Georgia football-Georgia football recruiting
The way that Georgia has been recruiting the defensive side of the ball with its 2023 class has been, well, special. (Jeff Sentell / DawgNation)

Georgia football: The ‘Dawgs are recruiting the defensive side of the ball like never before

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s the Intel. This rep breaks down an already prolific defensive class that the Bulldogs have stockpiled so far in the 2023 cycle based on the 247Sports Composite ratings.

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There’s a quick parallel between parenting and recruiting that seems to show itself often over the years.

It is not that far-fetched. After all, it is an applied science of listening, observing, relating to and understanding young people.

By and large, parents eventually deduce that youths pay more attention to what they see than what others say. Or what they see them do rather than what they try to preach.

When they see something unfold before their own eyes, they understand and retain it that much easier.

That’s the mushroom cloud happening with the Georgia football program recruiting the defensive side of the ball in the 2023 cycle.

Georgia won a national championship with a historic defense that saw five members from that side of the ball go in the first round. That had never been done before.

The blue chips in the 2023 class saw that. They grasped the concept that the Bulldogs are a dynamite defensive program.

While others projected the national championship and the NFL-record 15 draft picks off one team would allow UGA to reel in that same type of talent on the offensive side of the ball, that has not happened.

At least not yet.

A suffocating defense was what played out over and over across the 2021 season. The majority of those exclamation points came on the defense side of the ball. It will be hard to ever forget the mere five touchdowns the ‘Dawgs allowed over a seven-game stretch of SEC play last season.

It is no coincidence the big exclamation points for the 2023 cycle have been on the defensive side so far, too.

What has happened so far was the most likely result from the 2023 season. But a lot more than that.

Pick an adjective. Elite. Prolific. That’s what happening with Georgia’s defensive recruiting right now.

There are a lot of data points to trot out here, but let’s start with this tasty morsel: The Bulldogs, now with the nation’s No. 3 class for the 2023 cycle, can glance at their commitment board and see that nine of their 12-highest-rated commitments in the class are defensive prospects.

Those nine players also all rated among the nation’s top 180 overall prospects.

Here’s another for the folks in the back: There is a potential defensive depth chart down the line where 10 of the 11 positions on the two-deep were all at least top 150 overall recruits coming out of high school. The first team would also be exclusively top 100 overall recruits.

UGA is the only school with nine 2023 defensive commitments among the nation’s top 180 overall recruits. The next-closest program would be Notre Dame with seven prospects ranked along that criteria. The Irish also have seven defensive prospects among their top 11 committed recruits.

Georgia and Notre Dame are also the only teams in the country to have four defensive commitments rated among the nation’s top 100 prospects on the 247Sports Composite ratings. That said, the Irish only have two defensive pledges among the nation’s top 60 overall prospects.

UGA has four commitments ranked among the nation’s overall top 60. That would be 5-star CB AJ Harris, 5-star S Joenel Aguero, 4-star LB Raylen Wilson and 4-star LB Troy Bowles.

Ohio State also has five defensive players among its 11 highest-rated recruits. Yet the Buckeyes still have a stellar showing of reeling in elite offensive talents. The Big 10 power’s four-highest ranked commits for the 2023 cycle so far are all going to play offense for Ryan Day.

The Buckeyes only have one defensive commitment ranked among the nation’s top 60 overall prospects, but their four highest-rated offensive commitments also crack that group.

Alabama is also building its class differently than the ‘Dawgs at this time. It is almost like they aim to be the yin to Georgia’s yang.

Or vice versa.

The Crimson Tide has eight pledges among the nation’s top 180 overall recruits at this time, but only three of those are bound to play defense for Nick Saban. Alabama’s two highest-rated commitments (for now) are two defensive backs, but the next five prospects among that criteria are on offense.

4-star DE Gabe Harris greets Kirby Smart prior to G-Day back in April. Harris, who silently committed to UGA back in March, then went public as a commitment shortly thereafter. (Jeff Sentell /DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation

Georgia football recruiting: How the ‘23 D-class stacks up

Are the Bulldogs doing things differently than the rest of the country? In short, yes.

Nobody is putting together the type of class on defense that the “Dawgs are right now.

Here’s a good view of what is taking place at this time with defensive commitments (per the 247Sports Composite rankings) among the nation’s top 10 recruiting classes:

No. 1 Ohio State

  • 5 defensive commitments among the nation’s top 180 prospects
  • 11 total commits among the nation’s top 180
  • 19 overall commits

No. 2: Notre Dame

  • 7 defensive commitments among the nation’s top 180 prospects
  • 11 total commits among the nation’s top 180
  • 20 overall commits

No. 3: Georgia

  • 9 defensive commitments among the nation’s top 180 prospects
  • 12 total commits among the nation’s top 180
  • 17 overall commits

No. 4: Texas

  • 2 defensive commitments among the nation’s top 180 prospects
  • 5 total commits among the nation’s top 180
  • 20 overall commits

No. 5: Penn State

  • 5 defensive commitments among the nation’s top 180 prospects
  • 7 total commits among the nation’s top 180
  • 19 overall commits

No. 6 Clemson

  • 3 defensive commitments among the nation’s top 180 prospects
  • 6 total commits among the nation’s top 180
  • 17 overall commits

No. 7 Tennessee

  • 2 defensive commitments among the nation’s top 180 prospects
  • 5 total commits among the nation’s top 180
  • 19 overall commits

No. 8 Oklahoma

  • 2 defensive commitments among the nation’s top 180 overall prospects
  • 5 total commits among the nation’s top 180 overall prospects
  • 17 overall commits

No. 9 Alabama

  • 3 defensive commitments among the nation’s top 180 prospects
  • 8 commits among the nation’s top 180
  • 14 total commits

No. 10 LSU

  • 4 defensive commitments among the nation’s top 180 overall prospects
  • 7 total commits among the nation’s top 180 overall prospects
  • 16 overall commits

To put it simply, Kirby Smart is a defensive-minded coach. The same goes for Marcus Freeman at Notre Dame. Those two former defensive coordinators are always going to have an edge in recruiting that side of the ball.

The national championship season and record NFL showings have only amplified that effect in Athens for this cycle.

When Georgia lost out on elite offensive recruits like 5-star QB Arch Manning and 4-star RB Justice Haynes this summer, it only increased the current lean for the defensive side of the ball for the 2023 cycle.

The ‘Dawgs are also in it deep with about eight more defenses targets among the nation’s top 180 overall prospects. Signs are strong they could close with at least three or four of those names.

Think about that. 13 defensive signees in one class all ranked among the nation’s top 180 overall recruits?

That comes a year after the ‘Dawgs signed seven defensive prospects ranked among the nation’s top 50 overall recruits in the 2022 cycle. That haul also included five ranked among the top 30.

That’s the definition of that “elite” word used around Butts-Mehre when it comes to recruiting off a national championship.

That’s not the only thing worth taking a good look at here.

4-star North Carolina DT Jamaal Jarrett is the lowest-rated of the nine defensive commitments the Bulldogs have at this time. Yet he might just be the most important, too. Especially for those that believe that it all starts up front. (Jeff Sentell/ DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation

Georgia football recruiting: The ‘Dawgs are killing it at LB this cycle

Georgia has commitments from three of the nation’s top 10 prospects at LB in the 2023 cycle. That is pretty much unheard of for one class.

  • Nation’s No. 2 LB Raylen Wilson/No. 50 overall prospect/Lincoln HS/Tallahassee, Fla.
  • Nation’s No. 3 LB Troy Bowles/No. 56 overall prospect/Jesuit HS/Tampa, Fla.
  • Nation’s No. 10 LB CJ Allen/No. 152 overall prospect/Lamar County HS/Barnesville, Ga.

To place the feat in the proper light, let’s share a quick Q&A style overview.

How many other programs have a commitment from three of the nation’s top 10 LBs?

Zero.

How many other programs have a commitment from two of the nation’s top 10 LBs?

Zero.

How many other programs have a commitment from two of the nation’s top 20 LBs?

1. Oklahoma has pledges from the nation’s Nos. 11 and 13th-ranked prospects at LB, respectively.

How many other programs have a commitment from two of the nation’s top 5 LBs?

Zero.

How many other programs have a commitment from one of the nation’s top 5 LBs?

1. That would be USC. That is their only elite defensive commitment for the cycle so far.

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Georgia LB commitments Raylen Wilson (left) and CJ Allen posed for photos during their official visit on Friday, June 3, 2022 in Athens, Ga. (Courtesy photo)
Courtesy photo, Dawgnation

Georgia football recruiting: That back end of the class is very strong

The ‘Dawgs already have commitments from two 5-star defensive backs ranked among the nation’s top 35 overall recruits:

  • Nation’s No. 3 CB AJ Harris/No. 28 overall prospect/Central-Phenix City HS/Phenix City, Ala.
  • Nation’s No. 3 S Joenel Aguero/No. 35 overall prospect/St. John’s Prep/Lynne, Mass.

Alabama is the only other program in the country with a commitment from both a 5-star safety and a 5-star cornerback at this time. The Tide can also potentially land another 5-star safety commitment in Mill Creek’s Caleb Downs this week.

Georgia also has a commitment from the nation’s No. 15 cornerback prospect in Las Vegas native Justyn Rhett. He ranks No. 139 in the country. Georgia basically flipped him from Notre Dame’s class earlier this year.

Rhett de-committed from the Irish while on his official visit during G-Day and committed to UGA soon after.

There is also the interesting case of the other cornerback commitment. Miami resident Daniel Harris ranks as the nation’s No. 16 CB prospect and the No. 151 overall prospect on the 247Sports Composite scale.

That said, Harris is also ranked as the nation’s No. 4 CB and the no. 38 overall recruit by On3.com. That’s yet another example that recruiting rankings depend on the evaluation and are always subjective.

Perhaps the biggest reflection of that would be the case of Georgia’s lowest-rated defensive commitment among the nation’s top 180 overall prospects. North Carolina 4-star DT Jamaal Jarrett comes in at No. 180 and that ranking should continue to climb.

He’s a jumbo-sized big with great athleticism and short-space quickness. His rankings have steadily climbed from the point back in March when the recruiting industry wasn’t sure whether or not he was an offensive or a defensive lineman.

Jarrett, it should also be noted, has been a major priority for the ‘Dawgs in this class. He’s been one of the top defensive targets in this cycle.

And yet he’s the lowest rated of the nine defensive commitments in the class at this time. The remainder of the class below Jarrett are all offensive prospects and also the nation’s No. 1 kicker in Peyton Woodring.

Jarrett has the size and skill set to anchor a future championship defense. The game is won and lost up front.

He’s been a major priority for the ‘Dawgs. Yet this overview of how well UGA has been recruiting the defensive side of the ball in 2023 will also list him as the lowest-rated defensive commitment at this time.

Go figure.

The Bulldogs also look to have a better evaluation than the industry with Valdosta’s Gabe Harris in the class. He joins Lamar County LB CJ Allen as the only two homegrown defensive commitments. That’s a unique point in its own right.

Harris has shown this summer his ranking at No. 118 overall seems about forty slots lower than where it should be. At least.

The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder ranks as the nation’s No. 13 EDGE for the 2023 class but could grow into a defensive end role during his time in Athens.

Seven Cloud, a 3-star in-state DL who committed to the ‘Dawgs in January of 2021, is not expected to sign with the ‘Dawgs in this cycle.

He’s still viewed as one of the 17 Bulldog commitments for the 2023 cycle because a formal de-commitment has not yet been made at this time.

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What could the ‘Dawgs finish this class with?

The two best places to start here were to note the current strength of the interior linebackers and defensive backs in the Georgia class.

It adds to the momentum from the gangbuster defensive class the program signed in the 2022 cycle. The Bulldogs are going to have the talent DNA to produce the same quality of championship-level defenses on the field in 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Those units can be as good as the 2021 defense. That’s because of three key reasons: 1) Dudes. The Bulldogs have never brought in the pass rushers over a two-year cycle that it signed in 2022 and can sign with the 2023 class; 2) DB recruiting is at an all-time high. UGA had never signed anywhere near the talent the Dawgs will at cornerback and safety across 2022 and 2023; 3) Overall depth. The Bulldogs signed 12 defensive prospects in 2022 that ranked among the nation’s top 180 recruits. The most they had done prior to that was eight in 2019. The ‘Dawgs can get to 24 defensive recruits rated that highly across 2022 and 2023.

To place that feat in the best light, the Bulldogs signed a total of 29 defensive prospects ranked among the nation’s top 180 overall recruits from 2016 to 2020. When this class is signed, the two-year stretch could approach the number of defensive blue-chips Smart’s program signed across his first five years.

The 2021 national champions saw top defensive back talents like DJ Daniel and Tyrique Stephenson leave the program with eligibility remaining. Those were two of the only three DB signees in the 2019 cycle.

The same can be said for the 2020 class with DBs Daran Branch and Major Burns. Both transferred out. 5-star CB Kelee RIngo was a hit, but that class also saw 4-star CB Jalen Kimber lost for the 2021 season due to injury. Kimber has now transferred to Florida.

Lewis Cine and Ringo were the only DB signees from the 2019 or 2020 recruiting classes that played a major role for the ‘Dawgs last fall.

That’s why the national championship defense had to plug in Clemson transfer Derion Kendrick and walk-on Dan Jackson. The Bulldogs also had to reach back to the 2017 signing class to get much-needed clutch reps from Latavious Brini and William Poole III. Those two had yet to make a significant on-field impact for the ‘Dawgs until last season.

That said, the DBs that Georgia will sign in the 2022 and 2023 classes are a lot more talented than all those names that should have been a bigger part of the 2021 national championship run.

The possibilities to close out the 2023 defensive class will include the following:

  • 5-star S Caleb Downs/Nation’s No. 1 safety/No. 12 overall prospect/Mill Creek HS/Hoschton, Ga.
  • 5-star DL James Smith/No. 2 DL/ No. 13 overall prospect/Carver-Montgomery/Montgomery, Ala.
  • 5-star EDGE Samuel M’Pemba/No. 2 EDGE/No. 23 overall prospect/IMG Academy/Bradenton, Fla.
  • 5-star EDGE Damon Wilson/No. 4 EDGE/No. 26 overall prospect/Venice HS/Venice, Fla.
  • 5-star Qua Russaw/No. 5 EDGE/No. 27 overall prospect/Carver-Montgomery/Montgomery, Ala.
  • 4-star DL Kelby Collins/No. 6 DL/No. 68 overall prospect/Gardendale HS/Gardendale, Ala.
  • 4-star DL Jordan “Big Baby” Hall/No. 11 DL/No. 116 overall prospect/Westside/Jacksonville, Fla.
  • 4-star DL Kamran James/No. 29 DL/No. 187 overall prospect/Olympia HS/Orlando, Fla.
  • 4-star CB Chris Peal/No. 26 CB/No. 226 overall/Providence Day School/Charlotte, NC

SENTELL’S INTEL

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