Perhaps you’ve heard, Kirby Smart is on a streak hotter than a pepper sprout on the recruiting trail. Five star offensive tackles. Blue chip safeties. And safeties. And safeties. Linebackers committed to SEC coevals. All. The. Army. All-Americans. Nobody is safe from the Invasion of the Savage Snatcher.
And the thing about recruiting is that it is, by and large, a zero sum game. The recruits who are going to Georgia could have gone elsewhere. Given that so many of them are so highly rated, it stands to reason that the schools where those players might have gone in other recruiting cycles are going to take a hit in the recruiting rankings.
So which schools appear to have taken the greatest hit as a result of Smart’s efforts?
The answer, it seems, is Auburn.
Consider these numbers drawn from 247Sports’ recruiting rankings. In 2013 Auburn signed the #10 class in America, including two five star recruits from Georgia, Dooly County’s Montravius Adams and Milton High standout Carl Lawson. The Tigers signed two other Georgia prospects in that class, including three star tailback Peyton Barber.
2014 saw the Plainsmen ink the #6 class in the nation. That class featured a whopping eleven Peach State standouts, including four star safety Nick Ruffin of St. Pius X, four star corner Kalvarez Bessent of Camden County, four star defensive tackle Dontavius Russell of Carrollton, and four star defensive ends Andrew Williams and DaVonte Lambert.
The #8 ranked class in the nation for 2015 also included eleven players from Georgia. Once again the Tigers signed some of the state’s best prospects, including four star wide receiver Darius Slayton of GAC (a late flip from Georgia), four star Griffin safety Jordan Colbert, four star Langston Hughes linebacker Montavious Atkinson, and a trio of four star offensive linemen (Kaleb Kim of Mill Creek, Marquel Harrell of Creekside, and Bailey Sharp of Sprayberry).
And in 2016 Auburn signed the #9 class in the nation, featuring five star defensive tackle Derrick Brown (Lanier HS), four star defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson (Cedar Grove), four star wide receiver Kyle Davis (Archer), and four star tight end Landon Rice (Calhoun).
The commonality among those classes? Auburn’s ability to snatch 4-6 blue chip prospects from the state to the east made the difference between a top 10 signing class and one that would have finished outside the national top 20, and near the bottom of the SEC West. And it’s not as if Auburn has been signing the players Georgia passed on. By my count no more than five of the big time recruits listed above did not also have an offer from the Bulldogs. While Auburn’s recruiting “home base” is arguably lower Alabama, Georgia is a close second. When Auburn has recruited well overall, it has recruited Georgia well.
Which is why Gus Malzahn really needs 2017 to be a one-off on the recruiting trail. Auburn has twenty commits for the class of 2017. Only three are from Georgia, none ranked above three stars.
With the possible exception of Crisp County’s Markaviest Bryant (who’s deciding soon from among UGA, Auburn, and LSU), it doesn't appear that the Tigers are in the running for any blue chip Georgia players. Tray Bishop had been one of the most highly rated players in the 2017 Tiger class, until he flipped his commitment to UGA.
247 currently ranks Auburn’s class a respectable 8th in the nation, including heralded JUCO QB Jarrett Stidham. But that doesnt really tell the full story. Five of the ten teams ranked directly behind the Plainsmen have sixteen or fewer commits. Some will likely add commits and pass them (USC, Penn State, Washington, and obviously Clemson all have significant momentum). In short, Auburn may be about to finish outside the top 10 in recruiting rankings for the first time in a while.
Kirby Smart still has a long way to go to catch up to what the likes of Alabama and Ohio State had done in recent years on the recruiting trail. Those three deep rosters of five star recruits take time. But if Smart continues to recruit the state of Georgia as effectively as he has this season, there will be consequences for other coaches who have counted on making inroads in the Peach State in the past. If one of them is Malzahn, well, I think I can live with that. Until later...