The Georgia Bulldogs didn’t have to wait until Monday for Santa Claus to leave a few presents under the tree. Christmas came last week with the early signing period, giving Georgia the top-rated class in the country.
It’s not just one of the top-ranked teams in the country. It’s number one. The best. First. And it’s not even close.
For years, Georgia has been ridiculed for winning recruiting championships in February. Other teams’ coaches and fans have joked that was the only time Georgia could really win anything. Well, Georgia has never had a class like this one.
If Georgia brought Kirby Smart to Athens to try and be like Alabama, he’s doing it. Alabama has had the nation’s top-ranked class for seven years in a row, but that streak has ended this year.
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Georgia was ranked third last year, and we thought that was great. This one was historic. The Bulldogs signed six five-star players, while the other 13 SEC schools have signed a total of two so far. The other nine teams ranked in the Top 10 have signed a combined total of 12 five-star prospects.
I’ve followed Georgia’s recruiting for 28 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this. In 1990, Georgia coach Ray Goff did well, with Garrison Hearst and Andre Hastings. Then Goff followed that with Eric Zeier, the best quarterback Georgia had ever signed.
Georgia also signed an impressive group of offensive linemen in 1991 to compliment Zeier – Chad Chosewood, Mike Fredenburg, Steve Gates, Paul Taylor and David Weeks. Unfortunately, they were a disappointment and their lack of development likely led to Goff not making it in Athens.
Fast forward to 1998, when Jim Donnan signed 24 players and 11 of them made it to the NFL. That was a year or two before recruiting sites started rankings teams, but it might have been one of Georgia’s best classes.
Donnan brought in a great group of linebackers – Macon’s Tony Gilbert, Boss Bailey, Jessie Miller, Kawika Mitchell and Will Witherspoon. Quarterback Quincy Carter and receiver Terrence Edwards were also in that class, but unfortunately, only two offensive linemen (Macon’s George Foster and Jon Stinchcomb) were significant players in Athens.
Go back to the Mark Richt years for a moment. Between 2001 and 2015, Georgia had a Top-10 ranked class in all but two years, according to the Scout.com rankings, and on average they had an 8th-ranked class in the Richt era.
Having an average ranking like that is good, but the problem was that meant it was the fourth-best class in the SEC. That might explain why Georgia was usually behind Alabama, Florida and Tennessee during Richt’s years in Athens.
While Richt had Georgia consistently in the Top 10, the highest ranking was in 2006 when they were third in the country. Rivals.com had Georgia ranked third only once, in 2002. And the “dream team” of 2011 (that was a flop) was ranked seventh by Scout.com.
And in Richt’s 15 years, he signed only one five-star offensive line prospect – John Theus. Smart has signed three in the last two classes.
For the second year in a row Georgia’s class is headlined by offensive linemen. Jamaree Salyer and Cade Mays are both five-star prospects who should compete for playing time as freshmen. Last year, Georgia had five-star prospect Isaiah Wilson, who they are redshirting this season. If a lack of a dominant offensive line has been the reason Georgia has not met expectations for the last few decades, Smart is changing that with the talent he’s brought in the last two years.
Georgia fans are already dreaming. Their team is going to the Rose Bowl next week, and the Bulldogs are one win away from playing for the national championship for the first time in 35 years. And now, the Georgia program can’t stop four and five-star prospects from coming to Athens.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.