An inside look at Georgia’s signing class


Georgia finished eighth in the composite national rankings compiled by Obviously being in the top 10 of anything is good, but it’s also relative. SEC competitors Alabama (1), LSU (2), Texas A&M (4), Auburn (6), and Tennessee (7) were ahead of the Bulldogs in the same ratings, with Florida right behind at 9. So by that measure, it could be argued that Georgia actually lost ground to teams that finished ahead of them in the SEC standings this past season.

The truth is, recruiting classes have to be judged on their effectiveness in filling existing needs. And by that measure the Bulldogs did very, very well.

“I think when you go back and look at this class in a couple of years, you’re going to realize these are great young men,” said Rusty Mansell, a recruiting analyst for “Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Lorenzo Carter, Jeb Blazevich, Kendall Baker, Shakenneth Williams, all those types of kids are great young men. They’re good players and also high-academic kids. That has impressed me as much about this class as anything else. They’re a good group of football players, but just as important a group of good kids that will not be a locker-room issue for you.”

As it is, this class is not hugely important to the Bulldogs’ immediate future. Georgia lost only 13 scholarship seniors off last season’s team, and the main position impacted by graduation — the offensive line with three starters — usually is not addressed by freshmen. Replacements already were on campus for the departures of quarterback Aaron Murray, tight end Arthur Lynch and defensive lineman Garrison Smith.


Of course the big news of the day was the signing of Carter. It’s always a big deal any time to land the No. 1 prospect in the state. the Bulldogs had to fight off a full-court press of competition for the five-star prospect from Norcross. At the end of it, the Bulldogs seemed as excited about Carter’s citizenship as they are his wingspan and time in the 40-yard dash.

“He’s the kind of guy that could end up being a captain for you one day,” Richt said. “I would expect him to be a leader in his class, but it won’t be long before he takes on some leadership role on the team within the next couple of years.”

Georgia’s strong tradition at tailback should remain intact. The Bulldogs once again signed two elite prospects at the position in five-star rated recruits Nick Chubb of Cedartown and Sony Michel of Plantation, Fla. And there were a lot of hidden gems in this class, such as offensive lineman Dyshon Sims of Valdosta, defensive back Shattle Fenteng of Grayson and quarterback Jacob Park of Goose Creek, S.C.


As usual, Georgia was unable to close the deal on several major recruits in the state. Linebacker Raekwon McMillan, whose coach, Kirk Warner, played tight end at Georgia in the 1980s — enrolled early at Ohio State. Gainesville quarterback DeShaun Watson did the same thing at Clemson. And defensive tackle Dontavious Russell, a very early commitment to Georgia, was snatched away by former Georgia defensive line coach Rodney Garner and landed at Auburn.

The Bulldogs lost another defensive lineman they wanted to Auburn — Andrew Williams of Eagles Landing Christian Academy — who visited Athens on the weekend before signing day. And Clemson and South Carolina plucked a lot of top talent out of the state.

“There simply are a lot of great players in Georgia,” Richt said. “We’d like to sign them all, but we can’t. And when we go out of state, it’s for some some pretty big cats.”


As usually is the case, most of Georgia’s work was done locally. Eleven of its signees are from the state of Georgia and six of those are from metro Atlanta in Carter (Norcross), Hunter Atkinson (Oakwood), Kendall Baker (Atlanta), Detric Bing-Dukes (Atlanta), Fenteng (Grayson via Hutchinson Community College in Kansas) and Dominick Sanders (Tucker).

The Bulldogs, led by offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, continued to have a presence South Georgia. They signed four players from south of Macon and another from Macon.

“We love the state of Georgia,” Richt said. “I came to Georgia because of the great talent base that we have, and we absolutely want to recruit this state hard. We’ve got to stay as far ahead of the game as possible.”


That said, it could be argued that the Bulldogs did some of their best work out of state. Not only did they pluck five-star tailback Sony Michel out of extreme South Florida, they also got his heavily recruited, four-star teammate, wide receiver/kicker returner Isaiah McKenzie, and now have three players on their roster from American Heritage High in the Fort Lauderdale area.

In total, Georgia brought in nine players from out of state, including four-start tight end Jeb Blazevich (Charlotte) and four-star defensive lineman Lamont Galliard (Fayetteville) of North Carolina and quarterback Jacob Park from Goose Creek, S.C.

Asked about losing in-state targets to out-of-state schools, Richt shot back: “We’ve had a lot of success in their states, too, so they might need to be worried about that.”


Even though Georgia doesn’t have an immediate need there, wide receiver was an area that needed some attention for the future. The Bulldogs gave it that and signed four wideouts. That includes 5-foot-8, 175-pound Isaiah McKenzie, who will initially work with wideouts, but was brought in primarily to return kicks.

“His No. 1 job is going to try to be that kickoff-return, punt-return guy for us,” Bobo said Wednesday. “That could be the difference in a ballgame for us. Obviously he’ll play some offense, but 10 yards on a punt return is like a first down, and field position is so important.”

The Bulldogs also signed four defensive backs and four offensive linemen. They’ll be looking for contributors at both spots.

“We know we were very close to being a championship team a year ago,” Richt said. “I think these guys will help us win.”