Smart ‘excited’ about Georgia’s 2021 recruiting class

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Smart ‘excited’ about Georgia’s 2021 recruiting class

UGA quarterback commit, Brock Vandagriff, during his game between Prince Avenue Christian School and Calvary Christian played September 04, 2020.
UGA quarterback commit, Brock Vandagriff, during his game between Prince Avenue Christian School and Calvary Christian played September 04, 2020.

Georgia recently signed 20 new commits as apart of its 2021 recruiting class, and fifth-year head coach Kirby Smart feels like the program got all it needed in terms of wants.

According to 247Sports, Georgia currently has the No. 3 ranked class nationally, which features eight players in the top-100. The Bulldogs signed 13 in-state prospects this go-round, which is impressive considering who the coaching staff is recruiting against.

In-state talent

The state of Georgia is a hot-bed for talent and the Bulldogs have to compete with recruiting against other programs, which include Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Clemson. Still, Smart and his staff were able to fend off other schools and sign eight of the top-15 players in Georgia.

“I don’t know. Like I said, I thought the pandemic was the number one factor that helped in-state recruiting,” Smart said on Wednesday when asked about Georgia’s ability to land so many top in-state prospects. “Their inability to go on all of these trips might have played, maybe that’s one guy, I don’t know. The quarterback being from our state, that probably played a little bit of a factor.”

Smart said that it helps that the program is constantly involved in the national championship conversation.

“I know that a lot of people have reached out to me and said, ‘Georgia’s success in the last four to five years is starting to take its toll.’ These kids grow up seeing Georgia in the top five, top six in the country most of their high school, even middle school lives,” he said. “That plays a factor in it. Georgia has a great place to go to school academically. I always think that we should be one of the leaders of Georgia. There’s different years where different things happen for strange reasons, but we are very pleased with how we did in the state this year.”

Defensive backs haul

Georgia is about to have some turnover on the defensive side of the ball, and coordinator Dan Lanning didn’t disappoint. Guys like David Daniel, Kamari Lassiter, Javon Bullard and Nyland Green seem to be the future of the Bulldogs’ defensive backfield. Credit position coach Charlton Warren as well on this excellent haul.

“I’m pleased with what we got, and I’m excited about the guys we get to coach in that position,” Smart said when asked about the defensive backs. “We got some guys coming in that I feel great about, and I think the guys we got early were really good players, really high-character players when you look across the board.

“I think the guys we finished late with are really great players. A lot of really good football teams wanted those guys to join their team. With not having a camp, that’s one of those positions that’s harder to evaluate, and we were very pleased that we got to see guys’ workout footage. Guys sent us tape over the summer, and it made the decision so much clearer and easier to really target the guys you wanted and go out there and get those guys.”

Matt Luke succeeds

Last season, Georgia signed a load of talented offensive linemen in the 2020 class. This season, Georgia added a few new faces in five-star Amarius Mims and four-star Micah Morris. The Bulldogs also added Dylan Fairchild and out-of-state signee Jared Wilson, who the coaches have been raving about since Sam Pittman was still on staff.

Smart acknowledged that last year’s class was loaded, although he thinks this class is just as talented.

“Yeah, you know, that was an area that was, I would say, heavy-loaded last year if you look at the sheer numbers,” he said. “I don’t know if you can ever have a year that is not heavy-loaded. This might be, [and] I don’t know this for facts, [so] don’t quote me on it, but it could be our smallest number of signees at that position, maybe besides the very first year. I don’t know. Four is the bare minimum to me because you are trying to sign an offensive line class every year because of the numbers, attrition, the transfer rules. If you have five every year and you have four signing classes, you’re supposed to be four deep—well, nobody is deep at the offensive line position.

“We have seen that this year with teams that can’t play us because of injuries on the offensive line or COVID[-19] on the offensive line. That’s a depth position that we always target. It’s a developmental position. I say it every year, ‘Offensive lineman, it’s really hard to come in and play.’ I am really excited about this group. They are athletic. They have great size. They are really bright, good kids. Jared Wilson was one of the guys that we targeted early on—size, width, hand-size, athleticism—a really good target and works really hard. He comes from a really athletic background family. He’s a great kid. All of those guys, I can’t say enough about each one of them. Matt Luke is excited to get those guys in and start coaching them.”

The addition of Brock Vandagriff

Georgia added five-star quarterback Brock Vandagriff, who is an Athens native.

The talented dual-threat quarterback is what Georgia needs in terms of taking the next step in competing for national titles with an elite offense. The addition and recent emergence of J.T. Daniels may help Georgia through the 2021 season, but Vandagriff is the future face of the program.

“Quarterbacks want to play at Georgia,” Smart said. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they enjoy playing at Georgia. Criticism is going to be there in everything we do, but the opportunity to play at the University of Georgia and be a quarterback—I can just start naming all the quarterbacks who have played here who been really good, and who those kids look up to and idolize, a No. 1 overall pick [Matthew Stafford].

“Those kids want the opportunity to do that. They want the opportunity to win championships, and you putting yourself in the conversation about being able to win championships is always going to put you at the forefront of every quarterback in the country list. When they start talking about where [they] want to go, they want to go win a championship; at least that’s what the best quarterbacks want to do, and Brock [Vandagriff] never shied away from that. He wanted an opportunity to play close to home.”

Smart said that Vandagriff wanted to stay close to home.

“He wanted the opportunity to play near his family. His dad is a coach right here in town. His mom is a teacher. He’s got sisters who are really good athletes. He wants to be able to play in front of them, so I’m excited about what he can do. He’s been a leader for his program. They’re still in the playoffs. He’s been productive, and we’re excited to see what he can bring to the University of Georgia.”

Securing the bag

Overall, Smart knows that this recruiting cycle will be the hardest his program will ever face, due to the pandemic. According to him, this class is a success.

“We get the groceries because we know what we need,” he said. “Right now, that’s just kind of where we’re at and what we have to deal with. I’m very pleased with the class. Certainly, you always like to have a balanced class positionally. You’re trying to basically sign a team, and you want to get a good player here, a good player here, a good player here, and sometimes your numbers are different, and sometimes your numbers are based on best available. I’m going to guess we do as much numbers crunching on that as anybody in the country. We don’t just take people to take people. We have targets, and we have needs for every roster spot on our team. We try to fill a certain type player, and I feel like we were able to do that across the board.”

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.