and Markaviest “Big Cat” Bryant opted for Auburn. That’s what the Bulldogs expected but hoped to prevent.
But Georgia has been stockpiling D-linemen the last couple of cycles and returns its entire unit from last season, which was young and played well.
“Would I like to have had more? Yes. Was I pleased with what we had last year? Yes,” Smart said. “But ultimately there’s a limit that you can have and we have a targeted area for each position and we’re kind of on our target at that position. But I don’t think you ever turn down a good defensive lineman.”
Say this for Smart and his staff, they attack the task of recruiting and trying to improve the roster with laser focus and unemotional precision. And Smart says they’ll review it the same way.
“We always look back,” Smart said of reviewing recruiting classes gone by. “We do quality control. Each coach on our staff, they evaluate every player, they rank every player, whether we get them or not. Four years from now we’ll come back and look at those and we’ll say, ‘OK, who did we miss on, why did we miss on them and maybe who was right?’ Maybe one (coach) a better evaluator than another.”
Smart said they even spend a good bit of time the last couple of days talking to coaches at schools against which Georgia competes to gather intelligence on where a kid may actually go.
“We spend a lot of time on that the last two or three nights,” he said. “That way you’ve got better information to make the right decision.”
That way there aren’t many signing day surprises.
Uneventful? Yes. Successful? You bet your blue chip.