Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Dabo Swinney move over, you’ve got some company on the recruiting trail. If Kirby Smart’s first full recruiting class is any indication of what’s to come for Georgia, then the future is mighty bright in Athens.
In college football’s first-ever Early Signing Period, the ‘Dawgs were busy and are poised to battle Ohio State for the top overall class come National Signing Day in February. Georgia signed 18 players on Wednesday, including a whopping six five-stars—according to 247Sports—headlined by No. 2 overall player, quarterback Justin Fields.
Overall, the ‘Dawgs currently have six of the nation’s top 25 players signed for the class of 2018. The news got even better on Wednesday afternoon as four-star cornerback Nadab Joseph flipped his commitment from Alabama to UGa and linebacker Channing Tindall also picked the ‘Dawgs.
Georgia likely isn’t done as some other high-profile targets considering the Bulldogs have yet to decide and could take it to February. Regardless if the ‘Dawgs add any more players or not, this is supremely talented and well-balanced class with high-level talent on both sides of the ball. Remember when the offensive line was a weakness before Smart arrived? That shouldn’t be a concern anymore as Georgia has picked up two huge classes in a row along the offensive line.
Here are four takeaways from Georgia’s impressive Early Signing Day period.
More talent at quarterback
The state of Georgia was absolutely stacked at the quarterback position in 2018, with the top two players in the country being quarterbacks from the Peach State. Georgia also happened to be the home of four of the top 11 quarterback prospects in the country. For the longest time, none of these players picked the ‘Dawgs.
However, that changed in October when Fields, the No. 2 overall player in the country, decided to stay home. Early in the process, Fields had picked Penn State but backed out of his pledge and most felt he’d stay in the south. Florida, Florida State and the Nittany Lions were all finalists for Fields, but it was clear once he made his commitment public to the home team, there was no going back.
Have spoke to many coaches who say Justin Fields is the most impressive QB prospect they've seen in the past 3 yrs out of HS. He's now officially a #Georgia Bulldog.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 20, 2017
This begs the question: who plays quarterback in 2018? Georgia has Fields, along with current freshman Jake Fromm and former five-star Jacob Eason. Eason, of course, could transfer, meaning it will be Fromm and Fields battling it out in 2018.
This will be a fun battle to watch in the spring.
‘Dawgs stacked in the backfield
Georgia is about to lose Nick Chubb and Sony Michel after the College Football Playoff. Fortunately, the Bulldogs expected to still be strong in the backfield in 2018 with D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien all back. Well, in this class, Smart added two more high-profile backs in five-star Zamir White and four-star James Cook.
White pledged to the Bulldogs months ago. He will challenge for playing time as a freshman next fall. The 6’1”, 220-pound White has everything you want in a back. He has elite size, speed and vision. He runs with good pad level and can make defenders miss, too.
Cook’s addition was a bit of a surprise. The brother of former FSU star Dalvin Cook, James Cook had long been pegged to the Seminoles. However, Cook pledged to UGa back in October and stuck with the ‘Dawgs. Jimbo Fisher’s departure, along with some recruiting from players like Fields, kept him in the fold despite an official visit to Tallahassee last weekend.
Another positive with the addition of Cook is the in-roads it creates in the talent-rich South Florida area.
Offensive line studs
Just last year, Georgia signed Isaiah Wilson, Andrew Thomas, Netori Johnson and D’Marcus Hayes on the offensive line. All players were ranked as a four-star or better. Thomas found himself in the starting lineup as a freshman, starting all 13 games at right tackle.
So, what did Smart do for an encore?
He signed the No. 10 overall player in the country, guard Jamaree Salyer, a 6’4”, 340-pound road-grader from Atlanta who could push to start immediately as a freshman in 2018. Salyer is a tremendous athlete who also happens to be pretty light on his feet.
Another big addition to this class was five-star tackle, Cade Mays. The 6’6”, 318-pounder from Knoxville, chose the Bulldogs on Wednesday, spurning Clemson and his hometown Tennessee, among others. Mays, a former Tennessee commit, backed out of his pledge to the Vols toward the end of the Butch Jones’ era. Tennessee’s bungling of its coaching search also hurt its chances for the Vol legacy.
Mays, the No. 16 overall player, is a huge get for Georgia. Mays is an elite talent physically. But what sets Mays apart from most prospects is his nastiness. Former Bulldog George Foster was among those impressed.
First time checking out Cade Mays highlights. First thing that stands out is his size and his nasty demeanor. You can work with that as a coach. You never wanna have to teach somebody how to be aggressive.— FOST (@GeorgeFoster72) December 20, 2017
In addition to Salyer and Mays, the ‘Dawgs also signed four-star guard Trey Hill and four-star center Warren Ericson. The offensive line will be stacked in Athens for the foreseeable future.
Georgia’s defense was arguably the best in college football this season. Opponents found it tough to run or pass against the Bulldogs. A stout front-seven was a major reason why. Continuing with that tradition, Georgia kept adding talent to its defense during the Early Signing Period.
Five-star linebacker Adam Anderson is in the mold of some of the talented linebackers on UGa’s current roster. Anderson has good size and speed and can play with his hand in the dirt, too. His versatility will allow him to play on or off the ball at the next level.
Smart added another talented pass rusher in Brenton Cox. The 6’5”, 250-pounder from Stockbridge, Georgia, is one of the most physically impressive athletes in the 2018 class. A former Ohio State commit, Cox profiles as an edge rusher at the next level. He has elite athleticism and once he adds more moves to his pass-rushing arsenal, he has the potential to be a superstar.
In getting Joseph to flip from Alabama, that’s a huge win for Smart in the recruiting world. Another player from South Florida, Joseph possesses the ability to be an All-American cornerback at the next level.
BREAKING: Rivals100 cornerback and Alabama commit Nadab Joseph has flipped to #UGA. He is the No. 84 player in the nation. This is a HUGE surprise pickup for the Dawgs. pic.twitter.com/axTuH99yMj— Radi Nabulsi (@RadiNabulsi) December 20, 2017
Divaad Wilson is another defensive back Georgia signed out of Miami.
The news of Tindall’s commitment late Wednesday was another feather in the cap for Smart. Tindall is a similar to player to current star linebacker Roquan Smith.
Georgia’s success on the field this season is certainly making a major impact on recruiting. And, according to 247Sports, the Bulldogs have the top two ranked recruiters in Dell McGee and Sam Pittman. So as long as Georgia keeps winning, it will be competing with Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson for the nation’s top-ranked class on an annual basis.