The Georgia Bulldogs held to form under coach Kirby Smart and closed hard Wednesday on the first day of the early signing period for football.
After quietly grabbing the 14 players they expected to sign in the morning, the Bulldogs won the battle for a pair of highly touted wide receivers in the afternoon, then added a largely unknown offensive linemen in the evening.
The sum total was 17 signees and the No. 4-ranked recruiting in America, according to the nationally recognized composite rankings of 247Sports.
That represented a considerable gain over its No. 8 ranking a week ago and moved the Bulldogs past LSU (5), Auburn (7) and Florida (8), who had been ranked ahead of them.
There is another signing period Feb. 5, at which time Georgia is expected to max out at 25 signees.
Some things to know about the class of 2020:
Only one running back
Georgia signed only one running back in the early period, but he was a good one. Kendall Milton of Clovis, Calif., carries some 5-star recruiting rankings, but is considered a 4-star prospect and the No. 6 back in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite.
Regardless, Milton is one of the prize catches of the class. And an important one, with Brian Herrien graduating and junior D’Andre Swift expected to turn pro.
“He’s sitting there going, ‘you know what, there’s an opportunity.’” Smart said. “… Kendall comes from a very strong family, they all formed a strong relationship, they came and visited all the schools across the Southeast and really liked what Georgia had to offer. I’m super-pleased to get him. He was one of the leaders for our class, and I’m excited about what he’s going to bring to the table.”
Smart indicated that “six or seven” of the signees would be coming to Georgia as early enrollees. Some of those may even join the team for bowl practices and accompany the Bulldogs to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. None would be eligible to play, however.
Quarterback Carson Beck is among those expected to join the team as soon as possible.
“I’m as excited as I can be about Carson,” Smart said. “This guy’s come to camps since maybe his ninth-grade year. He’s grown up and gotten better with each and every year. He came this summer and hung out with our guys. I can’t say enough about Carson and his family.”
Milton is expected to be an early enrollee as well.
Who’s turning pro?
Of course, affecting this class and the other part of it that will sign in February is whether current players will decide to turn pro.
Smart was asked about that with regard to quarterback Jake Fromm and running back D’Andre Swift.
“We’ll do with Jake exactly what we do with every player on our team,” Smart said. “We bring them in, we talk to teams, I talk to general managers, I talk to organizations. We get information, we give those kids that information and this is a time we’re able to do that. When we get closer to the bowl game we put it away, and then we come back and revisit it. We’ve done those things with Jake.”
As for Swift, Smart said: “That’s still to be determined. Swift is still recovering from his injury, but he’s out there practicing and doing everything we ask.”
Smart said the priority in the early signing period was offensive line and wide receiver. Indeed, the Bulldogs signed four of each.
Three of those individuals were late in coming. Georgia signed No. 8 receiver Jermaine Burton of Calabasas, Calif., late in the afternoon. He had been a longtime LSU commitment. Even later came the addition of Austin Blaske, a 3-star tackle who is rated the 524th prospect in America per 247Sports. Tackle Devin Willock (6-7, 350) also was a late commitment, indicating the Bulldogs had to scramble to get the number that wanted.
“I would say O-line and receiver were the biggest areas that we had to improve on our roster,” Smart said. But … we have a good, balanced class.”
Interestingly, there were no inside linebackers.
While Smart didn’t mention it as a priority, there’s no question the Bulldogs desperately needed defensive linemen. They are losing four primary contributors, including All-SEC defensive tackle Tyler Clark.
Georgia signed three 4-star down linemen, led by Jalen Carter of Apopka, Fla., the sixth-rated tackle in the nation. Warren Brinson of Bradenton, Fla., and Nazir Stackhouse of Stone Mountain (Columbia HS) round out the group.
“Excited about those three guys,” Smart said. “When you start looking across the country, defensive linemen are hard to find. Six-foot-3 plus, 300-pound plus, athletic guys, they don’t grow on trees. … We needed that. We’re losing four guys. Those three (new) guys to me are as good as a group as you’re going to find in the country."
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