Georgia Recruiting From A Position of Strength
Living in the state of Georgia, it's quite often that conversations with people land on the topic of the University of Georgia football program and inevitably how the Dawgs are doing in recruiting. In these days of instant information and extreme exposure of talented prospects from every city, town, and hamlet across the entire United States, recruiting is the lifeblood of football diehards.
The lack of actual sports activities during the COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the focus on recruiting and recruits' inability to make visits is creating for a more hectic cycle than ever. With all of that said, a lot of the conversations on Georgia recruiting that I mentioned have been filled with consternation and borderline worry as the Dawgs only have 9 commits in the 2021 class. In response to this and many worrying questions being directed our way here at Dawgs Daily on SI.com, we provide some perspective on where Georgia is in terms of recruiting and the approach they're taking.
Sources close to the program and the recruiting process have indicated that Georgia's staff is to the point where they are able to fall in love with a prospect and pursue said prospect intensely until they are forced to make a change of plans. The reasoning behind this is two-fold. Georgia has both the depth and the schemes necessary to be ultra-selective in their approach to recruiting. Also, the number that Georgia can take this year is smaller.
Make no mistake about it, there are prospects that have offers from Georgia in the 2021 class that would be committed this second to the Dawgs, but they are not being allowed to. Like it or not, it's important to know that not every "offer" is created equal and they truly are not committable until the coaching staff says so. Georgia dropped the hint that they are planning on taking 20 prospects in this class. Yes, it's possible through some type of attrition or currently unforeseen circumstance that the number could grow north of 20, but for now that leaves the Dawgs with 11 precious spots remaining and several big fish to land and specific needs to fill with those 11.
Georgia has 55 scholarship players that are freshmen, red-shirt freshmen, sophomores, or red-shirt sophomores. Less handful of those red-shirt sophomores (the only ones of the 55 eligible for the NFL Draft) have a realistic shot of making the jump to the NFL after this season, such as Azeez Ojulari, Zamir White, and Divaad Wilson. This means that in the 2021 season, Georgia is going to have without a doubt one of, if not the, most experienced teams that Kirby Smart has had in Athens. Maybe not as senior-laden as 2017 was, but from top to bottom just loaded with program veterans.
The overall program depth is a luxury for the Dawgs in more ways that just the culture and leadership aspect. It makes the filling out of the remainder of the 2021 class more of a strategic wishlist than a desperate attempt to reload on talent. Especially on defense, Georgia can afford to go full throttle after the 5-Star studs like Korey Foreman, James Williams, Tony Grimes, and Smael Mondon and not worry about what if they miss. The recruiting that Kirby Smart and his staff have done in the last four years have lead to this point. The depth is there and if Georgia misses on the elite of the elite, because make no mistake about it anybody being recruited by Georgia is no scrub, they can afford to go after the next tier of a prospect that may not be ready to play immediately, but it's okay. They'll have time to develop.
Not only will the depth of numbers be there, but if Kirby Smart, Dan Lanning, and Todd Monken have their way, so will the depth of experience.
It's well documented that Georgia regularly rotated a plethora of players on the defensive side of the ball in 2019. Over 30 players would receive significant defensive snaps game in and game out for the Dawgs. This is in large part because of two cornerstone philosophies that the UGA staff has. 1: If you're good enough, you're old enough. 2: Use sub-packages to confuse and put the stress on the offense. Have a counter for every counter. Kirby Smart and Dan Lanning are masters at this and their desire to be prepared for every situation and be creative in how they attack the opponent's tendencies leads to several talented players finding their way onto the field.
Offensively, we at Dawgs Daily on SI.com expect to see a mirroring of this under Todd Monken. While some people are embellishing on Monken's Air Raid tendencies, he is a pro-style coordinator with more spread concepts than Georgia has run in the past. Why nobody should expect UGA to come out 4 and 5 wide a significant percentage of the time, people should expect creativity and unpredictability from Monken. Let's just say this year, every time James Cook is on the field it will not be a jet sweep or a fake jet sweep!
Georgia is going to stretch the field more with their young and talented receivers. I'd expect to see some more pace as well. This means receivers will rotate more, also two back sets will be utilized more and early on Georgia is be trying to solidify the rotation on the offensive line, so more big guys will see the field as well. All of this means that Georgia is going to play in a fashion that many guys get valuable reps in 2020.
Due to this and the sheer numbers, the 2021 class does not need much in the way of running back, wide receiver, or tight end. However, the Donovan Edwards, Malcolm Johnon Jr., and Brock Bowers type of recruits would be welcomed with open arms in the limited spots that are available in those respective offensive skill positions.
In quoting Aaron Rodgers, Bulldog fans should, "R-E-L-A-X!" Georgia is going to end up with 4 or 5 outstanding offensive lineman as usual. They'll get some tremendous offensive skill players that will fit great in Monken's new system. Finally, the Dawgs is land big time guys for specific needs on the defensive side that will make an already great unit even greater. Oh and by the way, Kirby Smart has been known to flip a key target or two in his tenure in Athens.
Expect some big dominoes to fall here in short order. If the decisions of major targets like Tony Grimes, James Williams, Brock Bowers, and others go in favor of UGA or not, it's never a bad thing to be in the position that you are squarely in a real position to land the most coveted talent in the country regardless of position simply because your staff is great at building relationships with players and you're product on the field is respected.
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