ATHENS -- In what surely will go down as the quietest signing day in the history of Georgia football, the Bulldogs on Wednesday signed ...
That’s right, not a single letter-of-intent arrived on UGA’s facsimile machine, or even as a portal document file (aka PDF). The Bulldogs were finished before the day started, technically, anyway.
Georgia held out hope that it might sign Terrion Arnold, a 5-star defensive back from Tallahassee and 247Sports’ highest-ranked prospect available in the traditional signing period that is the first Wednesday of February every year. But as was predicted by most recruiting sites, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound safety signed with Alabama, as did most of the major prospects in 2021. The reigning national champions in on-the-field football in 2020 also will head into the 2021 season as the undisputed recruiting champions, having finished No. 1 in this cycle by a record margin.
As for the Bulldogs, they entered the day ranked No. 3 nationally in the 247Sports Composite. They will fall to No. 4 if LSU signs 5-star receiver Brian Thomas, as expected.
But Georgia coach Kirby Smart was not fretting. The Bulldogs did well in meeting their needs in December, which has become the primary signing period in Power 5 college football. Any shortcomings that may still exist will be filled via the NCAA’s transfer portal, which has become college football’s version of free agency.
It was through the transfer portal last year that Georgia acquired its current starting quarterback JT Daniels, previously of Southern Cal.
Get used to it, Smart said.
“I don’t see this changing,” he said during a video conference call with reporters Wednesday. “I see (the signing date) only moving up more and more because more kids want to go midyear and start their college education. COVID only accelerated that because they didn’t get the opportunity to play spring sports in a lot of cases. So I don’t see that changing.”
Indeed, Georgia signed 20 players in the mid-December period, which was instituted in 2017. All but four of those recruits moved into UGA dorms Jan. 10 and entered the university as midyear enrollees three days later.
In fact, at this point in the game, most of the recruiting emphasis in January for Power 5 teams is on the next year’s recruiting class. That’s where the biggest news came for the Bulldogs on Wednesday. Keithian “Bear” Alexander, a 4-star defensive lineman from Denton, Texas, announced that he committed to Georgia.
Alexander, a 6-foot-3, 325-pound tackle, chose the Bulldogs over Alabama, Florida, Texas, Texas A&M and Ohio State, among others. Alexander is the eighth commitment for Georgia’s recruiting class of 2022, which currently ranks No. 2 in the nation and No. 1 in the SEC.
“Our signing class was done in December, and I think that’s the way it’s going to be moving forward,” Smart said. “Especially with COVID. So (the February signing day) is kind of anticlimactic. We’ve been focused on them since so many of them arrived midyear and some of them actually were able to practice with us (before the bowl game). There in workouts now and I’m excited about those guys.”
Smart did not close the door on Georgia possibly signing a 2021 prospect later Wednesday or further along in the signing period, which extends to April 1. More likely, though, any more additions to the 2021 roster would come via the transfer portal.
Unofficially, the Bulldogs sit at 83 scholarships for next season. That number does not count five players who were seniors last year who are expected to take advantage of the NCAA’s pandemic exception waiver and accept another season of eligibility. They include receiver Demetris Robertson, guard Justin Shaffer, defensive linemen Julian Rochester and Devonte Wyatt and outside linebacker Walter Grant.
Barring any other additions or subtractions, Georgia will move into the offseason with two scholarships available. It’s very likely that the Bulldogs will address a shortfall at cornerback via the portal.
“We’ve certainly got availability at that spot,” Smart said. “But we’ve known that was coming for a long time because we had some talented players we knew would have the ability to leave as juniors. Some of these young guys are going to get a lot of opportunities, too.”