New rankings show recruiting progress for Georgia, Georgia Tech

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins shake hands during an NCAA college football game at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, November 30, 2019. Georgia won 52-7 over the Georgia Tech. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins shake hands during an NCAA college football game at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, November 30, 2019. Georgia won 52-7 over the Georgia Tech. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Honestly, it feels weird to write about college football recruiting under the circumstances. During normal times it ranks low within the broad category of sports. It’s even lower now. We don’t know when we’ll have games, so why worry about which high school players have committed to play at which college?

On the other hand, college football will have games at some point, and player talent is the most important factor for winning them. The recruiting world, like everything in sports, keeps going as best it can. So, it's noteworthy that both of the state's Power 5 programs gained a bit of ground in the updated class rankings released by 247Sports on Wednesday.

Georgia moved up two spots to No. 11 in the rankings. Coach Kirby Smart remains on track to sign another class that ranks at or near the top. Georgia Tech moved up seven spots to No. 48. Coach Geoff Collins still has work to do to match his impressive 2020 class, but he has recruiting momentum.

The Bulldogs were boosted by commitments last week from former Warren County star Lovasea Carroll and Camden County offensive tackle Micah Morris. Georgia now has five committed recruits ranked among the recruiting site's top 142 players. The 247Sports experts unanimously predict that nine other players on their list of the top 247 will commit to the Bulldogs.

Georgia hired Smart in part because he was a part of Alabama’s recruiting success as Nick Saban’s assistant. He’s delivered on that front. Smart didn’t have much time to patch together his first Bulldogs class for 2016, but it still ranked sixth nationally. Smart’s subsequent classes were Nos. 3, 1, 2, and 1 in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Georgia’s current class ranking of No. 11 is strong considering it includes only six recruits. Each of the teams ranked above Georgia have more commitments. The average rating of Georgia’s recruits is third highest behind Ohio State and Clemson.

Georgia's 2021 class includes one composite five-star recruit, Prince Avenue Christian quarterback Brock Vandagriff (ranked No. 12 nationally). He's an important recruit for the Bulldogs because graduate-transfer quarterback Jamie Newman is a stop-gap for 2020. The 247Sports experts unanimously predict that three other five-star recruits will pick Georgia.

If so, the Bulldogs would challenge for the top-ranked class again for 2021. Right now, Ohio State is in the lead. The Buckeyes have commitments from 15 players, including three five-star recruits. Clemson’s 2021 class ranks second.

Tech has just three commitments in the 2021 class. That's how it goes for those programs that make offers and then wait for the talent to trickle down from the top. But Collins' track record as a recruiter, first as an assistant and now as Tech's head coach, suggests the Jackets will move up in the rankings.

Collins did well to just to keep Tech's 2019 class mostly intact when he was hired in December 2018. His 2020 class ranked 26th nationally in the 247Sports Composite. That's Tech's highest ranking since its famed 2007 class that included Derrick Morgan, Joshua Nesbitt, Morgan Burnett and Jonathan Dwyer (Collins was a Tech assistant back then).

The latest recruiting rankings are positive for Tech and Georgia. But you might be wondering how 247Sports can update player rankings from February considering how the coronavirus disrupted the recruiting calendar. The answer from Barton Simmons, the 247Sports director for scouting: "There (were) roughly six weeks of camps and combines between our last 2021 rankings update and this one, so we've got a lot of information to unload in this update."

You might also be wondering if recruiting rankings matter. The answer, based on statistical research, is that they do matter in the big picture. There's a strong correlation between recruiting rankings and college team success and which players end up on NFL rosters.

Of course, player talent is only one part of the formula for winning. College head coaches are responsible for a lot more, including player development, roster management, game plans, game-day strategy and hiring assistant coaches. But player talent is the baseline that essentially determines a program’s ceiling.

Collins’ mission is to sign enough good players so that Tech eventually can prosper with a conventional offense. His predecessor, Paul Johnson, famously outflanked foes with his version of the triple-option. Collins’ newest recruits eventually should help with the transition.

All the player talent flowing into Athens hasn't resulted in a national championship for Smart (it's the highest bar, but it's why Smart was hired and then given every resource). It was a bad look for Smart when after LSU blew out the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship game, he threw his wide receivers under the bus. For the record, Smart's 2020 recruiting class included five wide receivers.

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