How a Georgia Bulldog fan should feel after this year’s signing day probably depends on how much you get caught up in the recruiting rankings.
Yes, it’s another consensus Top 10 class for Georgia (ranging from No. 6 to No. 10, with USA Today’s ranking based on averaging all the others placing the Dawgs at No. 9), but for some fans that’s like another 10-win season. A couple of months ago, UGA was considered a lock for a Top 5, maybe Top 3 class. Then Mike Bobo left and all the flips, double-flips and back flips started.
In the end, the Dawgs lost a couple of big names in wide receivers Van Jefferson and Darius Slayton. But while at one point there were eight “commitments” who apparently had decommitted, several of them found their way back into the fold, winding up sending those faxes to Butts-Mehre.
To me, though, where Georgia is ranked by the recruiting services (who make their money pushing this horse-race mentality) matters less than how Mark Richt and his staff did in addressing the program’s most pressing personnel needs.
While many observers were stressing Georgia’s need to have a big recruiting year defensively, I took it pretty much for granted Jeremy Pruitt was on that case. The area that most concerned me going into signing day was wide receiver, where the Dawgs have an immediate need for additional playmakers this coming season after the graduation of their two most reliable ball catchers.
In that area, Georgia did come up a little short of hopes and expectations but managed to hold on to five-star prospect Terry Godwin despite a full-court press by Auburn, and saw “athlete” Shaq Wilson, who had decommitted to go to West Virginia, change his mind again and sign with UGA. He could wind up playing cornerback, though he’d indicated during recruiting he’d like to play receiver. Also, as my brother Tim pointed out, Georgia added some good size to the receiving corps in Jayson Stanley and Michael Chigbu.
You’ve got to wonder if the two that got away weren’t so much influenced by the departure of Bobo as they were by the idea that Georgia will again operate a run-heavy offense due to the presence of Nick Chubb. If Aaron Murray were still back there slinging the ball for Georgia, I’m betting Jefferson and Slayton would have stayed with the Red and Black.
The area I was next most concerned about was offensive line, more with future seasons in mind than 2015, since those guys generally take a year or two to develop. The Dawgs did pretty well here, signing four and getting Pat Allen to recommit, though Dunwoody’s Nick Buchanan ended up choosing the Gators. What bothers me here the most, though, is that Georgia didn’t really seem to put top priority on signing offensive linemen until after new coach Rob Sale was hired last month, when they suddenly launched on a frantic quest for prospects in that area. Considering the OL has been a chronic weakness during the Richt era, you’d think the recruiting staff would have been on the case long before that.
In terms of numbers, of course, defense was indeed the biggest need for Georgia, and Pruitt and company seem to have done an excellent job there, with a bunch of fresh bodies signed for the secondary (including some guys who probably can play this season, like defensive back Rico McGraw, who had switched his allegiance to Bama before coming back to UGA) and scoring a bonanza of talent on the DL with a stellar class led by 6-foot-4 311-pound Trent Thompson, considered the nation’s overall No. 1 prospect according to the 247Sports Composite.
The Dawgs also signed several linebackers, most notably Natrez Patrick, who was among Georgia’s eight early enrollees, and still might get Macon County linebacker Roquan Smith, who at this writing hasn’t yet made up his mind where he’s going (thanks to a timely phone call from the UGA staff right after his televised commitment to UCLA, telling him that the guy who was recruiting him there might be leaving for the Atlanta Falcons).
Georgia didn’t sign a quarterback since they’re pretty well stocked there (they also have the nation’s top recruit at that position lined up for 2016).
And, with three five-star tailbacks already in Athens, running back wasn’t a priority, so Georgia took only one, snatching Tae Crowder away from Georgia Southern after juco back Chris Carson switched to Oklahoma State. Crowder looks like he could follow in the shoes of fullback/H-back Quayvon Hicks.
There are more out-of-state recruits in this class than usual, which bothers some fans a lot, but Georgia still managed to take five of the seven top-ranked Peach State prospects and, considering the sort of talent the Dawgs have managed to get from places like North Carolina and Florida in recent years, I’m not sure that whole close-the-borders meme is as important as it’s cracked up to be.
So, overall, if you go by the star rankings (which, let’s remember, are educated guesses), it’s a very good recruiting class, if not a great one. The truth is, you can’t judge any recruiting class, really, until a couple of years later.
In terms of getting what they needed, however, I’d say Richt and company did pretty well after getting off to an extremely fast start and then faltering a bit with closing on some guys. I think even Flo from the Progressive TV ads would say they qualify for at least a few sprinkles on their ice cream cones.
I’ll be off for a couple of days, so I won’t be posting anything this weekend. The Blawg will be back next week. Until then, if there’s something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics, or you have a question for the Junkyard Blawg, email email@example.com.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg
Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.