Who's next? - Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Yes, signing day is now a little less than 11 months away, but recruiting never ends. Macon told you about a potential change in approach yesterday, so we'll take a look at how where that approach will be used in the 2014 signing class. Daug Haus gave us ideas about how to close better than we did last year soon after signing day.
We know we'll see a much smaller class in the coming year than we just signed, but how much remains to be seen until the numbers start working themselves out. Around 15 seems likely with a maximum of maybe 20 should be expected in this coming class (we have I want to say 10 rising seniors), so any players wanting in better commit early, and solidly, because room at the inn could get tight in a hurry. A position by position breakdown is below, as first seen at Sports and Grits.
QB - need to sign 1 - We return Hutson Mason, Christian Lemay, Faton Bauta, and Brice Ramsey here (although I wouldn't be surprised if one of those 4 transfers, or switches to another position). You always want to keep 1 in every class for depth, and if Ramsey wins the job next spring, we might need to load up in 2015 (see the depth chart emptying in a hurry when Quincy Carter won the job in 1998). But adding 1 here should be more than enough to keep the depth chart strong, although we shouldn't expect a high profile name to come in so close after Ramsey.
TB - need to sign 2 - Gurshall will be rising juniors when the 2014 class first takes the field, with promising incoming players AJ Turman and Brendan Douglas behind them. But you need better depth than 4, and expecting Todd Gurley to leave after his junior season, if not both Gurley and Marshall, isn't an unreasonable thought. So we'll need to sign at least two solid rushers here to keep the depth chart strong going forward. We've already got a scat back type in Stanley Williams committed, and if he stays true, that should provide the speedy, Marshall-type, option, with the need for a bigger and more physical compliment to join him. Macon described just such an option with Cedartown's Nick Chubb. We have targetted quite a few others, and again, thanks go to reader/commenter Dawg Haus for providing some more info there.
FB - need to sign 1 or none - We may be able to fill the spot with walk-ons, as has been very successful under Richt with current FB Merrit Hall, as well as guys like JT Wall and Jeremy Thomas in the past. Adding one to work in with Hall and Quayvon Hicks would be nice, or if a current walk-on or 2 look like they can fill the job should need be, we can save this spot for elsewhere. With limited numbers next February, I could easily see the staff hoping more walk-ons step up and saving a scholarship for another position, particularly since both Hall and Hicks will be rising juniors. But the need for another quality player is there (unless it's filled from another position like say Faton Bauta shifting spots, Brendan Douglas getting closer to the line, or perhaps one of last year's LB class shifting sides ala Des Williams several years ago).
TE - need to sign 2 - Arthur Lynch will graduate, leaving behind Jay Rome, Ty Flourney-Smith, and Jordan Davis. For my tastes, just 3 isn't enough. That's been my thought for a few years now, but our coaches disagree, so we could easily just sign one guy here. (We could also slot Faton Bauta here, as my fantasy involves him becoming a threat as an H Back, contrasted to Chuck's fantasy of him running the pistol.) Of those 3 mentioned above as returning, they'll all have at least two years of eligibility left, so we might be able to get away with signing just 1 kid here. But Georgia has no shortage of 6'3+, 235+ athletes around them, and with the increasing prominence of using TEs in an offense and the threats they provide, adding a strong pair here would be a good idea moving forward. Expect to hear a lot about Savannah's Milan Richards, considering his uncle just opened a new restaurant in Athens.
WR - need to sign 2 - This isn't quite the need it'll be in 2015. We'll want to add probably two, to keep the depth chart solid moving forward, but the need just won't be that strong in 2014. We already have Krenwick Sanders (a 6'2 prospect from Wayne County) on board, so adding one more to join him would be fine, especially if we can land an elite guy. With 2014 seniors Rumph, Mitchell, Conley, and Bennett (assuming Malcolm Mitchell doesn't have a big year and go pro), joined by a bevy of talented kids in the last two signing classes, the need isn't strong here. I wouldn't be surprised if someone leaves prematurely, like say Mitchell to the NFL. But the need shouldn't be that strong in 2014, with the expectation we load up there in 2015.
OT - need to sign 2? -This spot is a bit of a mystery. John Theus will be returning for his junior season, and we'll have rising senior Mark Beard (who can also play G). But does Devondre Seymour qualify this spring/summer? Or if not, does he come back after a year at prep school, or have to spend 2 in JUCO? Are Xzavier Ward and Zach Debell still fighting for playing time? Is Aulden Bynum at T or G? Does Kolton Houston ever get out of NCAA purgatory? These are questions no one can answer right now. You'd want at least 2, because you need to continually keep the OL depth strong, and sign 4 OL in every class. But we could be OK with just 2, or if some of those questions have bad answers, be targeting 3 or 4 OT in the 2014 class (of which Seymour may or may not be 1).
C/G - need to sign 2 or 3+ - Just like above, this is a big question mark. We'll lose starters Burnette, Lee, and Gates. But is Beard or Bynum helping here? How does Brandon Kublanow and Josh Cardiello look? Is Houston able to play, and if so, is he at G or T? Does John Atkins stick on the DL, or shift to the OL? Just a bunch of unaswerable questions here again. Judging by the depth, we'll need at least 2 interior OL, if not 3 or 4. I'd say we likely sign 3, just to keep numbers strong. With guys graduating or nearing graduation, having a strong, and large, OL class is right there with adding an elite rusher as the primary needs for offensive recruiting in 2014.
DL - need to sign 3 - We'll return some strong players, but they'll be nearing graduation, and the depth here is a bit less than desired. We'll need to replace Garrison Smith, and perhaps Mike Thornton, while Ray Drew and Toby Johnson (if he doesn't have to redshirt because of his knee) will be rising seniors. We'll have Chris Mayes, Jonathon Taylor, and John Atkins among others here. But with the last class loading up at LB and DB, this is the biggest need to be filled on the defensive side of the ball. You should expect a very lineman heavy class in 2014.
OLB - need to sign 1 or 2 - Depending on how some of the kids step up, this is a spot where keeping depth strong is a good idea, especially if Jordan Jenkins blows up and is looking like a potential NFL early entrant after his junior season. But the need for instant impact is likely minimal provided Jenkins, as well as guys like James Deloach, Josh Dawson, Leonard Floyd, and Davin Bellamy are looking as advertised. Of course, perhaps one of those guys adds considerable weight and moves to the DL, as we saw with Drew and Sterling Bailey
ILB - need to sign 1 or 2 - Second verse, same as the first. We've just added a strong class here, so the need isn't huge, and the need for instant impact players minimal so long as the freshman play like they're capable. Where Josh Harvey-Clemons plays impacts these numbers a bit, but he's not the only S that may move closer to the line of scrimmage. While you always want to keep strong options at LB, we'll have rising seniors in Herrera and Wilson, as well as the freshman Carter, O'Neal, Rankin, and Kimbrough entering their second season in the program. A 3 man LB class should be good enough, especially if we can land a future star like Raekwon McMillan in the group.
CB - need to sign 1 or 2 - Third verse, same as the first here. Just like LB, we've loaded up on DBs in the last class, making the need somewhat minimal here. If Damien Swann has a season strong enough to consider going pro, the need increases. But we'd still have Devin Bowman and Sheldon Dawson, to go with incoming guys Shaq Wiggins, Brandon Langley, and Reggie Wilkerson, as well as JUCO Kennar Johnson who could end up at CB or S (and perhaps JJ Green, who is currently playing TB and expected to line up at WR). You'll want to sign at least 1, to keep the depth chart full, and 2 if someone leaves prematurely (like Swann to the NFL). But the need isn't that strong, provided the recent signees pan out as expected.
S - need to sign 1 or 2 - Fourth verse, same as the first. We'll bring back Corey Moore, Shaq Fluker, Tray Matthews, Quincy Mauger, Paris Bostick, Marc Deas, and maybe Kennar Johnson. Fluker, Deas, and Johnson will be rising seniors, so you'll want to sign at least 1 to keep the depth chart solid and to keep 2015 from being a huge need like 2013 was here. But if we bring in Nick Glass, that could be more than enough talent to keep the spot as strong as we've grown accustomed to with Jermaine Phillips, Sean Jones, Thomas Davis, Greg Blue, Tra Battle, Rambo and Williams and the other stars Richt has had here. Now, some have been mentioned as perhaps growing into LBs. And some may decide to pursue their opportunities elsewhere if they aren't happy in Athens. But in a best case scenario with all of those guys happy in Athens, Glass is more than enough with his talent. If someone leaves prematurely, we'd likely want a 2nd S for a 3 or 4 man DB class.
K/P/Sn - sign no one - Collin Barber, Marshall Morgan, and Nathan Theus will all have multiple years of eligibility left at these spots, so there's no need to look for anything more than walk-ons to work in here for at least another year or two.
Summary - As said initially, you shouldn't expect a big class. We need lineman in a big way, so it likely won't be highly rated either as the recruiting services don't love the big uglies like they do the flashy edge guys. We've got a nice start with Glass, Williams, and Sanders, and there is a ton elite talent already getting attention (again, see Macon's article on over 75 offers already out there). Thanks to last year's monster crew, we can focus on just a couple at select spots, and target the truly elite talents to fill those few needs (like we've done with Glass and Sanders). A class somewhat similar to the 2012 crew is the likely haul in my uneducated opinion.