Georgia Continues to Add Quality Depth Through Preferred Walk-Ons
Kirby Smart has been a proponent of a strong walk-on program from the start of his tenure as Head Coach at Georgia. Smart also believes that Georgia is uniquely positioned to have one of the strongest, if not the strongest, walk-on program in the country thanks to a perfect storm of contributing factors.
In a press conference all the way back in April of 2016, Kirby Smart expounded upon the significance of the preferred walk-on program and why Georgia's should be so strong in his opinion. Check out the YouTube video below via Bulldog Illustrated:
2020's cycle has proved no different than all the way back in 2016. Georgia has brought on some tremendously talented players. These are in-state players, that are smart, hard-working, talented, and will get a chance to contribute as a Georgia Bulldog.
BRAXTON HICKS - WR - 6'2" 195 POUNDS - RABUN COUNTY
Hicks comes from a wide-open offense at Rabun County High School under Head Coach Jaybo Shaw. Braxton was both reliable and explosive! In his four years playing in Tiger, Georgia, Hicks never had fewer than 19 receptions in a season for the Wildcats and averaged at least 18.7 yards per reception each year.
Each of the last two seasons, Hicks finished with over 1000 yards receiving. He was the number 1 receiver at Rabun County and the primary target for the top QB in the country in the 2022 recruiting class, Gunner Stockton.
CADE BROCK - DT - 6'0" 250 POUNDS - DARLINGTON SCHOOL
Cade Brock is one of the more motivated individuals in the entire 2020 recruiting class for the University of Georgia. Bar none! In his commitment post on Twitter, Cade thanked his haters and those who've doubted him along the way. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and the excitement and intensity that Brock plays the game with are infectious.
When you turn on his film, he jumps off the screen with his motor and desire. The Rome, Georgia native, and teammate of 5-Star 2020 Tackle Tate Ratledge, has expressed that he's dreamed about playing for Georgia since he was 5 years old. Now he has a chance to make good on that dream.
KURT KNISELY - S - 6'0" 190 POUNDS - ATHENS ACADEMY
Kurt Knisely won't have to travel far to play his college ball. According to Google Maps, Sanford Stadium is 4.9 miles from the campus of Athens Academy. The Classic City native was electrifying on both sides of the ball for the Spartans throughout his high school career.
With 4.5 speed, Knisely was a game-breaker at tailback, constantly ripping off long runs and accumulating 1136 rushing yards during his senior year. Defensively, the Spartan strong safety was disruptive with 62 tackles, 9 tackles for a loss, 2 interceptions, and 12 pass breakups. All of this earned him GHSA Region 8A Player of the Year and First Team All-State honors.
With the combination of speed and strength that Knisely possesses, it is easy to see him becoming a contributor on special teams at minimum for the Dawgs, and possibly in a hurry!
CHRIS BROWN - OL - 6'5" 310 POUNDS - ISLANDS HIGH SCHOOL
Chris Brown, much like Cade Brock, is fulfilling a childhood dream. Brown certainly has the size to compete at the Power 5 level. He is also athletic.
Brown accepted his preferred walk-on offer back in November of 2019, so this was pre-Matt Luke, however, the big man from Savannah fits nicely into Luke's desire to make the offensive line as a whole more athletic. At Islands High School, Brown did a lot of pulling to kick and wrap on defenders and he looked very comfortable and was effective in doing so.
The GAP scheme is something that I would expect to see incorporated more in Georgia's offense going forward. This is something that Brown should be familiar with and he's shown the ability to double team and get up to linebackers in the zone game as well. Overall, a nice fit for Brown and the Dawgs. After the 2020 season, Georgia could potentially be down to 11 scholarship offensive lineman depending on NFL Draft departures, so added depth up front is always welcome in Athens.
MILES JOHNSON - OL - 6'5" 300 POUNDS - FANNIN COUNTY
Miles Johnson is plain and simple a road grader. With sheer size and strength, the Blue Ridge, Georgia product pushed around defenders in Region 7AAA in Georgia High School football. That is easier said than done in one of the more physical regions in the state.
Johnson plays with a nasty streak. Coaches like to have lineman that will maintain blocks. Kirby Smart describes this as "straining" through a block. Well, Miles "strains" until the echo of the referee's whistle and then some. Many times on film, you'll see big number 78 driving a first level defender into the ground or getting out in space and taking linebackers and, or defensive backs for an unpleasant ride.
Johnson had interest from other SEC schools such as Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Having seen him play personally, I can tell you that Georgia is getting a tireless worker!
PATRICK TAYLOR - CB - 6'0" 175 POUNDS - JOHNS CREEK
Patrick Taylor is a very instinctive defensive back. Taylor played extremely well for the Gladiators of Johns Creek his Senior year. It was very difficult for quarterbacks to target receivers aligned to his side. Taylor finished the 2019 campaign with 3 interceptions and 11 pass breakups.
Taylor has good length at 6'0" and possesses the ability to remain in phase with receivers down the field. Patrick is also quick to diagnose route combinations in zone, and undercut quite a few throws for the Johns Creek defense.
Taylor was the latest of the preferred walk-ons to announce his decision to come to Georgia. His post hit Twitter during Super Bowl XIV on Sunday.
WESTON LEE WALLACE - CB - 6'5" 340 POUNDS - GATEWOOD SCHOOL
Honestly, the commitment of Weston Lee Wallace to Georgia may end up one of the more underrated and, or overlooked in the 2020 recruiting class. Wallace is rated by 247 Sports as a 3-Star Offensive Tackle and was committed to Colorado State from August of 2019 until late January of 2020.
The Eatonton, Georgia product was brought on board to the Rams recruiting class by former Head Coach Mike Bobo and assistant Joe Cox. Obviously, Bobo and Cox both are former Georgia Bulldogs and it's fitting that the big tackle from Gatewood is now a Dawg.
Getting a 3-Star tackle as a PWO that was committed to a school such as Colorado State is no small feat. Certainly, Kirby Smart was excited about Wallace's decision. Smart tweeted out his customary "GO DAWGS!!" post not long after Weston Lee made his becoming a Dawg Twitter official on January 27th.
AUSTIN KIRKSEY - QB - 6'3" 205 POUNDS - NEVADA (TRANSFER) WALTON HIGH SCHOOL
Austin Kirksey is a very talented quarterback from Marietta, Georgia. Kirksey played his high school ball at Walton and was the gunslinger for talented and 2019 freshman Bulldog sensation Dominick Blaylock.
Kirksey signed a scholarship to go play with the Wolfpack of Nevada upon graduation in the spring of 2019. Austin spent his freshmen year out west and now has the desire to come home. Kirksey will of course becoming as a preferred walk-on, but he adds depth and talent to a quarterback room that once looked depth challenged before the additions of Jamie Newman and Carson Beck.
Kirksey has the ability to has the prototypical pocket passer build, but is very capable of escaping the pocket and making time for plays to open up down the field. Kirksey has a compact release and is very fundamentally sound. There is no doubt that Austin will provide Georgia with another competitor in the quarterback room and it's great to have players with the skill of Kirksey on the depth chart, especially with the volatility of the quarterback position in the age of the transfer portal.