The Georgia Bulldogs exit the early National Signing Day with a class ranked #3 in the 247Sports rankings. A class which includes the #1, 2, and 3 ranked players in the state of Georgia, to say nothing of the top player in South Carolina. It was a truly outstanding group.
And Bulldog fans appear to be treating it with the same benign smile and proffered chocolate bar your grandmother used to give you for a good report card. Such is life for a program which now perpetually finds itself reeling in classes full of five star talent. The Dawgs’ staff makes this look easy.
It is not, in fact, easy. And this year it was harder than ever. Georgia hosted a total of three home games for which recruits could unofficially visit. No in person official visits occurred, and the summer prospect events ceased or were smaller than in years past.
That probably crippled Georgia as much as any program in America. The Red and Black traditionally close the deal with well-orchestrated campus visits that showcase their world class facilities, rabid fan base, raucous game day atmosphere, and the general natural beauty of daily life in Athens. It’s no stretch to say that Coach Smart’s staff might well have signed a couple of more out-of-state blue chippers if only they’d been able to get them to town for an official visit on a crisp October weekend. Hopefully they can return to that game plan next year. Because like Ron Burgundy’s cologne, 60% of the time it works every time.
The results this year were still impressive. The Bulldogs came in needing impact players at only a couple of positions and quality depth for the future across the roster. They filled all those needs.
Prior to JT Daniels’ late season emergence it looked like Brock Vandagriff might have to be ready to play from day one. That’s no longer the case, but he’s still a guy who can do all the things Todd Monken wants to be able to do offensively. The nation’s #2 dual threat quarterback may be the man to beat when J-TD leaves Athens.
Georgia also needed to reload the pipeline in a talented outside linebacker unit that nonetheless will see some attrition this offseason. The Red and Black responded by simply inking 247Sports’ top two outside linebackers for 2021, Smael Mondon and Xavian Sorey. Mission accomplished.
With losses to graduation and the NFL likely in the secondary the Bulldogs also loaded up there, signing four defensive backs. Nyland Green looks like a future star at corner with a combination of speed, size, and ball skills as potent as any player’s in this cycle.
The offensive line is always critical, and the Athenians’ haul up front was as good as anyone’s. Amarius Mims has true first day NFL Draft potential, with the size to play immediately, the frame to somehow get bigger, elite feet and hip bend, and a hard hat and lunch pail attitude. Micah Morris could play early at tackle or guard, and both Dylan Fairchild and Jared Wilson are exactly what Matt Luke has talked about wanting from his linemen.
UGA also needs to replace Jordan Davis and likely Julian Rochester in the middle. Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins is a fantastic way of doing that. I think the Bulldogs got one of the steals of Signing Day in the top player from South Carolina, a guy many analysts actually rated among the top 20 players in America. TID was a late bloomer and still needs to add polish to his game. But Coach Tray Scott has proven he can build guys like Tyler Clark and Davis into legitimate stars. Ingram-Dawkins has that same potential.
Twelve of the twenty recruits signed today are from the Peach State, which was partially by design. Guys like Mims and Vandagriff can’t be allowed to cross the state line very often if you want to stay employed in Athens. And the Classic City Canines signed seven of the state’s top eleven players overall. That, by God, is closing the borders.
But it highlights one of the innate advantages of the Georgia job: Kirby Smart can sign a top ten class without ever having to recruit somewhere from which he can’t get home for dinner. This year, more than ever, being the place so many elite recruits are talking about when they want to “stay home” paid dividends.
It’s worth noting that Georgia may actually get add one or two of its biggest recruit in a transfer market that is bound to be unprecedented this offseason. The Bulldogs may also lose their share, but I expect them to net out a real boost in veteran talent.
While the ‘Dawgs didn’t sign the nation’s top-ranked class this year, they signed their fifth top 3 class in a row. The Red and Black are now in that rarified place where they truly reload instead of rebuilding. And while that’s absolutely what Coach Smart was hired to do, I think fans should stop for a moment to consider the fact that he and his staff have made that degree of excellence an expectation, not something to aspire to. Kirby Smart and company have made the extraordinary classes UGA fans once dreamed of ordinary. And in this year above all others, we should appreciate that. Until later...