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The Dawg Sports Top 30: Ranking UGA's Top Instate Targets

It's time for a different kind of recruiting ranking. So here it is: a ranking of the top Peach State football prospects taking into account their importance to UGA's 2017 recruiting class.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Longtime readers of this site know that we take recruiting coverage pretty seriously. Seriously enough that we're not afraid to evaluate recruits independently of what the major recruiting services say about them. From time to time I've noted that what Georgia may need in a recruit and what recruiting services are ranking may not always be the same thing. This leads to frustration on the part of fans who wonder why Bulldog coaches are not "locking down the borders" of the Peach State.

Sometimes that criticism is fair. There are a lot of college football players from the Empire State of the South who are playing their college football elsewhere who I see and really wish they were wearing red and black. But other times coaches are not recruiting very good football players because they either do not fit the system or because other out-of-state players are seen as a better fit. Or because the depth already in Athens means that the player's position isn't a priority in the current recruiting cycle. There are lots of reasons why an instate player may not be recruited by Georgia, or why if he is recruited and goes elsewhere it's not that big a deal.

That's where these rankings come in. I've set out to rank the top 30 players in Georgia based not only on their general football ability, but also on their importance to the 2017 Bulldog recruiting class. It works like this. The players at the top of this list will possess not only incredible talent. They'll also be capable of playing a position of need, and be the type of player the Bulldogs need at that position. As an example, Kirby Smart has shown a propensity toward preferring big, physical cornerbacks during his time in Tuscaloosa. Therefore as between cornerbacks I'm privileging guys with better size and better skills defending the run over smaller, speedier cover guys. There are a lot of really good 5'8 cornerbacks out there. They're just not what I understand the Bulldog coaches to be looking for.

Also, I'm ranking players higher who play positions of great roster need (like offensive tackle, where Georgia lacks proven depth) over positions where the current roster looks pretty stacked (like tight end). For example, I believe Grayson quarterback Chase Brice and McEachern QB Bailey Hockman are probably both among the top 30 players regardless of position in the state for 2017. However, with Houston County signal caller Jake Fromm looking like a firm commitment, neither is a must-have for this class. That's why you won't find them on this list. Greater Atlanta Christian QB Davis Mills is the #2 QB on my personal board behind Fromm, and is on the list, but would be ranked higher in a "need blind" ranking than he is here.

In fairness, this project is also a little bit of a leap of faith because we really don't yet know exactly what the coaches are looking for. I have a general idea of the type of players Kirby Smart and Mel Tucker likely want on their defense. But I don't know how much of Smart's player selection in the past was driven by Nick Saban's preferences. I expect the answer is "more than none."

I also have no firm idea what Jim Chaney and crew will be looking for other than really big, mobile offensive linemen, and I only know that because Chaney's made no secret of it. Chaney's offered big, bruising  tailbacks and small, elusive ones. Mobile QBs and pocket passers. It's just hard to draw a bead on the guy yet. So some of my criteria may not be as big a deal to the coaches as I'm making them out to be, and they might overlook that objective criteria in any given player's case. As I once told a coach who commented on my height, "if you want people who can change light bulbs without a ladder I'm not your guy, but I can play football." I didn't get a scholarship out of that exchange. But maybe the Bulldog coaches are more enamored with vertically challenged linebackers with tons of chutzpah.

In this installment I'm listing recruits 30-28. We'll be counting down to the #1 instate recruit Georgia needs to sign over the next few days. This list will probably also be updated after on campus camps this summer and again once some actual football's been played this fall. Got it? Let's get started.

30) Walter Grant, inside linebacker, Cairo HS. Grant plays inside linebacker for the Syrupmakers, but at 6'4, 235 pounds I expect him to become a 3-4 outside linebacker in college. He has the perfect physique for the position, which probably explains why Georgia and Alabama have both been recruiting Grant pretty hard (he also claims offers from Florida, Florida State, Clemson, and Auburn have offered as well). Grant's raw, but he has the physical tools to be a good one.

29) Breon Dixon, inside linebacker, Grayson HS. Dixon was Georgia's first commit for the class of 2017 and has been an active recruiter ever since. In some ways Dixon is the mirror image of Grant: the 6'0, 214 pounder is all over the field making plays, but I'm not sure how high his physical ceiling is. For now he's an aggressive tackler with a nose for the ball, a slightly taller Rennie Curran if you will.

28) M.J. Webb, defensive tackle, Morgan County HS. Georgia is in need of defensive tackles, and it just so happens there's a good one right down the road from Athens. The 6'3, 271 pound Webb has a great first step, plays with good leverage, and has better pass rushing moves than a lot of high school defensive linemen. Only one thing keeps Webb from being ranked higher here, and it is my concern about where he plays if he comes to Athens. I just don't know that Webb has the frame to carry the weight needed to be a "2 gap" interior defensive lineman like a Kwame Geathers. But I'm also not sure he's got the quickness to move outside and play defensive end. Even though his body might not be ideal, there's a reason eleven of the SEC's fourteen schools have offered young MJ: he has the tools to be a productive defender at the college level.

I'll be back tomorrow with #27 to #25, including another playmaking linebacker and a dragon of an offensive lineman. Until later . . .

Go 'Dawgs!!!