Georgia’s 2017 signing class still has a few possible remaining pieces, but is ranked third in the nation according to most recruiting services already. The class has about as many bluechip recruits as those of its SEC coevals. Combined.
But as exciting as that is, consider this: the class of sophomores coming through Georgia high schools right now might be better. Way better. Perhaps the best class the state has ever produced.
Take a look at 247Sports entirely too early rankings of the top few prospects in the state of Georgia for the class of 2019. That group features seven players currently rated five stars by the recruiting service. Seven. Hallowed high school football mecca Texas has one. This year, in the final rankings released today, there are three Georgia five stars. Same for the class of 2016. 2015 had four. In fact, eleven of 247Sports’ top seventy prospects for the class are from the Peach State.
The thing that’s perhaps more exciting for Bulldog fans is that Kirby Smart and staff have already built strong relationships with many of these top players. This spring Georgia had a first of its kind "Freshman Day" during which the top 50 freshmen in the state were invited to Athens.
The event was designed to combat what had been a real achilles heel for Georgia’s instate recruiting efforts: not seriously recruiting the state’s top underclassmen until it was too late. For example, Georgia didn’t offer Gainesville quarterback Deshaun Watson until after his junior season, by which time he had already committed to Clemson. In essence, Georgia entered the game after it was already over.
That is not happening looking forward. Savannah Calvary Day linebacker Nolan Smith has talked about being the type of ringleader Richard LeCounte was, bringing top players with him, convincing them to stay home and play in Athens. Speaking of LeCounte, his second cousin Jashawn Sheffield is one of those elite sophomores.
And that’s not the only Bulldog connection among this elite group. Owen Pappoe, a strong candidate for the top player in the state (and nation) for 2019 played on the same Grayson defense as current Bulldog commit Deangelo Gibbs (and remaining target Jamyest Williams). Former Grayson coach Kenyatta Watson (whose son Kenyatta plays at Grayson, already has offers from Nebraska and Tennessee, and is also a potential 2019 Bulldog recruit) recently worked with many of the players in this class at the True19 high school all-star game at Grady High School. That game pitted Georgia sophomores against some of the best from Texas (several of whom visited Athens while they were in town).
Elite defensive end Travon Walker is from Upson-Lee, home of current Bulldog freshman lineman David Marshall. Warren McClendon, likely the top offensive tackle in the state for 2019, played on the same Brunswick High offensive line as 2017 tackle commit D’Antne Demery. Keiondre Jones, the top interior lineman in the class, played at Callaway in Hogansville, the school that produced Terry Godwin. And top receiver/defensive back Jadon Haselwood was a teammate of 2017 commits Netori Johnson and Justin Shaffer at Cedar Grove.
It’s worth mentioning that Georgia is likely to need that 2019 class to come through. 2018 is shaping up to be a slightly down year in the state of Georgia in terms of overall depth of class.
While there are some truly elite players at the top of the class of 2018, Georgia has so far had terrible luck getting them to commit. The top three quarterbacks in the state (Cartersville’s Trevor Lawrence, Heard County’s Emory Jones, and Harrison’s Justin Fields) have all committed elsewhere. Dameon Pierce, easily the top tailback in the state and like Kirby Smart a Bainbridge native, is committed to Alabama.
All told, it looks highly unlikely that Georgia will sign more than five of the current top ten players instate for 2018. To be fair, some players outside that list are very good football players. And some players further down the list will move up (while some of those highly rated players will move down). And the class is deep enough that the Bulldogs could sign two five star and thirteen four star prospects before landing any big time prospects from outside the Peach State (like Isaiah Wilson, D’Andre Swift, and Mark Webb, for example). To review, 2018 should be a very good recruiting class.
But 2019 has the potential to be something really special. Especially if Georgia shows the type of progress on the field in 2017 and 2018 that Bulldog fans are looking for. If Kirby Smart can convince the top players in the Empire State of the South that they can actually build a college football empire in Athens, the sky is the limit.