Bigger isn't better: Georgia's recent classes in hindsight

semerson@macon.comJune 6, 2014 

Free safety Tray Matthews (28) was the highest-rated player in the 33-member class of 2013. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins (59) was the highest-rated player in the 19-member class of 2012. Matthews was dismissed after one year, Jenkins is entering his third year as a starter.

JOHN KELLEY — UGA sports communications

ATHENS - Two years ago, the Georgia football team signed a mere 19 players. Almost immediately came the complaints: How could you not sign more? The grumbling grew louder that very week, and into the next few months, as Georgia saw a remarkable amount of unexpected roster attrition.

So a year later Georgia reacted by signing 33 players. It wasn't as highly-rated a class, but coaches said that sheer numbers would make it a productive class.

They may end up being right, but not for the reasons they initially thought. As recent events show, bigger isn't necessarily better when it comes to recruiting classes. What matter is who is part of that signing class.

As we sit here today, that tiny class of 2012 is looking like it will be far better than the massive class of 2013. In fact, that 2012 class is looking like it will rank among the best in recent Georgia history.

Todd Gurley. Jordan Jenkins. John Theus. Keith Marshall. Marshall Morgan. Add in Greg Pyke, on the verge of being the starting guard, and that's five current starters (plus Marshall) out of a 19-member class, along with two more potential starters - James DeLoach and Jon Taylor - depending on how the defense shakes out this preseason.

And that's not including Leonard Floyd, who signed in 2012 then spent a year in prep school.

There's also still time for Collin Barber (trying to win back the punting job), Faton Bauta (potentially the starting QB in 2015), Quayvon Hicks (learning the new H-back spot), Mark Beard, Josh Dawson, Sheldon Dawson and Blake Tibbs.

That class has thus far seen just two players leave: Josh Harvey-Clemons (another starter, albeit for just one year) and Ty Flournoy-Smith. Even with those departures, the 2012 class, ranked eighth nationally in the 247Sports Composite, is giving Georgia quite a return.

Then we have that 33-member class of 2013. A year later, six members are already off the team, including two of the four highest-rated (Tray Matthews and Shaq Wiggins), going by the 247Sports Composite. Two other four-star recruits (Tramel Terry and Brendan Langley) have switched from one side of the ball to the other. The biggest impact player as a freshman was Floyd, who, again, could be counted for either class. (Both would be wise to try to claim him.) After Floyd, the most productive their first year were three-star recruits: Chris Mayes, J.J. Green, Brendan Douglas and Quincy Mauger.

Yes, there's still plenty of time for other members of the class to be very good players at Georgia. In addition to the above players, keep an eye on Reggie Wilkerson, Reggie Carter, Davin Bellamy, Brandon Kublanow, Tim Kimbrough ... there are some potentially very solid contributors there. Chances are one or more become stars.

So let's be clear: This isn't to endorse under-signing. Mark Richt has said that if he knew they'd have the attrition they did he would have signed more in 2012. As long as you have the available scholarships you should fill them, because you only increase the odds that you'll sign productive players.

But that 2012 class, despite its lack of numbers, has already proved its worth. The next year's class, for all of its numbers, has a lot of questions. It seems right now the only thing saving it is that it did sign so many players, providing a much-needed margin for error.

This year Georgia signed 21 players. We'll find out soon enough whether Lorenzo Carter, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Malkom Parrish and others have the kind of impact that's being predicted.

But that class of two years ago is a good guide: An "under-signed" class still has a chance to be very good, as long as you sign the right guys.

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