Georgia didn’t deal with any surprises during Wednesday’s National Signing Day festivities. Head coach Kirby Smart went as far as to call it “uneventful,” although that was not to be interpreted in a negative manner.
Georgia entered Wednesday with 23 committed prospects and kept each and every one of them. The Bulldogs then added three corners with a blend of size (each one was 6-foot-1 or taller) and speed (all three run 100-meter dashes in the mid-10 seconds).
The Bulldogs finished with the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings. It has a lot of analysts believing this might be the best class Georgia has signed in program history, at least based solely on high school football achievements.
It has the signees excited, as well.
“I think it does speak for itself,” Georgia incoming freshman cornerback William Poole said. “We definitely have a wide variety of guys at each position that’s coming in this year. I think it’s the best class in Georgia history. I’m not the only one saying that. I think multiple people are saying that, and if multiple people are saying that it must be true.”
When Georgia hired Smart last December, he came with the reputation of being a fierce recruiter responsible for many of Alabama’s top prospects. In nearly two months’ worth of time, with one of those spent doing two jobs, Smart was able to save the bulk of Georgia’s 2016 recruiting class and land it in the top 10 nationally.
With a full year to recruit the 2017 class, Smart took it a couple of steps further and brought in an elite group of players. And he did so by keeping most of the state’s best players home. Eighteen of Georgia’s 26 signees are from the Peach State, with 17 of those ranked in the top 40 prospects in the state.
Taken a step further, 12 are in the top 20 and five are in the top 10.
Georgia is a state long known to produce top-tier talent. With so many quality players in the state, a lot of them will inevitably choose to play at an institution other than Georgia. Smart’s task has been to identify those with elite characteristics and convince them why it’s important to stay home for college.
It’s clear he did a good job in doing so in his first full class.
“I do believe in getting good players in here. I think this group is a good group,” Smart said. “It’s a competitive group. It’s a loyal group. Twelve guys took one official visit. Twelve guys won a state championship. I think you could speak volumes to the group as a whole, not just a number by their name or a number by the class. That’s important to you guys. That’s not as important to me, the ranking, as it is what kind of kids these young men are.”
When it came to identifying the needs that needed to be addressed, Smart and his staff hit every one. The Bulldogs signed six huge offensive linemen — D’Marcus Hayes (early enrollee), Isaiah Wilson, Netori Johnson, Andrew Thomas, D’Antne Demery and Justin Shaffer — and seven tall defensive backs with speed — Poole, Richard LeCounte, Deangelo Gibbs, Tray Bishop, Eric Stokes, Ameer Speed and Latavious Brini.
The Bulldogs inked four receivers — Jeremiah Hollomon (early enrollee), Trey Blount, Matt Landers and Mark Webb Jr. — who check in at 6-foot-1 or taller. Smart said the lone running back signee, D’Andre Swift, is a blend of both Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
The lone position that was undersigned was on the defensive line, with only two additions in Devonte Wyatt and Malik Herring. But those two add to eight defensive linemen, signed during the previous two classes, who make up the bulk of the unit’s rotation.
Ultimately, the players recruited to Georgia have to perform on the football field on fall Saturdays. High school accomplishments mean nothing once everyone is on campus together. But based on what each player has done and what kind of teams were after them, a lot of potential exists with this year’s group.
Poole said the recruits in this class have long shared thoughts on a group text message exchange about the importance of being the cornerstone of the Georgia program. It’s a responsibility he, and others, are cherishing.
“We definitely have those talks about how we’re going to change the program, come in and be the ‘it factor’ for the Georgia Bulldogs,” Poole said. “But it’s not always about football with us. We’ve built a great bond and talk about things other than football. When we do talk about football, that’s one of the main subjects.”
Georgia’s 2017 recruiting class
Number of signees: 26
By position: Quarterback – 1; Running backs – 1; Wide receiver – 4; Offensive linemen – 6; Defensive linemen – 2; Linebackers – 5; Defensive backs – 7.
By state: Georgia -- 18; Florida – 3; Pennsylvania 2; Alabama – 1; Mississippi – 1; New York – 1.
Star of the class: Isaiah Wilson, Brooklyn, N.Y., OL. Wilson has the chance to be the cornerstone of a much bigger offensive line that position coach Sam Pittman prefers. Wilson is the 16th overall prospect in the nation, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings, and has the best chance of any of the incoming first-year linemen to play early.
List: Name (position, school)
Robert Beal, LB, Peachtree Ridge
Tray Bishop, DB, Terrell County
Trey Blount, WR, Pace Academy
Latavious Brini, DB, Hialeah, Fla.
D’Antne Demery, OL, Brunswick
Jake Fromm, QB, Houston County
Deangelo Gibbs, DB, Grayson
Walter Grant, LB, Cairo
D’Marcus Hayes, OL, Perkinson, Miss.
Malik Herring, DL, Mary Persons
Jeremiah Holloman, WR, Newton County
Jaden Hunter, LB, Westlake
Netori Johnson, OL, Cedar Grove
Matt Landers, WR, Pinellas Park, Fla.
Richard LeCounte, DB, Liberty County
Nate McBride, LB, Vidalia
William Poole, DB, Hapeville Charter
Monty Rice, LB, Madison, Ala.
Justin Shaffer, OL, Cedar Grove
Ameer Speed, DB, Jacksonville, Fla.
Eric Stokes, DB, Eastside (Covington)
D’Andre Swift, RB, Philadelphia
Andrew Thomas, OL, Pace Academy
Mark Webb Jr., WR, Philadelphia
Isaiah Wilson, OL, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Devonte Wyatt, DL, Towers