Recency bias is a heckuva drug. You could be forgiven as a Georgia Bulldog fan if your National Signing Day was somewhere between boring and disappointing. In fact Georgia didn’t pick up a single new public commit until almost 5:00 pm when five star edge rusher Marvin Jones, Jr. picked the Bulldogs over Alabama and Texas A&M.
It felt more like a Mark Richt signing day than a Kirby Smart signing day. 18 of Georgia’s 27 current commitments had their paperwork in by 11:00 am. Three more won’t actually sign until February. There simply wasn’t the excitement, the tidal wave of momentum we’ve come to expect over the past five years.
So far as signing days go, today was just fine. There was the expected defection of defensive lineman Tyre West, who seemed to have been pushed aside a bit as Georgia collected other elite defensive tackles. West signed with Tennessee, and will likely play early on Rocky Top. There was the late flip of longtime commit Marquise Groves-Killebrew to Texas A&M, which I found pretty disappointing. Groves-Killebrew’s senior tape was a great deal more impressive than his junior film, and I felt like he was a tad underrated even as a National Top 200 recruit.
Georgia also missed on five star defensive back Kamari Wilson and four star linebacker Shemar James, both of whom signed with Florida. Both will be in the mix for early playing time in Gainesville, and their commitments have Billy Napier two early wins on the recruiting trail (the Gators will still likely sign no better than the 11th best class in the SEC, but good for them for sucking a little less than they did two weeks ago).
I’m not disappointed in this class. But there are aspects of the class I find disappointing. One is how the Bulldogs did instate. Georgia signed four of 247Sports’ Composite top ten recruits in the Peach State.
Some of that was out of Kirby Smart’s control. It appears for example that the top player in the state and nation, Travis Hunter, was going to go where a lucrative NIL deal could be struck. Oconee County standout tight end Jake Johnson was likely going where his brother (former LSU QB Max Johnson) was transferring, and Georgia very clearly preferred West Forsyth’s Oscar Delp. But Texas A&M ended up snagging three of the top ten, Alabama two, and those were by and large players who would have been a take for the ‘Dawgs.
One of those was Columbus offensive tackle Elijah Pritchett, who picked the Tide back in September. Georgia doesn’t really have a clear left tackle in this class. And none of the the Bulldogs’ four offensive line recruits is among the top 300 recruits in the 247Sports Composite.
I like them individually. Massive Jacob Hood out of Tennessee has eye-opening lower body flexibility and elite length. Griffin Scroggs has been effective against elite competition and plays with an impressive mean streak. Drew Bobo has impressive athleticism for a guy of his size, as does Aliou Bah.
But all are best characterized as developmental players. None will start next year, and thankfully they shouldn’t need to. But we’re putting an awful lot of faith in Matt Luke’s ability to develop and coach guys who don’t jump off the screen, and I’m frankly not sure I saw much this season to make me believe in his ability to do that. This group would also get instantly better if Earnest Greene, potentially the top interior lineman in the class, announces he’s coming to Georgia on January 8th.
One should never be blasé about signing a consensus top three recruiting class. But Bulldog fans are used to that. It’s what they’ve come to expect from Kirby Smart and his staff because Smart has made clear that it’s necessary to win a national title. But so far, elite recruiting classes haven’t been sufficient to win a national title, and after another crushing loss to Alabama it feels a little like Bulldog fans are having trouble mustering their enthusiasm for this class. Candidly, I expect Georgia to also take some transfer portal losses this offseason that aren’t going to help matters (even if the Bulldogs will also be on the receiving end of the portal as well).
If the Bulldogs beat Michigan in the Orange Bowl in a little over two weeks it will be validation for what Kirby & Co. have done. But for the first time it feels a little like we’ve come back to the pack in recruiting, and that Georgia could have better addressed some real needs. This staff has earned every benefit of every doubt given the performance of guys like Jordan Davis, Ladd McConkey, and yes, Stetson Bennett.
But today feels a little like a day when Georgia continues to excel where it already excels and stayed the same rather than getting demonstrably better in the places where improvement is necessary. The top seven recruits by ranking are on the defensive side of the ball. I love defense as much as anyone and more than most, but there’s a lot of depth on the roster there already.
Offensively, in addition to the things that need to go right on the offensive line Georgia also could have done better addressing the receiver position. Again, I like the players the Red and Black signed at the position. De’Nylon Morrissette is as good a fundamental receiver as Georgia’s signed in the last three classes and will push for snaps early. Cole Speer is a legit 4.4 forty guy who was wildly productive in high school. And Chandler Smith is arguably one of the 10-15 fastest recruits in the entire 2022 cycle. If he develops his football skills and stays healthy Smith could become an absolute weapon. Dillon Bell, who should sign in February, looks like the kind of guy Todd Monken has done excellent work with in the past, a versatile player who could line up outside, in the slot, or even in the backfield. But again, no receiver currently in the signing class is ranked in the top thirty at the position. Todd Monken may be right about some or all of these guys versus the blue chippers headed to Alabama, Texas A&M, and even Missouri. But If he’s not, we are headed for a serious problem.
This is a genuinely great signing class. I want to stress that. Players like Malaki Starks, and Bear Alexander are more likely than not first day NFL talents. The defensive back haul is exceptional, instantly upgrading the one area on the defense with some serious depth issues. Jalon Walker could absolutely be the next Butkus Award winning linebacker at UGA.
Branson Robinson is the throwback bruiser of a tailback Bulldog fans covet. Oscar Delp is a spookily Brock Bowers-like athlete at the tight end spot. And Gunner Stockton is the best all around high school quarterback I’ve ever seen up close, an uncanny combo of many of JT Daniels and Stetson Bennett’s best attributes.
You ever ask yourself, “What if Stetson Bennett, but 6’1, 220 with a 4.50 forty?” https://t.co/HQwndtJWGR— Recruiting Season Appreciators (@dawgsports) November 13, 2021
This class is very good. But it’ll look a whole lot better if Georgia wins two more football games before they all report this summer. If that doesn’t happen, and Georgia reports as expected with no more than 3 returning starters on defense and 5-7 on offense, this class will start with the same Sysiphean charge as Kirby Smart’s last five top three recruiting classes: to finally win a national title for a fan base that has aches for one for four decades. Bulldog fans are rightly wondering how many National Signing Days they have to win in December to win the last college football game of the season in January. Until later...