The fall football season is upon us. The high schools in the state of Georgia kicked off last week with the traditionally great Corky Kell Classic event plus a renewal of Friday Night’s Lights across the state.
It brings to mind the following topic: Who are the state’s best players for 2018?
DawgNation has been watching these players compete at games and in big games since May of 2015.
Which guys are the best? Who stands out? Who is better than all those star rankings say?
The formula used was comprised in this following manner: 1) Recruiting reputation across the various services and analysts and how these players performed in camps: 2) On-field production. Can they do football in shorts and in pads? That was a big chunk here; 3) Future college potential and the likelihood of playing right away as a freshman and being a possible NFL Draft pick in 3-4 years.
How did we do all of that? In-person evaluation, Power 5 offers and conversations with high school coaches, college scouts and college coaches and fellow recruiting analysts all went into the gumbo for our first ranking of the Peach State’s Top 30 for 2018.
That’s it. Now, here we go.
Top 30 players in Georgia for 2018
(We will update this list monthly going forward)
JUST OFF THE LIST: Buford 3-star RB Anthony Grant (Tennessee commit); Rome 3-star DT Jaquon Griffin (LSU commit); 4-star LB Michael Harris (Auburn commit); Prince Avenue Christian 4-star OLB Richard Jibunor (undecided); Archer 3-star DB Taiyon Palmer (Duke commit); Bainbridge 4-star RB Dameon Pierce (Florida commit); Thomason 4-star CB Christian Tutt (undecided)
30. 3-star DT Jamarcus Chatman (6-2.5, 267) Rome — Committed to Tennessee
Chatman seems to always play with an edge. He simply produces beyond his star ratings. He collected a bazillion offers and was once trending to Miami. Then he committed to LSU. He’s since flipped to Tennessee as that triple commitment to the Tigers from Rome High has unraveled.
It really seemed to me like there was a time he would’ve committed to UGA on the spot if he would have ever gotten an offer. But he never did. Why that offer never came still puzzles me when I watch his film and see his effort level in practice.
29. 3-star DT Darnell Jefferies (6-2.5, 275) Newton — Committed to Clemson
The defensive line spot will weigh heavily in these rankings because that’s such a vital position. Unlike Chatman, Jefferies did have an offer from UGA and he made more than 10-11 trips to Athens.
Clemson won this race, though. Chatman and Jefferies both stood out at the Rising Seniors practices last December. “Big Baby” has a very good head on his shoulders and a strong work ethic. The Tigers offered and accepted his commitment. That’s a pretty strong tell about his ability. Clemson has a small class this cycle. The Tigers feel he definitely belongs in it.
28. 4-star CB Jaycee Horn (6-0, 180) Alpharetta — Undecided
Horn, the son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn, has enough game to make his own name. It seemed like he was on the verge of committing to either Alabama or South Carolina at various times this year.
He still hasn’t made his decision. For whatever reason, the Bulldogs haven’t been as big on him as on other targets. They’ve gotten one commitment at CB (Chris Smith II) but have made other out-of-state targets a much bigger priority than Horn.
27. 4-star OG Dylan Wonnum (6-5, 285) Tucker — Undecided
Wonnum rates on the 247SportsComposite as the nation’s No. 9 OT for this cycle. But he doesn’t have elite size for a tackle and some staffs (like UGA for instance) think of him as more of a guard.
He could be a great talent at guard in an especially deep year.
The Tucker standout seems like he will be ready to make his decision in a few weeks. His decision could come in mid-September and it seems like Auburn and South Carolina are two teams to really watch out for.
26. 4-star DE/OLB Caleb Tannor (6-3, 225) Miller Grove — Committed to UGA
Acceleration. Length. Size. Versatility.
Tannor has all of those attributes and will play OLB for Kirby Smart at Georgia. Tannor chose the Bulldogs over late interest in Auburn. He’s always wanted to play for the in-state school.
25. 4-star DE Justin Mascoll (6-4, 237) South Gwinnett — Committed to Clemson
His stock was a lot higher a year ago than it is now. That’s because Mascoll didn’t have the dominating junior year on the field and even the showcase circuit. He was just good-to-very-good but not quite elite. That’s what many had been predicting he would be since he starting picking up all the big offers as a freshman and sophomore.
But let’s not rush to say that being a Clemson commit who is rated as the nation’s No. 8 weakside DE is anything less than an amazing accomplishment in its own right. Mascoll is still one of the nation’s Top 175 players by anyone’s measure and falls in here as the state’s No. 25 player for 2018.
24. 4-star WR Marquez Ezzard (6-1.5, 213) Stockbridge — Committed to FSU
Ezzard was a rare 1,000-yard receiver last fall and his standout performance against Rome High might have been the single-best game for any receiver in the state last fall.
He was one of the Top 3 receivers on Georgia’s board this year but found himself more at home with the Seminoles in Tallahassee. Ezzard is tough and a relentless competitor. That more than makes up for him not being very elite at any certain aspect of the position. He reminds me of former FSU star (and recent NFL retiree) Anquan Boldin.
23. 4-star CB Myles Sims (6-2.75, 175) Westlake — Committed to Michigan
Sims has all the length and size that any college secondary would want to feature. He chose to go play for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan despite getting major attention from all the big-boy ACC and SEC programs.
He’s rated as the nation’s No. 22 CB prospect on the 247SportsComposite but he might actually be a ‘tweener between that position and at safety. He shows flashes, but he hasn’t been as dominant as all the raw tools he has might one day allow him to be.
22. 4-star S Trey Dean (6-2, 185) Dutchtown — Committed to Tennessee
Dean stunned many — myself included — when he chose the Volunteers this summer. He had just recently picked up a committable offer from Alabama.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound prospect is a very versatile defender that can fly in and support the run and also lock down receivers both in the slot and outside on the edges. He was one of my Top 5 performers last December at the Rising Seniors event.
21. 4-star OG Warren Ericson (6-3.5, 310) North Gwinnett — Committed to UGA
Ericson seems like the utility SEC lineman for the Bulldogs. He’s a dominant tackle in one of the toughest regions in Georgia. But he’ll likely be at guard early on in the SEC.
But his future might still be at another position. A lot of scouts have told me that he could be an NFL center one day. That’s no doubt a nod to the work he has put in with former Atlanta Falcon Roman Fortin at that position.
20. 4-star CB Chris Smith II (5-10.5, 175) Hapeville Charter — Committed to UGA
He’s a cornerback. Period. A pure cover corner and a very physical one at that.
Smith chose Georgia over heavy interest in Michigan. He’s been consistently underrated by analysts over the last 18 months, but he had a very strong showing on the spring and summer evaluation circuit. He also verified this ranking with his showing at the Nike Opening finals out in Oregon.
19. 4-star WR Josh Vann (5-11, 175) Tucker — Committed to South Carolina
Vann is a deadly athlete for the Tigers. He can do a bit of everything. That includes punting for Tucker.
He’s blessed with an ability to create instant separation on intermediate routes and has very good acceleration in and out of his breaks. He’s also got very good hands. The Gamecocks are getting a player that UGA had its eyes on for the longest time. He was one of the team’s Top 2 targets at receiver until South Florida speedster Elijah Moore became a valid option over the last six weeks.
18. 4-star S Quindarious Monday (6-2.5, 185) Carver-Atlanta — Committed to Auburn
“Smoke” also cracked my list of the Top 5 performers at the Rising Seniors event last December. He’s got great length and a knack for finding the football.
Monday makes plays and does not shy away from any matchup opportunity. He’ll be tremendous once he gets into both a college nutrition and an elite strength and conditioning program. Clemson made a hard run at him, too. His upside places him higher than a few more technically proficient DBs on this list.
17. 4-star OLB Quay Walker (6-4, 210) Crisp County — Committed to Alabama
We’ve reached the point in this rankings feature where there’s really nothing but elite prospects from this point on. These guys would easily all be Top 10 talents in any other state except for California, Florida and Texas.
This versatile Crimson Tide commitment checks in here. He’s got an even bigger upside than his former teammate Markaviest “Big Cat” Bryant at Auburn. Walker can cover the slot receiver, rush the passer and tackle the ball out in space, too. Georgia was once a major factor in his decision.
16. 4-star CB Kyler McMichael (6-0.5, 196) Greater Atlanta Christian — Committed to Clemson
McMichael was a take at Alabama, Clemson, FSU and Georgia. Plus a lot of other big-time programs.
The Greater Atlanta Christian star is strong and tough. He also plays RB for his Spartans. He’s got a great mix of ideal size and size to start a lot of games for the Tigers in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
15. 4-star DT Robert Cooper (6-2, 370) South Gwinnett — Committed to FSU
I’d be surprised if “Big Coop” does not bench press close to 470 pounds by the time he leaves the Comets. He made his decision early back in June of 2016 and hasn’t wavered much at all.
Alabama and Georgia would sure like him to, though. The nation’s No. 5 DT is the best of the bunch in a very down year for defensive tackles in the state of Georgia. He’s a two noseguard at that size and will soak up blocks in the ACC. He has very good quickness and short-space acceleration for the 350-pound-plus club.
The thought of him being paired next to Marvin Wilson in the middle of the FSU front will shred the rushing averages for the star backs in the ACC.
14. 4-star WR Matthew Hill (6-2, 185) Brookwood — Committed to Auburn
Josh Vann will have a very good career for South Carolina, but the prediction here is that Hill will be even better than that for the Tigers.
Hill starred at Prince Avenue Christian and picked up an early SEC offer from Kentucky as a freshman. When I saw him make plays against Central Gwinnett as a sophomore, I knew this young man had star all over him. Georgia never went hard after him at all. That was always very puzzling, but it wasn’t like the Bulldogs didn’t feel they had a great shot at another 2018 in-state receiver with special skills.
13. 4-star S Derrik Allen (6-2, 211) Lassiter — Committed to Notre Dame
Allen was a cornerback at Lassiter as a freshman but has just kept on growing. He’s now a safety at the Power 5 level and will be a very good one at that.
He’s also handled himself very well in the spring and summer 7-on-7 circuit. Allen simply made more plays than a lot of the other top safety prospects in Georgia for this cycle. UGA still wants to pull the flip here, but right now he’s one of the highest-rated members along a sprawl of DBs that are leaving the state in this calls. The Bulldogs would be in better shape here if they didn’t just sign three All-Americans in Tray Bishop, DeAngelo Gibbs and Richard LeCounte in 2017.
12. 4-star WR Kearis Jackson (5-11.5, 205) Peach County — Committed to UGA
Looking for a reason why the Bulldogs didn’t go harder after Hill? This guy is that reason. He’s an Under Armour All-American at receiver and a state champion in the shot put.
When’s the last time or the next time we will ever see or read about something like that? Jackson chose UGA over Alabama last Saturday and will enroll early in January.
11. 4-star QB Emory Jones (6-2.5, 195) Heard County — Committed to Ohio State
Jones might have peaked during his sophomore and junior seasons on the evaluation circuit. He also doesn’t face the best competition playing for Heard County in Southwest Georgia.
When Jones didn’t make the Elite 11 in Oregon this summer, it was a surprise to many. Ohio State is still very glad to have him and Alabama continues to court his talents, too.
How could it ever be considered a knock to be the No. 11 player in Georgia in any year? But that’s where I see Jones right now. It just feels that way because he was once seen as a clear Top 5 guy in the Peach State for this class.
10. 4-star QB Jarren Williams (6-2, 201) Central Gwinnett — Committed to Kentucky
I’m a big fan of how he can spin it but also how he can think the quarterback position. It was telling that Williams re-opened his recruitment and heard from all the big boys like the Alabamas, the LSUs and the Floridas.
He also made the Elite 11 this summer ahead of a very big name like Jones. When I saw him out in Oregon at the Opening, he also clearly belonged. To me, he looks like one of the nation’s Top 6 or 7 signal callers at worst for this cycle.
Kentucky fans are going to be spoiled watching this guy start for at least three years.
9. 4-star OLB Otis Reese (6-4, 210), Lee County — Committed to Michigan
He chose Michigan last June prior to his junior year. Georgia wants to change that status. The Bulldogs have been recruiting this talent very hard.
Reese is a physical thumper that committed as a safety but has kept growing. He’s now rated as the nation’s No. 8 OLB prospect for 2018. I’ve learned that UGA is the only team with a real chance to flip Reese away from the Wolverines. He would be a very good one.
This guy already looks like a future Sunday player.
8. 4-star OLB J.J. Peterson (6-1.5, 210) Colquitt County — Undecided
Peterson, the nation’s No. 1 OLB for this year, is a guy I still feel has yet to scratch the surface of his potential. He did very well at the Atlanta Opening regional but didn’t really elevate his game out in Oregon at the national finals.
He also looked very good but not elite at the Corky Kell Classic last weekend. Peterson was mostly deployed as a pass rusher. Alabama loves him. I think that’s where he will eventually end up, but he I think his overall upside is limited by his size.
This guy does have an impressive array of skills. I’ve seen him take a kickoff back on film, but I just don’t know if he has put it all together yet.
7. 4-star OLB Adam Anderson (6-4, 218) Rome — Undecided
Anderson, the nation’s No. 2 OLB, squeaks by Peterson on this initial ranking because of his upside. His 6-foot-4 frame looks like it could easily hold another 30 pounds.
He’s also incredibly explosive and doesn’t mind mixing it up in the trenches. The coaching staff at Rome has also done an excellent job of teaching him the right way to play the game. He just doesn’t come flying in off the edges like he’s at a high school track meet.
I think he can be another freak athlete in the Leonard Floyd mold once he hits the training table and the weights at a major SEC program. Look for Alabama, Clemson and Georgia in the end here. The pick here is that he re-commits back to the Bulldogs for good sometime in January or February.
6. 4-star OLB Azeez Ojulari (6-4, 230) Marietta — Committed to UGA
Ojulari chose UGA last week and he said that he’s ready to shut down his recruiting. The coaches at Marietta High tell me that he has impeccable character and is one of the team’s best leaders.
When you mix that stuff in with a 39.8-inch vertical leap, a 500-pound squat and a near 350-pound power clean it seems like Ojulari blends the best of what both Anderson and Peterson can do.
5. 4-star OG Trey Hill (6-3.5, 345) Houston County — Undecided
Can UGA sign the nation’s Nos. 1 and 2 offensive guards for 2018?
That’s the plan for Georgia line coach Sam Pittman. He wants to add Hill and Jamaree Salyer for the interior of his Bulldog lines. The Bulldogs have a strong chance at doing that, too. Why? Because they have also sold Hill on the notion that he can come in right away and command immediate playing time at center.
4. 5-star DE Brenton Cox (6-4.5, 250), Stockbridge — Committed to Ohio State
Cox just keeps growing. Keeps putting on weight. Keeps making plays and keeps rising up the recruiting rankings. He was at No. 54 back in the spring, but he’s know all the way up to No. 19 overall for 2018.
Georgia was the favorite to land Cox, but the Buckeyes swayed him because they convinced him they can develop him better for the NFL than the in-state school.
3. 5-star OG Jamaree Salyer (6-4, 340), Pace Academy — Undecided
I actually think that Salyer is the most “can’t miss” prospect in the state this year. He won’t miss and I have no doubts he will start multiple games at some point of his freshman year. No matter where he goes.
The highest-rated interior line prospect since 2006 is smart and powerful. Clemson and Georgia seem like the teams with the best shot here.
Guys this good don’t come around that often. He’s the top-rated offensive line prospect for 2018. The only reason he’s all the way down at No. 3 on this list is that he doesn’t touch the ball every snap and play the game’s most important position.
2. 5-star QB Trevor Lawrence (6-6, 210), Cartersville — Committed to Clemson
Trevor Lawrence has done nothing to lose his grip on the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect slot for 2018. He’s performed as he should and passed every test.
His high school resume is impeccable and he should break every career passing record for a high school quarterback in Georgia high school football history this fall.
Clemson is going to be thrilled to replace the best quarterback in school history with a guy who will contend for multiple Heisman Trophies, too.
1. 5-star QB Justin Fields (6-3, 221), Harrison — Undecided
Justin Fields somehow earned the right to be rated above Trevor Lawrence as the top player in the nation this year. The 247Sports rankings see it that way.
I concur. Why?
When it comes down to it, he hasn’t had the supporting cast around him at Harrison to steer his team to the heights that Lawrence has at Cartersville. I gave Lawrence a lot of points in that column for the head-to-head analysis there.
Somebody has to be No. 1.
What Fields does have is the sharpest mind for the QB position that those Elite 11 gurus might have ever seen. He also has the ability to put up 300 yards passing and 150 yards rushing in a high school game and somehow make it seem like that it was something he was supposed to do.
Harrison’s trigger man can also clock a 4.51 laser time in the 40-yard dash at 221 pounds. That’s faster than the highest-rated receiver on this list can cover that ground.
The post Georgia recruiting rankings: The Peach State’s Top 30 for 2018 appeared first on DawgNation.
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