After waiting all day for something unexpected to happen, the Georgia Bulldogs finally got their wish Wednesday afternoon.
About 1:05 p.m. wide receiver Arian Smith made a nationally televised announcement that he would sign with UGA. Two and a half hours later, the Bulldogs got the nod from another 4-star wide receiver, Jermaine Burton of Calabasas, Calif., by way of Atlanta.
Burton put a cap on a recruiting class that ended the day ranked No. 4 in the nation, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
Burton and Smith gave Georgia 17 signees for the day and four receivers in the class. The Bulldogs signed two other 4-star receivers – Justin Robinson of McDonough and Marcus Rosemy of Fort Lauderdale – early Wednesday morning.
“We’re really excited about those guys,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Wednesday evening. “We’ve been excited about Justin and Marcus a long time. Had them in camp here. … Of course, those wideouts know they have an opportunity here.”
Smith, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound speedster from Lakeland, Fla., chose the Bulldogs over Alabama during a somewhat awkward announcement on ESPNU. He had already picked up the UGA cap next to the Alabama cap and placed it on his head when a zipper got stuck on his blue U.S. track team windbreaker. The plan was to unzip it to reveal a red Georgia shirt underneath. But Smith struggled with the zipper for several seconds while ESPN announcers asked questions. He did not answer until the zipper was finally unsnagged.
“I just like the way they used Mecole Hardman last year,” Smith said for why he chose the Bulldogs. “They need a fast guy who can take kick returns and punt returns to the crib. I feel like I can go there and play early, and I trust coach Smart to get me to the league (NFL) so I can take care of my family.”
Smith’s greatest asset is his speed. He was a teammate of UGA freshman track star Matthew Boling on the U.S. team that established a world 4x100-meter record at the PanAm Games earlier this year.
“That experience was crazy,” said Smith, who will run track at UGA. “We weren’t even trying to, like, break a record. We were just trying to have fun. … Still to this day it doesn’t feel real.”
Smith’s signing was topped later when Burton made his decision at about 3:45 p.m. Though he played for Calabasas High in California the past two years, he’s a Georgia native. A long-time LSU commitment, he is the No. 8-rated receiver in the country, per 247Sports.
As seems to always be the case with the Bulldogs under Smart, they landed one more player late in the day that nobody seemed to see coming. The signing of Austin Blaske, a 3-star offensive lineman from Effingham County, was announced well after Smart's late-afternoon news conference concluded.
Those late-day developments interrupted what had for the Bulldogs been a good but largely uneventful day. They received the signed letters-of-intent of the 14 recruits they expected to hear from by 11 a.m. Those were even nicely book-ended, with 5-star outside linebacker Mekhail “MJ” Sherman’s announcement coming first, and California’s Kendall Milton, the No. 6-ranked running back in the country, coming at the end of the morning.
Two other players from which Georgia has commitments – Lithonia 5-star offensive lineman Broderick Jones and New Orleans center Sedrick Van Pran – stuck to their plans to wait until the next signing period in February.
The real drama came after lunch as a handful of highly ranked uncommitted prospects across the country made their announcements via national television. While the Bulldogs snagged Smith and Burton, they missed out on quarterback CJ Stroud of Santa Cucamonga, Calif., and 5-star defensive end Jordan Burch of Columbia, S.C., who stuck with the hometown Gamecocks over UGA and LSU.
It’s possible that the Bulldogs did even better than we know Wednesday. Two of their coveted targets – cornerbacks Dontae Manning of Kansas City, Mo., and Kelee Ringo of Scottsdale, Ariz. – actually signed letters-of-intent Wednesday. However, they won’t reveal with whom until doing so on national TV in their respective high school All-American games Jan. 2 and Jan. 4, respectively.
Meanwhile, Georgia can add to its class during the traditional recruiting period the first week of February. In addition to the two committed players they hope to sign, the Bulldogs are among the finalists for Darnell Washington of Las Vegas, the nation’s No. 1 tight end and a big one at 6-8, 260 pounds.
Georgia’s December signees
Players, Pos., Ht., Wt., Hometown
Carson Beck QB 6-4 225 Jacksonville, Fla.
Austin Blaske OL 6-5 280 Bloomingdale
Warren Brinson DL 6-4 305 Bradenton, Fla.
Major Burns DB 6-2 175 Baton Rouge, La.
Jermaine Burton WR 6-0 195 Calabasas, Calif.
Jalen Carter DL 6-4 305 Apopka, Fla.
Jalen Kimber CB 6-0 170 Mansfield, Texas
Chad Lindberg OL 6-6 315 League City, Texas
Kendell Milton RB 6-1 220 Clovis, Calif.
Tate Ratledge OL 6-6 317 Rome
Justin Robinson WR 6-4 210 McDonough
Marcus Rosemy WR 6-2 195 Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
MJ Sherman LB 6-2 235 Washington, D.C.
Arian Smith ATH 6-0 185 Lakeland, Fla.
Nazir Stackhouse DL 6-3 305 Decatur
Devin Willock OL 6-7 330 Paramus, N.J.
Jared Zirkel K 6-3 185 Kerrville, Texas
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.