Not long ago I wrote an article, “The Class that Gutted UGA Football”. The article detailed the catastrophe that was the Classes of 2013 and 2014 in which the Bulldogs signed 51 players and only 27 of those players remain on the roster. Since then, the Classes of 2015 and 2016 have been about rebuilding the foundation. As for the Class of 2017 and 2018, those two classes will resurrect the Junkyard Dawgs.
First and foremost, the state of Georgia is loaded with talent the next two seasons. Second, it is loaded with the type of talent that reflects exactly what Coach Smart is attempting to build in Athens – a fast, physical, intimidating team – the modern day Junkyard Dawgs.
The skill (perhaps better described as an attribute) the team needs to enhance in the Class of 2017 and 2018 to elevate the team to a new level is – swag. You may ask what I mean by swag – I mean a team that plays with a blend of attitude and confidence pushing the envelope toward cockiness but not becoming overconfident. A group of players that wants to dominate and demoralize the players on the other sideline. I can name on one hand how many times UGA has had a program with swag in the last 20 years and each time they made it to the SEC Championship.
The Dawgs currently have three players committed in the 2017 Class that will immediately bring swag to the roster. Richard Lecounte, III, in my opinion, is one of the Top 10 HS football players in the country. He reminds me of a young safety in the Class of 1998 from Destrehan, Louisiana by the name of Ed Reed. He was born to play football and will change the game for the Dawgs the moment he steps on campus. Another current commit is monstrous offensive guard Netori Johnson – The 6’4 345 pounder can be as good as he wants to be on the collegiate level and with Coach Pittman he will strive to be great. His big personality and the energy and enthusiasm he plays with will help this offensive line reach new heights. Last and certainly not least, QB Jake Fromm will provide a big boost to the Dawgs. He is a natural born leader and incredibly talented prospect who will push Jacob Eason to elevate his game and reach his full potential. This season, Eason doesn’t have a QB on the roster than can push him, that will change with Fromm’s arrival.
Uncommitted 2017 prospects ILB Nate McBride, WR Jeremiah Holloman and OLB Markaviest Bryant would also bring some serious swag. As for the Class of 2018, if the Dawgs can land three out of the four of the group including QB Trevor Lawrence, OG Jamaree Salyer, OLB Justin Mascoll and CB Derrik Allen, that would be a tremendous haul.
It is my opinion you need to have a certain confidence bordering on brashness from the leaders and most talented players on your team. If those guys play with swag it becomes infectious and radiates its way down the roster. It is then the coaching staff’s job to take all that energy and confidence and control and focus it in the right direction. That can be the difference between being a good football team and a great team. That is what has made coaches like Saban and Meyer so successful over the last ten years. They excel at taking a group of highly recruited four and five star players with tremendous ego’s and high personal ambitions and harness it for the greater good of the team.
There is no question that Kirby Smart is capable of recruiting at the same level as coaches like Saban and Meyer – the question is can he harness that talent and channel it in the direction of championships?