Kirby Smart and Company continued their recruiting momentum with a commitment today from arguably the top prospect in the state of Georgia for the class of 2021. Paulding County outside linebacker Smael Mondon picked the ‘Dawgs this morning in a ceremony at his school over fellow finalists including Auburn, Florida, LSU, and Tennessee. In a zippy twist on the time-worn “hat ceremony”, Mondon actually reached for the LSU hat to his far right rather than the UGA hat squarely in front of him, only to reveal that the LSU hat concealed another UGA hat. I thought it was a nice touch. Like opening a McDonald’s chicken nugget box and finding a Rolex inside.
Smael (pronounced similar to “Smile”, think “Ishmael”) is a huge pickup from a rankings perspective. The five star recruit is rated the #27 player in America and the #3 player in Georgia* in 247Sports’ composite industry rankings. But 247’s own experts rank him the #9 player in the country, the top outside linebacker in the nation, and the top player in the Peach State.
The 6’3, 220 pound Mondon plays running back and linebacker in high school but will find his home in college on the defensive side of the ball. He’s still pretty rangy looking to be 220 pounds and I expect will fill out closer to 235-240 in Athens. With his ability to play sideline to sideline but also drop into coverage he reminds me a little of current ‘Dawg Quay Walker as a prospect, though if pressed I think Mondon is a little better in space at this point and that Walker was a little better in read/react run support at the same stage. But these are shades of shades. The bottom line is that with Mondon and Carrollton prospect Chaz Chambliss the Red and Black have done an excellent job bolstering their pipeline at OLB in this class.
Mondon’s commitment also continues a comforting trend. You know how I said he’s rated the #3 player in Georgia in the 247Sports composite ratings? Numbers 1 and 2 are fellow UGA pledges Amarius Mims of Bleckley County and Brock Vandagriff of Prince Avenue Christian. In total, 11 of the Bulldogs’ 19 commits are from the Peach State, including the 6 highest ranked prospects. In a year when opportunities to bring out-of-state blue chippers to Athens for the full game day sales pitch were eliminated by COVID-19, Coach Smart and his staff have focused hard on the best players in Georgia and have rarely missed.
The numbers are very tricky for this cycle because of the free year of eligibility promised by the NCAA to players who participated in 2020. But I expect Georgia to sign at least two and as many as four more prospects in this class. With the ‘Dawgs already up to #5 in 247Sports’ rankings repeating as the top class in the country may be unlikely, but I’d expect a solid top 3 finish before the sights turn to 2022. Until later...