Early returns matter for 2023 Georgia football recruiting class: ‘This is a group that really wants to be great’

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Georgia coach Kirby Smart posses with recent 5-star commit AJ Harris (Via Instagram).

ATHENS — Kearis Jackson looked around his locker and noted he had three new faces around him. Those would be incoming freshmen Anthony Evans, Yazeed Haynes and Tyler Williams. Those three wide receivers, along with six other members of the 2023 signing class, arrived on campus this week and began practicing with the Bulldogs.

They won’t be able to play this season as the Bulldogs look to win another national championship, but Jackson feels confident these players are taking a positive first step at Georgia.

“They put all of them beside my locker. They trying to get me up outta here,” Jackson joked. “The fact that they’re able to come in and help us and give us a different look. It’s helping them but it’s helping us as well. I’m glad they’re here just to get a jump on how things are done at Georgia.”

Getting started early has become a major key for Georgia and how it deploys freshmen. The nine super early enrollees — cornerback AJ Harris, linebackers Raylen Wilson, Gabe Harris and CJ Allen, defensive lineman Jamaal Jarrett, tight end Lawson Luckie are the other six — are getting the same jump start that Mykel Williams and Oscar Delp got a season ago.

As talented as the freshmen are, they aren’t fully formed products yet. But the earlier you start practicing at Georgia, the quicker you get up to speed. Just this week, defensive lineman Zion Logue noted that Williams was starting to show the same flashes that Travon Walker did in his time at Georgia.

“There’s parts they can’t do, and there’s parts they’re learning on,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “But they will be so much further and better when the spring comes because of getting comfortable at practice, going out there and knowing where I go to after flex, what do I do next? I’ve been really excited for those guys that have practiced with us.”

Related: Early Signing Period: Georgia football 2023 recruiting class commitments, signees, targets, live updates

The nine players are able to get on campus and begin practicing thanks to some heavy lifting from the Georgia administration, as well as members of the support staff to make sure that all the proper paperwork is taken care so that the likes of Harris and Wilson are able to get on the practice field quicker.

“Once they’re accepted, that trumps the signing,” Smart explained. “So when they receive aid, a room, board, they receive equipment from us, they have to be accepted into school to do that. Once they do that, it’s not really about the signing for them. They still have to sign, but that’s not what makes it binding for them.

“So those guys did a lot of preparation and we did -- our staff, not me, did a lot of preparation to get them.”

The older members of the Georgia team aren’t all as kind as Jackson, as Logue admitted he’s still learning some of the names of the new signees. They’ll be joined by a few others in January, as the Bulldogs expect once again to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 early enrollees in total.

That will help the current 23-man signing class — Georgia has 26 commitments as of this writing — get acclimated to the Georgia way and give the new Bulldogs a better understanding of how to survive at Georgia.

“I think it’s real valuable,” linebacker Smael Mondon said. “It puts them a step ahead of the curve, vs. the other guys who didn’t come in as early.”

Related: BREAKING: 5-star EDGE Damon Wilson is a Georgia Bulldog!

Georgia signed the No. 2 signing class in the country for the 2023 recruiting cycle. This has become the standard at Georgia, as the last seven signing classes were all ranked in the top four. Bringing in star-studded freshmen is old hat at this point, especially for someone who has been around the program as long as Jackson has. When he began practicing with Georgia as an early enrollee as a part of the 2018 recruiting class, the Bulldogs were coming off their first College Football Playoff run.

Now the Bulldogs find themselves in the middle of their third. Smart noted that more and more recruits are taking it upon themselves to start college sooner so they don’t fall behind. The Georgia head coach add that the 2023 signing haul has the highest average GPA of any signing class he’s brought in.

If these Georgia newcomers are able to adapt the same way Jackson, Mondon and many other Bulldogs have, it won’t be long before the members of the 2023 signing class are leading Georgia to their own College Football Playoff.

“We’re going to go recruit very hard so we’re going to get great players in here,” Logue said. “They’re coming in and buying in. I see a lot of these young guys meeting with extra with coaches before practice and after practices. This is a group that really wants to be great. Who really wants to make an impact.

“It’s great for us because it builds good habits. They’re doing it early for them now so it can be easy for them later.”

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