You don’t need to follow Georgia’s recruiting closely (not that I do) to catch a rising sense of angst from those who do over the slow pace of success with regard to the 2018 class. It’s definitely moving to a different beat than last year.
At this time last year, the foundation for Georgia’s 2017 football recruiting class already was set for what turned into one of the program’s highest-rated talent hauls.
Already on board were five-star safety Richard LeCounte, four-star quarterback Jake Fromm and four-star offensive lineman Netori Johnson.
The Bulldogs were making noise under new coach Kirby Smart, who had created buzz with a capacity crowd of 93,000 at G-Day. Now, it’s like crickets by comparison.
The Bulldogs have three commitments total for 2018 and not one is in the ESPN 300.
Is the concern justified? Hard to say. I strongly doubt Kirby Smart is working any less hard this season than he did in 2016. And there’s something to be said about the observation he made after roping in one of the best signing classes in the program’s history.
“Now, oh, we just signed the greatest class ever, we just signed the second or third greatest, so how are you going to play when they just signed all of these great players who aren’t on campus yet who have not played a down yet,” Smart told the Touchdown Club of Athens in March. “You have that hurdle to overcome. You have 50 to 60 percent of your roster was freshmen or sophomores so they’re all back. ‘So, how am I going to play there, coach?’” Those are things that we’re encountering now not to mention a state that is always very fertile with great talent.”
Moreover, if this is to be believed…
Recruits have told Mansell that other schools are pushing that Georgia’s 2017 and 2016 recruiting classes have created a crowded depth chart with young talent at quarterback, wide receiver and on the offensive and defensive lines.
… that concern has been weaponized on the recruiting trail.
Add in that the 2018 in state class is not perceived to be as loaded as either the ’17 or ’19 groups, that it’s fairly top-heavy with quarterback talent, an area that Smart is likely to run into resistance based on the present make up of his roster, and it’s easier to see why there’s an apparent lack of progress.
There’s one other common theme I’ve seen in this and other articles analyzing Georgia’s slow start — a desire by many recruits to see real progress on the wins front.
“They’ve got to go out there and win games and show that they are an SEC championship program right now,” Haubert said. “As we get deeper into the fall and we get to see how this team has matured a year under his leadership and how this 2017 class, which was outstanding, begins to contribute and they can turn that into wins, now that starts to paint a little more of a different picture for prospects, there’s a little bit more of a comfort level.”
There’s a part of me that wonders how accurate a perception that is. After all, note that Miami is currently leading the field for next year’s class and you can make a similar show-me argument for Mark Richt’s program.
There’s another part of me that selfishly hopes that it is accurate, though. Why? Because if there’s one thing we’ve seen that drives Kirby Smart, it’s recruiting. So, if it takes the fear of winding up with a mediocre signing class next February to drive a stake through the heart of a throwaway season mentality that may have plagued Georgia football in 2016 for good, then all I can say is, kids, take your time. You’ll be doing all of us a big favor.