David Wunderlich offers a tale about Georgia’s in-state recruiting since the 2002 season that provides an interesting contrast between Richt’s final years and Smart’s first two.
We’ve all lamented the disintegration of the 2013 class, but David notes that the class was a disaster not just because of who came and went, but also because of who never made it in the first place.
It didn’t have the lowest percentage on the chart, but the 2013 cycle was the nadir for Richt and in-state recruiting.
The top seven prospects in Georgia went out of state. Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s top recruit, went to Ole Miss; to be fair, his brother already being in Oxford played a role there. Richt lost out on a pair of defensive linemen after that in Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams, guys who anchored Auburn’s defensive renaissance in 2016.
Fourth was Vonn Bell, who went on to star at Ohio State. Fifth and sixth were Alvin Kamara and Tyren Jones, a couple of guys who went to Alabama but didn’t stay long. Kamara eventually ended up a big contributor for Tennessee. Seventh was Demarcus Robinson, who became one of Florida’s top receivers in 2014 and 2015.
Georgia took a quarterback in 2013 with Brice Ramsey. He ended up a better punter than signal caller. Ramsey’s inability to fulfill his 4-star rating is why Georgia got the Greyson Lambert experience after Hutson Mason graduated. Another quarterback from Georgia who came out of high school that year was Alpharetta’s Joshua Dobbs. If 247 Sports has it right, UGA didn’t even offer Dobbs a scholarship.
Further down the list, UGA offered but couldn’t land Loganville’s 4-star running back Wayne Gallman. He and the next year’s 4-star Georgia product Deshaun Watson were obviously a huge part of Clemson’s amazing run the past couple of years.
That’s a lot of whiffing for one class. Granted, the lack of success at running back can be partially attributed to Georgia’s giant haul in 2012 with Gurley and Marshall, but given their history with injuries and suspension, a top-flight back in the 2013 class sure would have been a big help.
Meanwhile, check out Smart’s trend line.
It’s not at Richt’s peak, but it’s certainly headed in the right direction.
That being said, it’s worth pointing out that, as the overall talent pool in this state has grown significantly over the last decade, it’s going to be nearly impossible for Smart to match Richt’s highest percentage levels, as they’re aren’t any more scholarships to offer. What’s going to matter more, anyway, is if Smart can eliminate the dramatic swings that you can see beginning with the 2005 class.
Plateaus can be beautiful things. Especially when they represent two gifts in one.
Even so, UGA secured 11 of the top 16 players within its home territory. Even better, the Bulldogs boxed out a lot of their direct competitors. Rival Auburn had signed 14 combined Peach State blue chips in the previous three cycles, but it only got one this time around. Florida nabbed two blue chips in 2016 but was shut out in 2017. Tennessee had signed at least one Georgia blue chip every year since Lane Kiffin arrived in Knoxville in 2009, but the Vols too came up empty.
Can Smart keep up that level of production? That’s what we’ll have to wait and see.