Recruiting questions build on offensive side of the ball after Georgia football loses out on Justice Haynes

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041622 Athens: Georgia head coach Kirby Smart talks with Georgia quarterback Brock Vandagriff (12) during the G - Day game at Sanford Stadium Saturday, April 16, 2022, in Athens, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Stunning or shocking aren’t strong enough descriptors for the decision made by Justice Haynes on Sunday. The long-time Georgia running back target committed to Alabama.

Haynes’ was a legacy prospect — his father Verron made one of the most iconic plays in UGA history — at a position Georgia has developed and recruited well. Dell McGee doesn’t often miss out on his top target. Much less one of Haynes’ skill and pedigree. He was the No. 4 ranked running back in the cycle and the No. 3 player in the state for the 2023 recruiting cycle.

The Bulldogs are recruiting the likes of Kelton Smith, TJ Shanahan, Monroe Freeling, Connor Lew and others as Georgia aims to fill out its offensive line class. Unlike wide receiver, Georgia has recruited incredibly well on the offensive line in the recent cycle and will want to maintain said standard. Prior to adding Earnest Greene late in the 2022 recruiting class, there had been some grumblings about Georgia’s 2022 recruiting haul on the offensive line.

Related: Earnest Greene III: How Georgia beat out Alabama for the prized All-American OL prospect

Having said all of that, this is the point where we mention it is only July. This time last year, Mykel Williams was committed to USC. All three of Georgia’s cornerback signees were top-100 prospects who were committed to other schools. A lot can change between now and the middle of December when players are first able to sign.

And for all the hand-wringing that comes with deeply following summer recruiting, Georgia under Kirby Smart has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to recruiting. He’s never signed a class ranked lower than fourth, save for the 2016 recruiting class at Georgia which he cobbled together in just over two months after taking the job.

Eventually, the sting of Haynes’ decision will fade, as there is always another recruiting battle to focus on. Perhaps Georgia pushes harder for the services of Richard Young, the No. 2 ranked running back in the 2023 recruiting cycle who is considering Georgia, Alabama and Oregon. McGee suddenly didn’t forget how to recruit nor did he lose his ability to identify talent.

Missing out on Haynes does put Georgia’s recruiting efforts under a greater microscope, especially on the offensive side. Georgia still has time to find answers in this recruiting cycle. It just might have to work a little harder and a little longer than some might have thought coming off of a record-breaking NFL draft haul and national championship season.

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