Georgia had another top-10 recruiting class a couple of weeks ago in Kirby Smart’s first full signing class with the program.
That’s not really news. Georgia has had its share of top-10 classes through the years.
But this one feels different.
Mark Richt signed plenty of good players during his time as Georgia’s head coach, and he won many games and put many players in the NFL. But there are always seemed to be a feeling that Georgia would “win” signing day but not actually live up to that hype once the season rolled around.
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That led to his departure before last season and ended up with Smart taking over as the head coach. Things weren’t great in Smart’s first season as the Bulldogs went 8-5, including a bowl win over TCU, and lost to Georgia Tech to end the regular season.
But those first-year struggles didn’t hurt Georgia’s recruiting prospects as the Bulldogs finished with the No. 3 class in the 247Sports.com’s composite rankings. Again, that is nothing new, but this class seems different than the top classes that Richt signed.
Smart didn’t stand pat at quarterback just because Jacob Eason is on campus. Smart reeled in former Houston County standout Jake Fromm, and there’s a good chance Fromm will push Eason for the job. Even if Fromm doesn’t take that spot, the competition will make both quarterbacks better.
Richt followed up David Greene/D.J. Shockley with Joe Tereshinski. Matthew Stafford was followed up by Joe Cox. Aaron Mason was followed up by Hutson Mason. See a pattern? And a problem? Richt’s staff settled once it landed a top quarterback instead of stacking good quarterbacks on the roster. That’s a mistake.
For as much as fans say their coach “locked down a state” in recruiting, that’s impossible. There is just too much good talent in Georgia. But while there were some misses on signing day, Smart’s staff did land most of the talent in the state, including former Mary Persons standout Malik Herring.
Herring leads us to the third point. Smart’s staff focused on the lines in this class, and the lines should be the focus of every recruiting class. Georgia has a lot of returning talent on its defensive line, but that didn’t stop the Bulldogs from going after and landing Herring. Georgia also did well to restock its offensive line, a group that has been a struggle for many years with the Bulldogs’ program.
Now, the Bulldogs turn their focus to developing this talent, and that’s even more important than just getting the players on campus. We have yet to see just how good Smart will be at that part of the process as he prepares to enter just his second year, but there were some big misses during Richt’s time, especially at the end of his tenure.
Need proof? Georgia has just one player invited to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. That doesn’t tell the entire story about the talent on a college team, but it shows what the NFL teams think about the players coming out of the Georgia program this season.
That list would have been stronger had Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Lorenzo Carter jumped to the NFL after their junior seasons, but they decided to stick around for one more year with the Bulldogs. That’s a big plus for Smart and his team, which just added a lot more talent coming into the program with the latest signing class.