The new recruiting sheriff’s in town, part two

I’m certainly no recruiting guru, just a blogger who tries to makes sense of bigger picture stuff and trends on some occasions.  That being said, it pleases me when I find some validation out there from folks who do follow recruiting more thoroughly than I do.

For me, the most important take away from the 2018 recruiting classes in the short term is that Georgia has seriously impacted the balance of power in the SEC East.  As Alex Kirshner noted, this is actually a continuation of a trend that began with Smart’s arrival…

This time a year ago, Georgia was emerging as the far-and-away best recruiter in the lesser of the SEC’s two divisions. The Dawgs had the country’s No. 6 class in 2016, an incredible finish for a team that had just changed coaches (from Mark Richt to Kirby Smart) two months before National Signing Day. In 2017, they jumped up to No. 3, signing almost as many blue-chip recruits as the rest of the East combined.

… and has only accelerated with each succeeding class.

Then the 2018 recruiting cycle happened.

Georgia finished Signing Day with the second-highest-rated class in the history of recruiting rankings.

The Dawgs were No. 2 behind Ohio State heading into the day, but they went ahead and nabbed five-star cornerback Tyson Campbell and four-star receiver Tommy Bush. They flipped the country’s No. 2 outside linebacker, Quay Walker, from Alabama (via an amusing ceremonial fake-out) and another four-star backer, Otis Reese, from Michigan.

It’s the first time in eight years a non-Alabama team has taken the country’s No. 1 perch.

Kirby didn’t have much competition in the SEC on the recruiting front before the coaching changes at Florida and Tennessee and while those two schools had decent transitional classes with Mullen and Pruitt, neither had as good a showing as Smart’s first class.  (Granted, some of that disparity came as a result of Richt leaving a much firmer foundation for Smart to build on than what either Mullen or Pruitt had to start with, but, still.)

Bud Elliott describes the gap.

2. Imagine being a fan of Florida or Tennessee right now.

New coaching hires are supposed to come with a large dose of optimism.

Florida signed the No. 14 class, with 12 four-star players, Tennessee signed the No. 20 class, with eight four-stars.

And I won’t say that the honeymoon period is over in Gainesville or Knoxville, but a heavy dose of patience is going to be needed because the talent gap between Georgia and its two biggest division rivals is as big as it has been in 40 years.

  • Georgia has signed more four- and five-star recruits in the last two years (42) than Florida and Tennessee combined (36).
  • Georgia has signed more four- and five-star recruits in the last two classes (42) than Florida (37) or Tennessee (39) on their own has in the last four years.
  • Georgia’s roster is several years of recruiting ahead of the Gators and Vols.

The vast majority of elite players signed in the new Early Signing Period. That means that teams that made coaching changes got hosed. And it came at the perfect time for Georgia.

Florida’s class will be better in 2019, as will Tennessee’s thanks to not having to adjust to a coaching change. But Florida needs to hit home runs in 2019 and 2020 to close the gap with Georgia, and Tennessee is probably an additional year behind.

Dan Mullen and Jeremy Pruitt have a lot of work to do.

Bud’s right; Kirby Smart has been the recipient of some very fortuitous timing.  It’s to his credit, though, that he was fully prepared to take advantage.  Luck is the residue of design, and all that.

It’s worth noting that Smart’s also screwed with the perception of recruiting success in the division.  As Elliott put it, describing Mullen’s first class (which is actually pretty good, considering), “It feels weird talking about a top-15 class as something other than a success, but Georgia has simply raised the bar.”

Pruitt’s already gone on record immediately after this year’s signing day to proclaim that Tennessee’s next signing class will be very highly ranked (lucky for him, there’s a bumper crop of in state high school talent in the 2019 class).  To some extent, raised expectations kind of forced his hand there.  Smart’s made that a tougher row to hoe.  What kind of reaction should we expect from the Vol and Gator fan bases if their teams don’t sign top five classes nest year?  Or from Phil Fulmer?

Now, again, all I’m looking at here is the near horizon.  Things can and do change over the longer haul.  Pruitt does have a reputation as a great recruiter, but is handicapped in most years by a relatively slimmer in state talent base to draw from than Smart does.  Dan Mullen remembers what it was like in the day when it was Florida raking in the monster recruiting classes year after year.  It’s not unreasonable to expect a Gator bounce back.

But even that won’t be overnight.  Over the next two or three seasons, it’s hard to see how, barring epic misfortune, Georgia won’t enjoy a sizable talent advantage over its SEC East neighbors.  And if there’s one thing the Process has taught us, it’s that depth rules in this conference.

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42 Comments

Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, Recruiting, SEC Football

42 responses to “The new recruiting sheriff’s in town, part two

  1. Jared S.

    It truly has been a perfect storm.

    Which leads me to believe if Kirby is going to win a Natty then his best opportunity will be this year or next.

    Go Dawgs!

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  2. PTC DAWG

    I read elsewhere the gap between #1 UGA and #3 Texas was as big as Texas to #13…it’s huge.

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  3. Every Ga fan I know is walking around with a huge smile on their face. As well we should. They also feel that we have no competition in the East for the next few years. I also agree with that. It seems that Bama is the only competition we have at all. Based on last year that also appears true. I guess the only downside is the only world we have left to conquer is winning the NC. I’m expecting 15-0 this year and that does not seem like a crazy idea. All of this awesomeness is starting to make me uneasy.

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    • DoubleDawg1318

      Expecting 15-0? I’m telling you that’s crazy to expect it. Is it impossible? No. But even Saban doesn’t go undefeated that often. Going undefeated is really difficult and Saban has gone to great lengths to convince people that it’s not the norm to do that. We don’t want to be like the entitled Bammers expecting a ring or bust every year.

      In 2018, I expect a trip to Atlanta and after that it’s anyone’s guess. Bama is still king and we have to replace a lot of production AND leadership next year. IMO 2019 shapes up as the year to go championship or bust.

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      • I think someone said something like ” we do things because they are difficult, not because they are easy”. I didn’t say it would be easy, and I won’t be pissed if we don’t go 15-0. We certainly have the talent and schedule to go 15-0. I don’t feel we are entitled to anything, but I’m not making excuses before the season even starts either. Have a little faith brother.

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        • Dawg1

          You might be right about 12-0, but who knows who we play after that and what “roll” they are on at that point as well.

          Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson, the next few years, will all be a very tough out in the CFP, for instance.

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          • I didn’t mean to imply that I have done a thorough and detailed analysis of our strengths and weaknesses and the strengths and weaknesses of all our opponents and our likely playoff opponents, and having done said analysis, I am predicting we go 15-0. It’s more like we came within one play of the NC in 2017 and are going to be damn good in 2018 so let’s go out there and beat the shit out of everybody we play.

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      • artful codger

        !5-0 maybe, maybe not. But I would only be very mildly shocked to be 12-0 going in to Atlanta. And afterwards, who knows?

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    • Expect a war in Columbia, Baton Rouge and Columbia.

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      • Chopdawg

        Thishere. I anticipate several more wars than that. We’re only setting ourselves up for a fall, when we “expect” 15-0.

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  4. Kevin Clark

    I’m convinced UGA was a sleeping giant much like UF was in 1990 as Spurrier was getting cranked up in Gainesville. Plenty of talent in this state … the kids just needed a reason to be excited.
    The Ole Ball Coach brought a new offensive system to build the school’s brand of winning football (and he took early advantage of old school defensive philosophies/coaches who changed only when they got torched by the gators game after game).
    Georgia may have been a bit ahead in talent when Kirby arrived compared to 1990 UF … But Kirby still has definitely built a machine at “just the right time” when UF and Tennessee are trying to get their footing back.
    The only thing left to see play out is the gators and vols losing big matchups to UGA to finish 2nd and 3rd in the East while they still earn 9-10 wins in a season. They, too, will know what it feels like to be so close … yet so far.
    For the first time in more than 2 decades … I am supremely confident Jacksonville won’t be our “what just happened?” game ever again. That is huge.

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    • SSB Charley

      This is what I’d hoped we’d do when Spurrier left and Zook took over at Florida. Seems we are far better positioned now to build a great program than we were then, despite the presence of better coaching in Gainesville now as compared to 2002.

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  5. illinidawg

    But, but they lied about ticket prices so now. . . ???

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  6. W Cobb Dawg

    New recruiting sheriff’s in town part 3: Kirby doesn’t take a pass on in-state talent. Hate to say it, but CMR & Co didn’t even sniff at Andrew Thomas, Fromm and LaCounte – just to name a few.

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    • garageflowers

      Fromm, yes, but not true on Thomas and LaCounte. Thomas’ first SEC offer was UGA early 2015, and LaCounte was on campus a bunch that season.

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      • W Cobb Dawg

        I thought Thomas said himself that UGA wasn’t recruiting him very hard. I think the Senator actually had a post about that some months ago.

        But the fact is, it was extremely unusual for CMR to go after many of the top in-state OLs. It’s inconceivable he’d ever land Thomas, Salyer and Hill. And until Kirby was named HC, I really doubt LaCounte was seriously considering UGA.

        But that’s all water over the dam, and it’s a shiny new day in UGA recruiting.

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        • willypmd

          I think that speaks to how hard richt recruited in general. I think Kirby’s third tier prospects are recruited harder and more consistently than anyone Richt ever went after

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        • garageflowers

          Recruiting was good before Kirby, but it is phenomenal now. At first I thought the coaching might suffer when the staff hires seemed based on recruiting acumen, but this season showed me otherwise. Good times ahead.

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  7. Russ

    Kirby’s preparation met the opportunity.

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  8. Bright Idea

    Gotta coach em’ up which I think Kirby will but he’s also got to turn them loose on offense. Don’t play to run out the clock but to score often. That’s the only question mark left IMO.

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    • TMC DAWG

      I agree on turning the offense loose: I expect the run pass ratio to be more like 55 run to 45 pass Its gonna be fun watching Kirby’s recurits take charge: Sure we will be young on defense but these guys All look like studs

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  9. KornDawg

    I need a cigarette after reading that, and I don’t even smoke.

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  10. AusDawg85

    If history is our guide, expect some major scandals to hit the SECe as some folks get over aggressive and/or seek shortcuts to close the gap.

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  11. 3rdandGrantham

    Disagree on Pruitt being an excellent recruiter. I’d say he’s a solid recruiter but also turns a lot of people off, especially parents. Heck, he’s already ticked off a top ’19 prospect, and he just removed UT from his top 3-4 after spending time with him. Unlike Smart, who believes in brutal honesty with recruits, Pruitt’s M.O. is to tell you everything you want to hear in order to get you to commit. Some fall for this, others immediately raise a red flag.

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    • Uglydawg

      Now, now, 3rd…this is why Phats is so self-sacrificially holding Jeffie’s hand while he grooms him. He may event teach him how to wave bye-bye in a couple of years.

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    • willypmd

      Well he helped Saban sign the highest rated class in the history of recruiting last year, so there is that…

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  12. Bulldog Joe

    It’s great to see Georgia ahead of the curve in preparing for the early signing period. We haven’t seen much innovation from Georgia since Philip Fulmer and Roy Kramer shut down the no-huddle offense early in Coach Richt’s tenure.

    The upcoming recruiting class will be more competitive, as the other programs adjust.

    Great job by Coach Smart, the coaches, and the support staff. And a good job by B-M by not allowing The Georgia Way to interfere.

    Now let’s see if they can avoid what happened with the 2013 class (the last class recruited after a strong Georgia season).

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  13. stoopnagle

    “What kind of reaction should we expect from the Vol and Gator fan bases if their teams don’t sign top five classes nest year?”

    I think that depends on the final scores of the games with Georgia. If they look anything like ’17, then it’s going to get real hot real fast.

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  14. steve

    Jeremy Pruitt was UT’s 8th HC choice for a reason. He is the coaching equivalent of a preferred walk with anger management issues. The signing day press conference was episode 1 of season 1 of ‘Butt Chugger U- a team called despair’.
    Pruitt became visibly defensive and bit the head off a reporter who asked what he was going to do about not ‘meeting the needs’ at defensive back through the signing day results. Pruitt overlooked the fact that he was trying to recruit 4 DBs (that he missed on) and stated aggressively ‘who said we had a need that wasn’t met?’ (paraphrased)…..I can hear Pruitt’s gastric lining fizzing all the way from Knoxville.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. TomReagan

    It really is a perfect storm. Florida and Tennessee are both down, so is LSU, Who knows where Auburn is in any given year. Richt’s going to continue to do well at Miami, well enough to hurt Florida and FSU, but most likely will plateau below where Miami could be. USC has Helton as head coach which will keep them from being what they could be. They also have Washington and UCLA with Kelly in conference now. Michigan looked like they were on the upswing, but have continued to disappoint on field and did so in recruiting this year.

    Penn State looks strong, though. Washington’s been good, but aren’t proven, and while they have a good tradition they’ve never been consistently top level and aren’t in a fertile recruiting area. Texas had a very quiet recruiting year and were much better than last season. They are probably the best bet to join the top tier, but have to deal with Oklahoma, although who knows how good their new coach will be without Mayfield. A&M with Fisher should certainly be better, and hopefully good enough to hurt Texas, LSU, and Bama, but have never been able to consistently stay at the top despite their resources before.

    The bottom line is that I think we’ve managed to get in the door at a time when we can establish ourselves while others are down and build upon it. Something Clemson’s been able to do. There’s a natural void at the top of college football that we have a chance to step into.

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  16. TnDawg

    It’s nice to win the recruiting battle. Takes talent to be good. Takes coaching to be great.
    Dan Mullen can coach. His record at MS is pretty damn remarkable for that school. Jury is out on Pruitt as a HC.
    Kirby can coach as well, I am not ready to claim the East cause there are some good coaches in there. Don’t forget Muschamp, he aint a chump.
    This class gives me hope that we will be in the NCG again, but I don’t see it as a given.

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  17. Macallanlover

    Count me as one whose jaw dropped with the results last February, as we landed just about every target we went after. Now, the December and February signings this year knocked me another step back as every battle continued to go our way. Saying it was because TN and Florida had a down year is simply garbage, they haven’t competed well with us in the prior years when they won the SEC twice and finished with pleasing bowl wins (TN), that had them rated higher than us at year’s end, and going into the season. Wasn’t TN in the Top 5 in some polls last year with Dobbs and crowd? Don’t take this incredible performance by Kirby and staff the past years and Dawgrade it. Unbelievable accomplishment, and yes, there is a substantial gap between us and everyone on our schedule.

    Only Bama is equal to, or ahead of us in talent And we went toe to toe with them last month and gave the damn thing away. Still hurts because you don’t get those chances often. We didn’t trick them, or play some sissy football against them. We held our own playing their game. We will be back in Atlanta this December, and will see Bama again. Our offense will be better this year, and our defense has 10 months to get ready to get close to where we were last year. That will be the only question for me, and I am not sure the O won’t be able to offset any shortfall they have. Ain’t skeered!!

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  18. Mike Cooley

    I am already tired of this emerging narrative that FU will be “back” and very soon. That really all depends on what you mean. If you mean they won’t be as sad sack as this year then that’s reasonable. But anybody who thinks they are even going to sniff the Corch and Spurrier type stuff is on crack. Those days are over. We have Kirby and Mullen is a far cry from Corch or Spurrier. I don’t care how many blind squirrel jokes he makes.

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    • Macallanlover

      Yep, we have some wimpy fans who have dropped to their knees whenever they see someone with a reptile on their hat. Those 90s have been gone a long time now, there was a clear edge for them for a few years but that does not define the series. We lead be a decent margin, soon to be double digits again. Some years we give one away, some they do. Good rivalry but no one has any right to disrespect the other, and no one should be intimidated. I expect Mullen to improve FU to some degree, would be hard to, but UGA will continue to win the majority.

      Mullen’s smart mouth and fear of UGA, won’t help him, he had better worry how to sell his program to the recruits in Florida. The other Florida schools, plus UGA, AU, and Bama, all have a good story to tell those players. Not to mention the contacts that have been developed in the past decade or so.

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  19. Mike Cooley

    Also, a chump is exactly what Boom is.

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    • 83Dawg

      Go back and re-watch the South Carolina game.

      They aren’t Oklahoma or Bama, but they gave UGA all we could handle, in Athens. They outscored Michigan 23-10 in the second half of their bowl game and won by 7. Boom is not a chump.

      I’ll be in Columbia at the cockroach in September, but I am not looking forward to it.

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      • Mike Cooley

        I’m not trying to argue for the sake of arguing but do you think maybe just maybe that had something to do with the grind of the season and us trying to stay undefeated as much as it did with how good Boom is?

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      • TomReagan

        Cackalacky did a great job against us this past year. We conteolled the game, but they made us fight for everything. I agree that Boom is doing a good job there. And we will always get their best shot.

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  20. NoAxeToGrind

    So goes the offensive line, so goes UGA. If the OL is dominant in 2018, I can see an SEC championship and a NC game. Depending upon how dominating it is, I can see a NC with luck on our side. If that occurs, it will be the first since I was in the Superdome in 1980 at the age of 32. I am now 69. Hope springs eternal, especially at my age.

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