Wednesday was the cherry on top of a truly outstanding Class of 2019. The Dawgs had already guaranteed themselves one of the top classes in the country coming into the day and then Coach Kirby Smart pulled off the biggest shocker of National Signing Day luring George Pickens away from the Auburn Tigers. A fitting end for the biggest Alpha Dawg recruiter Athens, GA has ever seen.
A few highlights I find particularly impressive are the following:
- Georgia signed the #1 recruit from Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Rhode Island
- Georgia signed the #1 OLB, #1 ILB and #1 CENTER in the country
- Georgia added tremendous length along the defensive front with outside linebackers and lineman measuring in at 6’6, 6’6, 6’6, 6’5, 6’4, 6’3 and 6’3
The addition of George Pickens on Wednesday was massive for Kirby Smart & Co. In 2018, it was clear how much Jake Fromm missed a target like Javon Wims on the outside who attacked the ball on back shoulder fades and 50/50 balls. That is the exact skill set Pickens will bring to Athens in 2019. Some questioned his top end speed after he ran a 4.73 40-yard dash at The Opening but remember the star of the National Championship game, Justyn Ross of Clemson, ran a 4.87 40-yard dash only a year earlier. Pickens gives the Dawgs a player similar to Ross who is open even if he is not open. Add in the precise route running and velcro hands of Dominic Blaylock and the Dawgs brought in one of the top 1-2 punches at receiver in the country.
Another terrific 1-2 punch for the Dawgs comes at the outside linebacker position. In 2018, the Dawgs landed 5-Star’s Brenton Cox and Adam Anderson at outside linebacker and followed that up in 2019 with Nolan Smith and Jermaine Johnson. Add in Azeez Ojulari, Walter Grant and Robert Beal and the Dawgs truly have an embarrassment of riches at outside linebacker. Johnson and Smith have the potential to transform this unit from solid to dominant. With there ability to set the edge against the run and get after the quarterback both are the type of 3-down outside linebackers Coach Smart covets for his defense to reach its full potential.
The addition of Travon Walker is a potential game change for the Dawgs along the defensive front moving forward. Measuring in at 6’5 289 at the US Army All American game Walker was one of the most dominant performers at practice and during the game in San Antonio. He is a legitimate freak athlete on the defensive line that has the ability to destroy even the most well executed plays at the point of attack. Benefiting from Travon Walker’s presence in Athens the next 3-4 years will be Nakobe Dean. Dean is my personal favorite player in the Class of 2019. He is a dynamic, sideline-to-sideline linebacker who has the potential to be a human eraser for this defense in the mold of a Roquan Smith.
The last area I want to focus on is in the secondary where the Dawgs quickly became bigger, longer and stronger in a hurry. Tyrique Stevenson brings gives the Dawgs a physical presence regardless of where he lines up. It is very rare that you find someone with his body type with the ability he has to flip his hips in coverage and run with even the quickest receivers. Add human hit stick Lewis Cine at safety who measures in at 6’2 with the frame to easily carry over 200 pounds and D.J. Daniel who has tremendous length and speed at cornerback and the Dawgs have added three tremendous talents in the secondary.
Heading into his 4th Season in Athens, the 2019 edition of the Georgia Bulldogs are looking more and more like the team that Kirby Smart envisioned when he took the job. The team is big, long, fast and physical at every position. There is also a tremendous combination of youth and potential for leadership. To quote one of Coach Smart’s favorite mantras, “Pressure is a privilege” and the Dawgs will face plenty of pressure to knock those Alabama and National Championship bears off their back.
As for my mantra for 2019, after another tremendous recruiting class it is pretty simple: