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The Dawg Sports Peach State Top 20

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Oklahoma vs Georgia Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the critical shortcomings inherent to recruiting rankings is that not all prospects are equally valuable to all teams. Some players, though highly rated by the recruiting services, just don’t fit into every team’s scheme. Some years you desperately need help at cornerback but find yourself with few scholarships to give at wide receiver. In short there are blue chip recruits, really highly-rated players, who your team cannot or would not sign. If that’s the case, are they really “blue chips” for you?

The Dawg Sports Peach State Top 20 aims to correct this inefficiency. We begin with one simple premise. Georgia is among the top four states in the nation for producing Power 5 college football players, and is becoming more prominent year by year.

As a result it’s reasonable to assume that the University of Georgia will begin its recruiting efforts in the Empire State of the South. On the heels of a phenomenal 2017, Georgia will get into living rooms across America. But we’re primarily concerned with defending home turf.

The second thing to keep in mind with these rankings, which Brooks hit on in his rankings yesterday, is that these are calibrated to favor players we believe fit in Athens by virtue of roster need and scheme fit. Put another way, if Kirby Smart signed the top fifteen guys in these rankings and then filled in the 2019 class by cherry-picking elite out-of-state talent, he should have accomplished what he needs to in terms of restocking the cupboard.

Finally these rankings are useful because, well, you’re getting what you pay for. Which is to say, nothing. This site doesn’t count on hooking you with feel-good recruiting stories. No player’s getting a bump because he’s committed to play in Athens or Tuscaloosa. There’s no manufactured drama. The rankings aren’t engineered to pump sunshine where it does not normally shine. The odds are very good that there are some players viewed as big recruiting wins for Georgia who we view with a critical eye.

Bear in mind that we aren’t pointing out flaws in these guys’ games to belittle teenagers. Every player in these rankings is probably an SEC-caliber football player, which is something only a fraction of one percent of high school football players will ever be able to say. But we take seriously our obligation to provide you with detailed, honest analysis.

So, with no further ado, here is my personal ranking of the Peach State Top 20, followed by the composite ranking of Brooks’ picks and mine.

1) Jadon Haselwood, WR- The 6’3, 190 pound Cedar Grove receiver is the most complete receiver in the class of 2019. Haselwood is deadly downfield with his elite speed, great hands, and top notch body control. He’s got the vision and acceleration to be deadly in the screen game. Georgia stands to lose some key contributors after this season, and while I like some of the young guys already in Athens, Haselwood is special.

2) Owen Pappoe, LB- If these rankings had come out six months ago Pappoe would have been #1 with a bullet. But I didn’t think he took a big step forward in 2017 and the field instate caught up to him a little. That being said, Pappoe is incredibly physical inside, quick to get outside the tackle box, and has great instincts. Much like fellow linebacking wunderkind I think Pappoe could excel in an environment where he faces elite competition every day and is forced to respond. Athens is currently that kind of place.

3) Justin Eboigbe, DE- Brooks and I both rank the 6’5, 261 pound Forest Park standout substantially higher than the major recruiting services. That will change. Eboigbe is a world class athlete, the kind of long, quick edge player Kirby is always looking to add and which are critical to stopping the type of offenses Georgia is seeing more and more of in the SEC. My only question is how he’ll respond against elite tackle talent, since his high school competition is a little uneven. But this kid has the physical tools to take over the game in the style of a Leonard Floyd, just becoming unblockable in one-on-one situations. I’d much rather it be for Georgia than someone else.

4) Travon Walker, DT- Georgia reeled in a very solid defensive tackle class once again in 2018, but you absolutely cannot have enough depth up front in the SEC. Far and away the best 3/5 technique defensive tackle I’ve seen in the Peach State for 2019, Walker moves better in space than a 6’4, 260 pounder has any business moving. I think he ends up inside as he develops physically, but Walker could easily start off outside. I’d liken him to former Upson-Lee and current UGA standout David Marshall, though more athletic.

5) Dominick Blaylock, WR- As Georgia high school offenses have become more wide oopen over the past decade a few trends affecting recruiting have emerged. One is the embarrassing proliferation of elite quarterback talent. Another is the steady decline in the number of workhorse “one cut and go” tailbacks the state used to be full of.

A final trend that’s germane to this year’s class is an increasing number of really polished high school wide receivers. None in this class is more polished than Dom Blaylock. The Walton standout would be the top wide receiver in any state that Jadon Haselwood didn’t also happen to occupy. He’s already a college level route runner, using his eyes and feet to get himself in good position and lure defenders out of theirs. He has exceptionally quiet hands, never seeming to telegraph that the ball is coming his way until it’s too late to defend it.

The only real negative I see in Blaylock’s game is his size (6’0, 180), which I think limits him on the outside in a way Haselwood’s doesn’t. But let’s be honest, if Georgia holds onto both through Signing Day that receiver room is just going to be that much more loaded.

6) Jaylen McCollough, S- The rangy kid from Hill Grove is a physical, true safety. He has excellent size and the speed to cover. I’m not 100% certain he has the instincts to be a true “centerfielder” at the safety position in the Dominick Sanders mold. His film doesn’t scream “ball hawk” to me, and I haven’t sen him live. But from what I have seen I think the Bulldog coaches could do great things with him.

7) Andrew Booth, CB- Long, fast corner with excellent ball skills. He’s also not afraid to come up and lay the lumber to ball carriers. Georgia is not in dire need of cornerback help given the stellar hauls in 2017 and 2018. But Booth looks like a difference maker to me, and I’d love to see him added to the mix to compete.

8) Chris Hinton, DT- The Greater Atlanta Christian standout was an early commit to Michigan and was a no-brainer pickup for the Wolverines. At 6’4, 270 pounds Hinton has good feet, plays with good pad level, doesn’t give up on plays, and plays with his eyes. He’s smooth, but doesn’t seem particularly explosive to me. A solid run anchor, but I don’t know that he’s the best fit for Georgia’s scheme. Under the right circumstances could also make the transition to offensive line.

9) Harry Miller, OG- A big-bodied mauler just like Coach Pittman likes them. Really, really quick feet for a 6’4, 310 pound lineman. Won a lot of battles against good competition, dominated lesser players, and could theoretically play any of four spots along the offensive front. Were it not for Georgia’s incredible interior line recruiting in the past two classes Miller would likely be a couple of slots higher.

10) Steele Chambers, LB/RB- Like UGA commit JD Bertrand (see below) Chambers is a productive, technically proficient player from Blessed Trinity. I would not want to be the offensive coordinator who has to deal with their linebacking unit, by the way. SEC-level athletes who play solid fundamental football are really hard to deal with at the high school level.

But I digress. Some project him as a big (6’2, 215 pound) tailback, others as a linebacker. I fall in the linebacker camp, because I think he could be something really special there. Chambers has an excellent size/speed combo, good hands, and a 4.0 GPA.

I’m pretty sure I have him ranked higher than a lot of services, but this is one of those areas where these rankings differ from the norm. I could see Chambers earning snaps on both sides of the ball and on special teams from day one. While I think linebacker is his best position, as noted above there just aren’t a lot of elite tailbacks in the Peach State this season. If Georgia misses on out of state backfield targets like Quavaris Crouch and Trey Sanders, Chambers isn’t a bad option on offense. The combination of productivity and versatility makes this kid a solid take for me in the class of 2019.

11) Trezman Marshall, ATH- I’m not sure where Georgia plays him. Maybe inside linebacker, maybe H-back. But I’ve seen this jumbo athlete up close and he’s super-impressive at the high school level. I’m not sure he meets his commonly listed height of 6’1, and like Brooks that gives me some pause. But in the end we’re not looking for light bulb changers, we’re looking for football players, and Marshall definitely is one of those. He plays, big, fast, and angry.

12) Jalen Perry, CB- Georgia jumped on the 6’1, 175 pound corner out of Dacula before other schools realized what the ‘Dawgs had. Kirby Smart knows what an elite defensive back looks like, and i suspect he’s found one in Perry. While he doesn’t seem quite as physical or quick as Andrew Booth, Perry plays very smooth and has good ball skills. Again, the embarrassment of riches Georgia should have in the defensive backfield if the talent in Athens develops as it should ought to be illegal.

13) JD Bertand, LB- As my high school’s linebackers coach was fond of saying, the position is about being in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. I’m not sure there’s a better linebacker in the state at doing that than Bertrand. The Bulldog commit is an extremely productive player with a nose for the ball. He’s physical at the point of attack, with textbook pad level. I don’t think he has the sideline-to-sideline speed to be a Roquan Smith, but those guys are exceptionally rare. A really fun guy to watch just make play after play, something I think he’ll continue to do in college. There are some other guys on this list who i think may have a higher ceiling, but Bertrand is just about guaranteed to be a player.

14) Wanya Morris, OT- Left tackle out of powerhouse Grayson with good feet and excellent hands. At 6’5, 270 pounds Morris doesn’t have the big body Sam Pittman seems to be looking for in a tackle. But he does have the frame to hold some more weight and could be an intriguing player with a couple of years in the weight room, something Georgia has to offer due to the depth already on campus.

15) Dante Walker, DE- A defensive end or outside linebacker depending on his physical development, Walker is quick off the ball and plays with a motor. He needs coaching and time in the weight room, but I could see him becoming an absolute handful for opposing offenses.

16) Ryland Goede, TE- Goede is the textbook example of why recruiting is more about potential at the college level than production in high school.

Don’t get me wrong, I see production at the high school level as a good indicator of similar contribution on Saturdays. By way of example, Grayson cornerback Kenyatta Watson looks like an elite cornerback. Perfect size. Good hips. Not afraid of contact. But I watched his junior and sophomore highlights as well as two full games of his junior season and never actually saw him catch an interception. It was almost uncanny. I just have a hard time with guys who look like they should be making plays but just don’t.

Goede’s got good hands, but his route running is sometimes a little tentative. There are a lot of little things (eyes, shoulders) that need tuning up. At 6’7 and 225 pounds he looks a little like a really combative giraffe on the football field at this point (that’s actually a compliment, I swear). But he’s an aggressive run blocker, and it’s obvious that he has the frame to grow into the 6’7, 250 pound, versatile tight end that Smart and Chaney favor.

17) Kyle Hamilton, S- The 6’3, 190 pound Marist safety is an intriguing prospect, a hard hitting ball hawk whose film just jumps out at you. He’s picked up offers from not only Georgia, but Notre Dame, Ohio State, LSU, Tennessee, Auburn, and Clemson. This week. Hamilton is a guy who’ll be closely watched this summer by a lot of programs and recruiting services and could move up in these and other rankings.

18) Jaelin Humphries, DT- A big, A gap stuffing defensive tackle out of Mountain View in Gwinnett County, Humphries is a guy I wouldn’t have this high if I didn’t think he fits a scheme need. Finding 6’5, 320 pounders to play over the center can be tough, but it’s an important part of what Georgia does on defense. Georgia isn’t in dire need at defensive tackle and has some other guys on the board, but Humphries could be a good one.

19) King Mwikuta, LB- As you’ve probably gaged by now this is the part of the rankings where you’ll find guys with “a lot of upside.” Right now Mwikuta embodies the somewhat antiquated adage “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.” He’s got the body type you want in a 3-4 outside linebacker. He’s quick off the ball and chases down plays. He can clearly move in space. But I get the distinct impression he doesn’t always know where he’s going. He also struggles some in close quarters. At this point he hasn’t demonstrated to me that he’s an every down player against the run, but instead looks like a pass rush specialist. That’s all well and good, but I need to see him develop into a more physical player to rank him higher.

20) Jashawn Sheffield, WR/DB- Sheffield is a do-everything player for Frederica Academy down in St. Simon’s. He has good hands and body control and could be a solid player at the college level. The problem vis-a-vis these rankings is that in Haselwood and Blaylock Georgia has two guys who I think have better speed and are more natural at receiver. And I think McCollough, Booth, and Perry are all more natural in the secondary. I wouldn’t be at all upset if he ended up in Athens, but that may require Smart & Co. missing on some other guys.

21) {The “first guy out”}

Curtis Fann, TE/DE- A mobile 6’3, 245 pounder out of ECI (Emanuel County institute). Fann has the potential to be a solid 3-4 defensive end. But he needs to get stronger and finish tackles. He has the bad habit a lot of dominant small school players develop of just latching onto smaller ball carriers and just “anchoring” them down with his body weight. Try that against a Nick Chubb or Bo Scarbrough and tell me how it goes. But i like his quickness off the ball.

The Peach State Top 20

So where does that leave our rankings? Well, I’ve made an equally weighted composite of Brooks’ rankings and mine. It’s so simple an Auburn grad could do it. If I rated a player #5 in the state and Brooks had him #4, his composite score is 4.5. For players who were unranked in one of our rankings I assigned a score of “30” for the missing ranking. Then I broke the ties using the highest individual ranking (in other words, if one of us felt strongly that the player in question should be more highly ranked that seems like a good hint).

1. Jadon Haselwood, WR, 6’3, 195, Cedar Grove

2. Owen Pappoe, LB, 6’0, 211, Grayson

3. Jaylen McCollough, S, 6’1, 190 Hillgrove

4. Justin Eboigbe, DE, 6’5 260, Forest Park

5. Travon Walker, DE/DT, 6’4, 255, Upson-Lee

6. Dominick Blaylock, WR, 6’0, 175, Wheeler

7. Christopher Hinton, DE, 6’4, 265, Greater Atlanta Christian

8. Andrew Booth, CB, 6’1, 180, Archer

9. (tie) Trezman Marshall, ATH, 6’1, 236, Clinch County

Harry Miller, OG, 6’4, 310, Buford

11. Wanya Morris, OT, 6’5, 270, Grayson

12. Jalen Perry, CB, 6’1, 175, Dacula

13. Steele Chambers, LB/RB, 6’2, 215, Blessed Trinity

14. JD Bertrand, LB, 6’1, 215, Blessed Trinity

15. King Mwikuta, LB/DE, 6’4, 225, Troup County

16. Ryland Goede, TE, 6’7, 230, Kennesaw Mountain

17. Jashawn Sheffield, WR/DB, 6’1, 178, Frederica Academy

18. Kyle Hamilton, S/WR, 6’3, 190, Marist

19. Dante Walker, DE, 6’3, 240, Riverdale

20. Warren McClendon, OT, 6’5, 290, Brunswick

I expect we’ll be updating these periodically over the next few months, and most certainly once senior tape begins to emerge this fall. Until then, this should give us plenty to debate.

Go ‘Dawgs!!!