Sentell’s Intel: The Mississippi State win reflects the value of 2020 recruiting class for Georgia football
Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s the Intel. This rep shares one reporter’s take on the Mississippi State road win and the way that Georgia’s sensational recruiting helped shape that outcome.
Got a few quick questions. The answers should provide another way to look at Saturday night’s big win.
- What’s the most talented group of signees left on the Georgia football team?
- Which group of impact players has been on campus the longest soaking up the positional developmental and Georgia’s scheme and the program’s core philosophies and values for the longest?
- Which recruiting class among the Bulldogs dominated the runaway 45-19 win in Starkville?
My answers to that would all be the same: The 2020 recruiting class that was ranked No. 1 in the nation for that cycle.
It all fell into place on a game night that never (thankfully) really dipped before 35 degrees in Mississippi. Let’s take inventory of it quickly:
- Defensive enforcer and playmaker: Former 5-star DL Jalen Carter (Nation’s No. 18 recruit)
- Offensive enforcer on the perimeter: Former 5-star ATH Darnell Washington (Nation’s No. 23 recruit)
- Offensive spark (Two touchdowns): Former zero star to 3-star WR Ladd McConkey (Nation’s No. 169 WR recruit and No. 121 player in Georgia)
- Offensive road graders: (3 starters): Former 5-star Broderick Jones (No. 11 overall), former 4-star Tate Ratledge (No. 38 overall) and former 4-star Sedrick Van Pran-Granger No. 60 overall)
- Finishing move breakaway touchdown: Former 4-star RB Kendall Milton (Nation’s No. 54 recruit)
The 2020 class was all over this Georgia victory in the same manner that DawgNation took over at least 70 percent of one side of Davis-Wade Stadium.
Carter led the ‘Dawgs with a team-high seven tackles. McConkey was the team’s leading receiver and leading rusher. Milton was second on the team in rushing. Washington set up the game’s first touchdown with a big 30-yard gain and also caught his first touchdown pass of the season. He also established a career-high with his five catches.
While the 2019 recruits still on the team make up the oldest and most seasoned class on the Georgia football roster, that class is very splintered. Georgia has already sent three of the eight highest-rated recruits in that class off to the NFL. Nolan Smith is still with the team but is out for the rest of the year with an injury. There were two others in that number that transferred out.
Let’s not forget Kenny McIntosh, Zion Logue, Warren McClendon Xavier Truss and Tramel Walthour from that 2019 class. Walthour has been an under-the-radar starter for the last eight games for the ‘Dawgs. Stetson Bennett also returned to the program with that 2019 class.
By and large, a football team wants its senior members to be key cogs on the field. They are generally the biggest and strongest players on the roster. They’ve been around the longest and know what exactly the coaches want from soaking up all the football from being a part of this championship program for four seasons.
Yet the core and the real oomph of this team derive from the 2020 signing class. There are the names mentioned up above plus key defensive pieces like Warren Brinson and Nazir Stackhouse (10 starts this year) to point to.
Daijun Edwards, the third-year RB, actually leads the ‘Dawgs in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.
Kelee Ringo is a two-year starter at CB who’s made key plays in big games. Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint is currently in the midst of his best all-around football in his time at Georgia. Arian Smith is the team’s best deep threat-receiver at this time.
It is what it is with all of that. And that is probably as it should be. The core was the 2018 Super Seniors and the 2019 juniors a year ago.
The ‘Dawgs also relied on a lot of the 2020 signing class (Carter, Edwards, McConkey, Rosemy-Jacksaint and Ringo) in the Tennessee game the week prior.
We’ll likely see at least Carter, Ringo, Smith and Washington all off to the NFL after this season. Maybe a few more of those 2020 names will also go after their third season in Athens.
That just means it will be time for the 2021 class and names like Brock Bowers, Jamon Dumas-Johnson, Kamari Lassiter, Amarius Mims and Smael Mondon to headline that 2023 team.
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Kirby Smart said it: “Don’t take it for granted”
I had a good text message chat with some members of DawgNation recently. They asked a group of die-hards how nervous they would be if any of Georgia’s previous coaches were taking a 9-0 unbeaten team on the road in Starkville last week.
There were a few Munsons in that group. Maybe a few Dooleys as well. They will worry about everything.
But the overriding tone for most fans is that Smart has dialed down a lot of those fears over the years.
It actually seems like the program is getting stronger. Stronger than it has ever been before.
Perhaps it is the way Smart carries a “Stiff Upper Lip” onto the field before every game. Especially on the road in hostile territories. Maybe it is the way that the head coach is always saying “humility is only a week away” in the midst of every triumphant postgame press conference after the latest conquest.
Here’s something to think about. While everyone is pointing to how odd it is to see Alabama with two losses in early November for the first time since 2010, the Bulldogs are also carving out their own little niche in history.
Perhaps the best example now is to think of a high school recruit. They just started playing football in middle school when they were in the sixth grade back in 2017. That’s when they really started paying attention to college and pro football.
That was five seasons ago. They are now high school juniors in the class of 2024. They have now seen Smart and the Bulldogs put together 9-1, 9-1, 9-1, 8-2, 10-0 and 10-0 starts through their first 10 games since then.
This kind of team and this kind of dominance is all they really know when it comes to the ‘Dawgs. We’ve seen the ‘Dawgs sign an average of the nation’s No. 2 overall recruiting class during this stretch.
Starkville takeaways: 12 things that interest me with Georgia football
- There was a lot of talk about the Georgia crowd on Saturday in Starkville: There were a lot of folks there. Davis-Wade Stadium seats 61,000 and some change there. There were about four or five splotches of red or black in every section on Saturday. The east side of the stands was about 70 percent UGA. At least. I’d say there were at least 25,000 Georgia fans with tickets there on Saturday.
- Kirby Smart is rising as a Darth Vader type in the SEC: There was a long line of college men going shirtless on Saturday. They had the body paint splattered all over their chests to spell out what appeared to be a “Kirby Stupid” insult. I’ll give them points for ambition and bravado, but we will dock them for their creativity there. When you throw in the visor look there with Smart, he’s starting to cast his own Spurrier-sized shadow around the best conference in the land.
- It was cold for the ‘Dawgs on Saturday night: There were a lot of ‘Dawgs that went sleeveless on Saturday. There were also a lot of guys that did not mind unabashedly posting up beside the team’s many sideline heaters on Saturday. Carter was one of those. He looked like UGA X lying in his doghouse on gamedays in front of that heating element on Saturday. The Florida-born-and-raised McIntosh also didn’t stray too far from the heat on Saturday. There were numerous other examples but I believe Aussie punter Brett Thorson might have never seen 35 degrees before as he did on Saturday night.
- Best coaching staff ever thought: Smart made a point earlier this year that he felt this was his best overall all-around coaching staff in his time at Georgia. It certainly looks like it. The ‘Dawgs are constantly coaching in real-time action. Just pick out a play. Any play. When the defense came off the field on one rep, Glenn Schumann made a beeline for Malaki Starks. Smart wanted to chat with both Ringo and Smael Mondon. Fran Brown went up to Kamari Lassiter. It is like that on every play when the ‘Dawgs get a stop and come off the field. Georgia knew it would have to keep Mike Leach’s offense in front of them on Saturday and make open field tackles in space. That’s why they drilled all week and prior to the game on trying to get a strip once they had the receiver hemmed in.
- A man that really enjoys his job: Georgia defensive line coach Tray Scott puts the program in a position to win these games every December and February. That’s when he signs another elite mob of young men to own the trenches for the ‘Dawgs every cycle. He then puts in the work in the spring and the fall during camp and in the season to make sure they don’t lose these games. That’s the work that ensures that the talented group plays the big games in December.
- On second thought: That could be a description for each position coach, both coordinators and the head coach himself as well. When Scott’s boys come off the field and he rallies in front of them on their specific spot on the Georgia sideline, the look on Scott’s face is like he’s got a prime Mike Tyson unit to work with. He relishes it. It is almost like he can’t wait to wind them up and run them out there to demolish another offense for another handful of snaps on the next series.
- 1,000-yard receiver watch: Brock Bowers currently has 615 receiving yards. It is safe to say that we can look for the Bulldogs to play at least four more games this year. That gives both Bowers and also the hard-charging McConkey (578 yards) a shot at joining Terrence Edwards in that lonely 1,000-yard single-season receiving club this year.
- 1,000-yard rusher watch: Edwards (497 yards) and McIntosh (425 yards) both have decent shots at that plateau as well this season. This still gives this team an outside shot at being only the second UGA team to have a 1,000-yard receiver and a 1,000-yard rusher in program history. Musa Smith joined Edwards with a 1,324-yard rushing season back in 2022.
- Other team leaders at this time: Total TDs: (Tie) Bennett, Bowers, Edwards and McIntosh (7); Tackles: Malaki Starks (48); Sacks: (Tie): Dumas-Johnson and Smith (3); Tackles for loss: Smith (7); Interceptions: Starks and Chris Smith (2); Pass breakups: Starks (6); QB Hurries: Mykel Williams (20).
- Combined TDs for the TEs: There was a lot of talk about the number of touchdowns the TE room was going to produce this season. Some folks (myself included) thought the room could get to 20 touchdowns this fall. That number stands at 10 touchdowns through 10 games so far this year. Brock Bowers has seven of those scores. Oscar Delp, Arik Gilbert and Darnell Washington all have one touchdown catch apiece this fall. That number does include the three rushing scores from Bowers on the year.
- The more the wins stack up, the more that Smart stays the same: When these games end, the one thing to pay attention to every week is to when Smart seeks out a few players on the opposing team he feels plays the game the right way. He did that with a few Bulldogs from the SEC West on Saturday. It is nothing new. I remember him doing that with Marlon Davison at Auburn in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons. He had grown to know Davison well on the recruiting trail back when he was at Alabama. It is really a nice moment. Some of the most genuine smiles you will ever see on Smart after a game, win or lose, is when he tells an opponent that he has a whole lotta respect for the way they play the game.
- A random Mississippi State fact: I learned on Saturday that when one goes to Mississippi State that they are never expected to get their own cowbell. Not their first one. The first one for every student has to be a gift from someone else. Makes sense. Those things are pricey starting around $50 for one that sports the school’s logos, name and other intellectual property.
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Georgia football: A few images from Georgia’s 45-19 victory
We found a few images from down on the field that stood out on Saturday night.
(check on the recent reads on DawgNation.com)