Was Smart focusing too much on the class of 2017 with the class of 2016 at full swoon? Maybe, but it might have been worth it for the long-term health of his program. Also, it must be pointed out that UGA signed 20 players in the class of 2016 and wound up with a top ten class, so that’s not ideal, but its hardly failure.
Three months later, and with Demetris Robertson in the rearview mirror (we think), its clear why Kirby focused more on the future than the present - he was lining up a set of recruiting dominoes for the class of 2017.
Consider that since Signing Day in February, Smart has gotten the commitment of six players, which is nothing to of the ordinary. But two of them, Netori Johnson and Jake Fromm, were committed to Alabama on Signing Day. Four of the prospects Kirby has pulled commitments from - Trey Blount, William Poole, Netori Johnson and Jake Fromm - are all four-star players and are all considered top 200 players in the nation.
And then there was this reporting from Scout National Recruiting Analyst Chad Simmons:
“There are that many prospects I would consider UGA leans at this time. UGA has their board 95-percent set for 2017 it seems and most of the focus this evaluation period is going to 2018 and 2019 guys.”
95% set on 2017. Simmons’ reporting confirms much of what I have heard from insiders about how Kirby and company are moving forward right now: Much of the 2017 class is already in sight; the focus will be recruiting the 2017 class, not necessarily evaluating it.
Georgia having a large class the season kicks off isn’t necessarily new, and it doesn’t necessarily lead to success on the field. Think about UGA’s 2013 signing class that had about 16 players committed to the Bulldogs before the 2012 season. The problem? Nine of those players were three-star prospects.
You aren’t winning many SEC games with three-star prospects - remember when J.J. Green and Brendan Douglass played in place of Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley in 2013? UGA went 0-2 with losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt.
Compare that with the pace of high-level players Georgia has committed right now. Only two players, Xavier Jenkins and Justin Shaffer, are considered three-star prospects. Every other player committed to Georgia is not only a four-star prospect, but a Scout 300 player. In other words, 78% of UGA’s current class is a top 300 player nationally. Consider, too, that only Ohio State and Alabama currently have more Top 100 players committed to them than UGA.
“Kirby has a plan and he and his staff are doing an excellent job on the trail and from the office inside Butts-Mehre,” Simmons added.
But what will make or break this class in terms of it being truly elite is what happens with 5-star Grayson ATH DeAngelo Gibbs, and at running back with either Cam Akers and/or D'Andre Swift.
Kirby and UGA are shooting high. They are going for it. I admire that. Its the only way to be in big-time sports.