With both the early and traditional signing periods behind him, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was able to reflect on the potential benefits and drawbacks of the new recruiting system coaches are now forced to partake in.
Smart noted there will probably be differing opinions on the new recruiting format. But Georgia, despite having to prepare for a Rose Bowl during the early signing period, was able to exceed expectations with who it signed over a three-day window in late December.
Therefore, from Smart's viewpoint, the new national early signing period is something Georgia can potentially use to its benefit moving forward.
"That's tough. It's hard to argue with the results we were able to achieve," Smart said when asked if he felt the new recruiting setup worked for him. "I think it was a blessing to be in the situation we were in, meaning we lost a week on the road recruiting because of the SEC Championship game. I would think people that didn't play in the SEC Championship game would get a huge advantage by being out that week, that close to a signing date. That was really kind of two weeks or three weeks from a signing date, and they were able to get a little bit of an advantage. We lost that, but we also gained the momentum of the exposure. So I liked that part of it."
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Among the challenges this year's early signing period brought was having a blue-blood program like Alabama, which later won the national title over Georgia, able to make visits when Georgia couldn't. The Crimson Tide did not play for the SEC title, which freed up its coaches to recruit earlier than expected.
But in the end, it worked out well for Georgia as it signed 20 players early. Six of those prospects were five-star recruits. Smart had his questions about the early signing period before, with a lot of college coaches wondering how it would play out. As it turned out, most of the top prospects elected to sign early across the country.
According to the 247Sports.com composite rankings, only 26 percent of players considered four-star or five-star recruits remained unsigned after the early period. And with Georgia signing a plethora of talent, it meant Smart and his staff could focus the remainder of their recruiting energy on fewer than 10 class of 2018 recruits.
The Bulldogs ended up signing six recruits on National Signing Day last week.
"I actually think what happened is it narrowed the scope of a lot of top programs onto certain guys, and it created more pressure on the remainder of the people who weren't signed," Smart said. "So the pressure went from being dispersed among 20 players to being on three or four players for every team. That was tough to go through that with some of the families of the guys you finished with because they had a big burden on them.
"But I think you'd have to poll those other kids out there and say, 'Hey, was it beneficial for you?' High school coaches, I think they think it was beneficial."