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UGA Recruiting - Kirby Smart Always Has One or Two Late Commits Up His Sleeve

Jason Brassell

It's hard to complain or post anything negative about recruiting when you're the back to back national champions and have the top rated recruiting classes in 2024 and 2025. Saying that, this hasn't been the best week in recruiting for Kirby Smart as far as the secondary goes with 5* S KJ Bolden choosing Florida State and 4* S Peyton Woodyard flipping his commitment to Alabama. This once was a promising safety class, with Woodyard and 4* Jaylen Heyward committed and UGA seemingly the favorite for Bolden. It is now a position group filled with mostly questions.

Many have asked the question "Why"? 

Why wouldn't a high profile safety want to come play for the back to back national champions with two great position coaches in Fran Brown and Will Muschamp, in addition to the head coach who also played and coached the position? The easy answer and the one most fanatics turn to when they feel like they've been spurned by a top notch recruit is NI, which is a topic for an entirely different article.

You also have to look at the roster and previous classes. Right now Malaki Starks and Javon Bullard look to have the two safety positions locked down for the next year or two. Starks will hold one spot after this season for his junior year, while Bullard will have to decide whether to go pro or not. That at least gives the perception of no spots being open, even though both of these players will likely be in the NFL before anyone coming in the 2024 class sniffed the starting lineup. There is also former 5* Joenel Aguero, who has already turned some heads in his first practices in Athens as a true freshman. If he continues to progress, he's going to be tough to beat out. That would only leave one safety spot open for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, along with the star position.

Next, you have to look at the defensive back haul in the 2023 class. It is important to remember that Georgia mostly recruits prospects out of high school who they think would be able to play multiple positions in the secondary. This is evident in the 2023 class, with multiple recruits coming in who could play all over the field. Aguero is more of a true safety, while 5* AJ Harris has been practicing almost exclusively at cornerback. Four stars Daniel Harris and Chris Peal are both promising young defensive backs who could easily play multiple positions in the secondary. Justyn Rhett came to Athens ranked as a 3* cornerback, but I see him in more of a safety/star role. He has put on some muscle since arriving. Finally there is 3* ATH Kyron Jones who played running back in high school. Georgia was able to grab him at the early signing period last year, selling him on the idea that he projects more as a DB at the next level.

As far as the 2024 clas goes, I talked more about Georgia's options HERE.

What we didn't discuss is Kirby Smart and his staff's ability to grab a surprise or two at the end of every recruiting cycle. The head man for the red and black seems to always have one up his sleeve. It doesn't always come in the form of a five star recruit every single time, but there have been a ton of starters, contributors, and NFL draft picks that Georgia has swooped in on and snagged late in the recruiting process.

As a matter of fact, there have been 49 notable recruits in five years who committed after today's date. I say notable because there have been more who either transferred, haven't contributed, or haven't been in Athens long enough to really contribute. Of these 49 commits, I count at least 21 of them that Georgia snagged late in the process. This includes guys who we were in on for a long time and won out at the end (Nakobe Dean), recruits we just flat out stole out from under other teams (George Pickens), prospects we flipped (Daylon Everette), and late signees that nobody really knew much about (Ladd McConkey). It also includes one Stetson Bennett, if anyone remembers who he is. These prospects will be in red in the chart below.

There are eight current NFL players on the list, including transfer Tyrique Stevenson. The list includes 16 players who have been a regular starter at one time or another, while 13 others have been solid contributors on offense or defense.

I post all this to say that it's ONLY AUGUST. ANYTHING can happen between now and the early signing period in December. The pads go on soon and the Big Dawgs will separate themselves from the pretenders. It's easier to win recruiting battles in the summer when coaches can sell promises to every recruit they meet. It's a diferent story when you get between those white lines.

There will surely be late bloomers at different positions. There will be recruits commited elsewhere visiting Athens to see what goes on 'Tween the Hedges. There will very likely be Georgia commits viiting elsewhere. There will be commitments, decommitments, and flips. There will be NIL promises and NIL fallouts (see Florida and Jaden Rashada).

This isn't over by a longshot and whether you have your red and black glasses on or off, history tells us that Kirby Smart is the best in the business. Take a look at what he's done late in the recruiting process in the last five years:

2023 Date 2022 Date 2021 Date
4* Monroe Freeling 8/29/2022 4* CJ Madden 9/16/2021 3* Marlin Dean 9/4/2020
4* Tyler Williams 9/27/2022 4* Oscar Delp 10/13/2021 3* Jackson Meeks 9/8/2020
4* Roderick Robinson 10/10/2022 3* Aliou Bah 10/18/2021 5* Amarius Mims 10/14/2020
4* Chris Peal 10/23/2022 5* Mykel Williams 10/20/2021 3* Kamari Lassiter 10/22/2020
4* Anthony Evans 11/25/2022 4* Bear Alexander 10/21/2021 4* Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins 10/30/2020
4* Samuel M'Pemba 12/4/2022 4* Julian Humphrey 11/12/2021 4* Smael Mondon 11/18/2020
3* Jamal Meriweather 12/5/2022 4* Jaheim SIngletary 11/21/2021 4* Nyland Green 12/8/2020
4* Damon Wilson 12/21/2022 3* Drew Bobo 12/13/2021 4* Xavian Sorey 12/16/2020
4* Daniel Harris 12/21/2022 5* Daylen Everette 12/14/2021    
3* Kyron Jones 12/21/2022 3* CJ Smith 12/14/2021 2020 Date
5* Jordan Hall 12/22/2022 5* Marvin Jones 12/15/2021 4* Arian Smith 12/18/2019
    4* Earnest Greene 1/8/2022 4* Jermaine Burton 12/18/2019
    4* Christen Miller 2/2/2022 4* Austin Blaske 12/18/2019
    3* EJ Lightsey 2/2/2022 3* Daijun Edwards 1/30/2020
    3* Andrew Paul 2/2/2022 3* Devin Willock 12/15/2019
        5* Kelee Ringo 1/4/2020
        4* Darnell Washington 1/2/2020
        3* Ladd McConkey 2/2/2020
        2019 Date
        4* Lewis Cine 10/10/2018
        4* DJ Daniel 11/6/2018
        3* Kenny McIntosh 11/14/2018
        5* Nakobe Dean 12/19/2018
        3* Stetson Bennett 12/19/2018
        5* Tyrique Stevenson 1/4/2019
        4* George Pickens 2/6/2019
*** players in red are ones who Georgia snagged late in the process


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Craig Lawson

Posted (edited)

It's true that people jump to NIL conclusions, but in this climate it's usually true and there is nothing wrong with that. College football is pro sports now, most professionals (in any field) trend toward higher paying jobs. Not that money is the only factor, but it's a major factor. FSU is a brand name so if they're offering you a rumored 3-4 times as much money as the defending national champs that's going to be hard for anyone to turn down. It's also a big risk for a school to invest that much into a high school kid. If it doesn't work out things can go south really quickly. Georgia is the standard right now and they aren't in a position where they need to make big swings.  

Edited by Craig Lawson
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