The 2017 class in now officially in the books. It was, all in all, an uneventful Signing Day for the Bulldogs. There were some late additions to the defensive backfield, but for the most part the class Kirby Smart entered the day with was the one he wrapped up with.
And it’s a good one. Sure, you may have a sense of elation or even a sense of foreboding about any particular class. But you really can’t make too many judgments until things shake out a couple of years down the road.
Yeah. Like I’m going to do that. No, I’m here to dole out some Superlatives for the class of 2017. What were the big hits? The big misses?
Most likely to succeed- Jake Fromm. I doubt that Fromm unseats Jacob Eason to take the starting job from Jacob Eason in 2017 or 2018. But with it looking like Georgia is going to have a hard time signing an elite QB for the 2018 cycle there’s a great chance that Fromm is QB1 as a redshirt sophomore (assuming he can be redshirted in 2017 and that Eason doesn’t hang around for four years).
If you’ve watched Fromm work you understand this. He doesn’t have Eason or Matt Stafford’s raw arm strength. His measurables are good, but not perfect for a pro-style QB. But I think Brooks hit the nail on the head earlier in comparing him to Aaron Murray, or Hutsom Mason with legs. He’s a guy who will master the offense sooner rather than later. If Jim Chaney goes somewhere he’ll pick up the next guy’s scheme. Fromm has good size, good arm strength, good feet, and off-the-charts football smarts and poise. It’s just really hard for me to see him not being at least a solidly good signal caller in Athens.
MVP- Richard LeCounte. LeCounte was the pied piper of this group. He’s got an outsized personality, and enough swagger to convince other recruits that they could come with him or get out of his way. Like Fromm, LeCounte will almost certainly leave Athens having played a leadership role in whatever is next for Georgia football.
Story of the cycle- Finally putting a fence around the Peach State. I’ve said for years the biggest challenge Georgia faces in recruiting is the fact that Auburn, Clemson, and Tallahassee are all within 45 minutes of the state line. Gainesville and Knoxville aren’t that much further. Georgia is a hard state to really lock up, but Smart did an admirable job of it in this cycle.
This has two effects. For one, Georgia signed a dang good class. To review, the rest of the SEC East signed 26 prospects rated four stars or higher by 247 Sports, thanks in large part to a late flourish by Florida, whiched ink 11 of them. Georgia brought in 20 by itself. That’s not just winning on Signing Day, it’s lapping the field.
Second, winning instate battles is a “red meat” item for fans and boosters. Given the choice between two equally able outside linebackers, signing the one from instate resonates with the fanbase. The failure to really do so was a constant knock on Mark Richt, especially because players who left the state kept playing for national titles over the past few seasons.
Case in point? Former Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan. The top inside linebacker in the class of 2014 and the #2 player in the state of Georgia that year. McMillan’s high school coach at Liberty County is himself a former Georgia Bulldog tight end. He also coached LeCounte. In another cycle there’s every reason to believe that LeCounte would not have been convinced to stay home and might have ended up a Buckeye himself.
Sleeper- Monty Rice. The inside linebacker out of Alabama wasn’t as highly ranked as most of Georgia’s other signees. But he was incredibly productive in high school and enrolled early. I could easily see Rice getting into the inside linebacker rotation behind Roquan Smith and Natrez Patrick. If either or both leave following 2017 Rice will be in position to fight for the starting spot. Nate McBride is obviously more highly rated at the position, but Rice is one to keep an eye on.
One that got away- Aubrey Solomon. If there was a position at which Georgia could afford to miss this season it was probably defensive tackle. But it still hurts to miss out on a guy this good from the heart of Bulldog country. Solomon has the physical tools to play as a freshman, and while Devonte Wyatt has a world of potential, Solomon to my mind was the top prospect in Georgia. The best that can be said here is that he won’t be in the SEC to remind us regularly of what he could have done in Athens.
Mr. Immediate Impact- Deangelo Gibbs. Georgia has immediate playing time on the back end and went into this cycle needing to get longer and more physical at safety. Gibbs checks both of those boxes. Like Rice, as an early enrollee he’ll have an advantage over players arriving later.