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Countdown To Signing Day: ‘Tis The Season For Rumors and Speculation

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NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Alabama vs Georgia
“You heard what now?!?!”
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We’re a mere two days away from the early signing day and as usual the speculation about which recruits your Georgia Bulldogs will land is heating up.

That’s even less surprising than usual given the flourish with which the Bulldog coaches finished in the last recruiting cycle. Kirby Smart and crew won almost every major battle down the stretch, including head-to-head battles with our nemesis in Tuscaloosa.

This year’s road to the top signing class again runs through Nick Saban’s office. And while the Tide will be tough to catch given the stellar class they already have, there are some faint glimmers of hope. Last week Sam Pittman, author of the powerful sales book “Getting to Yes Siiirrrrrrr!!!”, got a commitment from the top player in the state of Alabama, lineman Clay Webb, who’s already on campus in Athens. This weekend the Tide lost a battle with Oregon for the top player in the class Kayvon Thibodeaux.

And that’s what we actually know. If you’re after the cold, hard facts you can go get a second cup of coffee or a donut now. Because what follows from this point is rank speculation. But if you follow college football recruiting and have an aversion to rank speculation you may be in the wrong avocation. Feel sufficiently warned? Good. So here goes.

There’s real reason to believe that Georgia might at least make the battle for the top class very, very close. Remember Florida tailback D.J. Williams, who we talked about a few weeks ago after John Emery’s decommitment? His recruitment has continued to pick up, including some unsubstantiated rumors that he now has an offer from Alabama contingent on the decision of IMG Academy standout Trey Sanders. Sanders had been considered a likely member of the Crimson Tide recruiting class until recently. Now a straw poll of recruiting analysts would probably mark his recruitment a toss up between the Tide and Bulldogs (he’s also considering Texas).

Another interesting battle is shaping up for IMG offensive lineman Evan Neal, also a Tide target. Some of the credit for the Red and Black having a shot at Neal goes to Sam Pittman. A lot goes to Nolan Smith, who’s become a real leader in recruiting efforts for his five star IMG Academy teammates. If you made me choose I still think Neal ends up at Alabama, but I’m not 100% sure, and I never count this staff out.

Speaking of Smith, a prospect he’s said for some time he really wanted to play with in college is Archer cornerback Andrew Booth, rated the #19 player in America by 247Sports and the #2 cornerback. Booth’s been committed to Clemson since the summer, though he did make at least one recent visit to Athens. There’s been some message board chatter about Booth now strongly considering Georgia in part to attend school with his twin sister, with whom he is very close. As fantastic as it would be to pull the guy I regard as the top defensive back prospect in the state away from Dabo Swinney, I would take this one with a huge grain of salt. Booth’s been solid to Clemson for quite a while, and is a huge priority for the Country Gentlemen.

Another battle I’m not sure Georgia wins is for tackle Darnell Wright. The West Virginian is the nation’s top-rated offensive tackle prospect and has spent an awful lot of time in Knoxville with the Big Orange. If you believe message board twaddle you’d think Wright’s high school coach has been pushing him toward Jeremy Pruitt’s squad. And while I’m sure like everyone involved in any recruit’s decision he may have his preference, I’d suspect a lot of the lure of Tennessee may be their utterly abysmal offensive line and the promise of early playing time.

Illinois tackle Trevor Keegan got a visit from the Bulldog staff a couple of weeks ago, but recently committed to Michigan. I don’t think Keegan was at the top of Georgia’s board, but would still have been a nice get if Neal and Wright go elsewhere.

South Florida defensive back Tyrique Stevenson recently announced that he’ll be choosing between Georgia and Miami on Signing Day.

Mark Richt’s recruiting class has been hammered following the loss of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and a season that saw the ‘Canes flounder. That being said, you can never count Miami out for a guy in their backyard. I view this as a 50/50 proposition. The ‘Dawgs have also stayed in touch with Florida State cornerback commitment Akeem Dent, but again, not a slam dunk.

On the bright side it looks like Clinch County athlete Trezman Marshall is shutting things down.

Marshall was initially recruited to Athens by current Vol defensive coordinator Kevin Sherrer, but it sounds like that was not enough to get him to join the perpetual rebuilding project on Rocky Top. Marshall looks likely to play linebacker when he gets to Athens.

Speaking of linebackers, Georgia remains in the mix for five star Mississippi linebacker Nakobe Dean. Dean appears likely to choose from among Georgia, Alabama, and Ole Miss on Signing Day. Again, if you follow recruiting rumors unquestioningly you know there’s been one out there for a while that Dean’s mother likes Georgia and that he does too, but that there’s a lot of pressure to either stay instate or at least stay closer to home with the powerhouse Crimson Tide.

I have no inside information on this one, but I do know that you can make a decent argument for any of Dean’s finalists. If, and I mean if, Georgia pulls Dean into the 2019 class, there’s no way Alabama fans can treat it as anything other than a loss. He’s a player they want, and adding him to the Dawgs’ class would be a shot to the figurative jaw of the Tide.

Finally, former UGA commit Jadon Haselwood will be signing early to his college of choice on December 19th, but not announcing the decision until his All-Star game on January 5th. I’m not at all confident that secret will remain so, but best of luck to him. Conventional wisdom holds that Georgia is in good shape for Haselwood with the disarray down in Miami. I remain concerned about Oklahoma in this one. Just saying, if I were a top-flight wide receiver who wants lots of targets, there’d be no better place to get that than Norman.

If any actual news breaks between now and Wednesday we’ll be on it, and obviously we’ll be right here with our usual Signing Day extravaganza.

Go ‘Dawgs!!!