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Georgia football winners and losers following 2021 Early Signing Period
Winner: Kirby Smart recruiting the state of Georgia
The goal of recruiting shouldn’t be to get the best players that are close to your school. It should be to get the best players, wherever they are in the country.
That’s why it’s never made much sense to ding Kirby Smart and how he’s recruited the state of Georgia in the past two recruiting cycles. Sure Georgia has seen its fair share of talent leave the state. But it’s also brought in the No. 2 and No. 1 recruiting classes in the past two cycles.
That trend reversed itself in the 2021 cycle, as Georgia happened to miss on some of its out-of-state targets — Maason Smith and Donovan Edwards both elected to play for home-state schools instead of the Bulldogs — but cleaned up in the state.
The Bulldogs signed seven of the top 11 players from the state of Georgia. And if you remove Miami quarterback signee Jake Garcia, who doesn’t even go here after transferring into the state from California to play his senior season, the Bulldogs signed seven of the top 10.
The 2021 recruiting class was also the first time that Georgia signed the top prospect in the state since Kirby Smart took over. Offensive tackle Amarius Mims held that honor this year as he rates as the No. 7 overall recruit in the country. So that narrative is definitely dead.
So when Smart was asked about how this came to be, he made it clear geography or the proximity to Georgia didn’t have much to do with the Bulldogs in-state heavy class.
“I want the best football players. I want high-character people that care about the team and love UGA. If that’s a kid 15 minutes away or 15 hours away, I am very comfortable with that.”
Smart added as well that while Georgia was hurt by a lack of out of state visits, that also kept a lot of the in-state kids from looking at schools outside the state of Georgia.
The Bulldogs signed another top 3 recruiting class. Last year, most of those kids came from outside the state. This year, more of them came from the state of Georgia.
The reality is, Smart and his coaching staff are pretty capable of getting the best players in the country, no matter where they come from.
Loser: Georgia’s 2021 cornerback depth
Georgia saw only one de-commitment on Wednesday. It didn’t come from a top prospect, but it do happen at critical position of need.
De’Jahn Warren, the nation’s top JUCO cornerback and a 4-star prospect flipped from Georgia to Jackson State.
You’re probably scratching your head as to why a defensive back would leave Georgia for a school that doesn’t even play at the FBS level. This is where it is worth remembering that Deion Sanders is now the head coach at Jackson State. The Hall of Famer defensive back clearly has some strong pull with other defensive backs.
Georgia did sign two other prospects who are expected to be cornerbacks in college, as the Bulldogs landed 4-star Nyland Green and 4-star Kamari Lassiter. Both of those prospects are higher-rated than Warren, but with Warren coming from the JUCO ranks he was more ready for the college game.
The Bulldogs may now need Green and or Lassiter to play early depending on what Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell decide to do. If both elect to go pro, a very real possibility, Georgia will have some big questions at the cornerback position for the first time in a while.
It’s worth remembering Smart is one of the best defensive back coaches in the country. And Georgia does have options it can go to in the doomsday scenario, such as moving Tyrique Stevenson to one of those spots. There’s also talented 2020 signees in Kelee Ringo and Jalen Kimber who are anxious to make an impact.
But losing Warren certainly stings for Georgia on a day where there was little drama.
Winner: Matt Luke
After Georgia signed seven offensive linemen in the 2020 recruiting cycle, Georgia wasn’t going to have to bring in a massive haul of offensive linemen.
But offensive line coach Matt Luke made those limited spots count. In his first year at Georgia, Luke signed four offensive linemen in total. Three of them ranked in the top-100 overall prospects, with Mims coming at No. 7, Micah Morris at No. 63 and Dylan Fairchild at No. 97. All three of those offensive linemen come from the state of Georgia as well.
“I am really excited about this group. They are athletic. They have great size. They are really bright, good kids,” Smart said. “All of those guys, I can’t say enough about each one of them. Matt Luke is excited to get those guys in and start coaching them.”
The fourth recruit is 3-star prospect Jared Wilson, though he shouldn’t be forgotten either. He was good enough to play for Sam Pittman, as he first committed to the program back when the now Arkansas head coach was still at Georgia.
“Jared Wilson was one of the guys that we targeted early on—size, width, hand-size, athleticism—really good target and works really hard,” Smart said. “He comes from a really athletic background family. He’s a great kid.”
In the 247Sports recruiter rankings, Georgia’s highest-ranked assistant coach was none other than Luke. With two back-to-back strong classes, Luke will have a tough time following this up in the 2022 recruiting cycle. But it should be fun seeing how he tries to top the list.
Loser: Non-elite teams
From a recruiting perspective, there have five elite teams: Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, LSU and Clemson. Maybe you can throw Oklahoma in there as well, though its success has largely been limited to just recruits on the offensive side of the ball.
But those first five teams mentioned have dominated college football, and it almost always starts with recruiting. Those five teams are responsible for all but one win playoff win since the College Football Playoff started in 2014.
And all these teams put even further distance from themselves and the very good teams like Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame and USC.
Of the top 100 recruits in the county, 47 went to those first five schools. Alabama had 13 and Ohio State is just behind with 12. The Bulldogs and LSU both had eight while Clemson came in with six.
That means the rest of the country came in with 53 of those top-100 prospects.
The gap between the elite and the rest of college football is only getting wider. We’re seeing that play out on the field, as Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State are routinely in the playoff picture. Georgia is usually lurking around as well. Notre Dame has figured how to make things interesting, as they signed four top-100 recruits in this cycle and seem poised to make the College Football Playoff for a second-time in two seasons.
The College Football Playoff has fundamentally broken the sport. It has allowed the rich and powerful schools, which Georgia is, to continue to mind the best talent because it’s one of the few schools that can consistently sell that they can compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Until there is an expansion of the College Football Playoff this trend of super recruiting teams is only going to continue. Much to the detriment of the sport.
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