Georgia misses with some big in-state names, but plenty of local talent will help right away
Kirby Smart grew up in Georgia and played enough high school football in the state to be a Georgia Bulldog recruit as a player. Now he’s the head coach at Georgia, and the Bulldog alum knows how important it is to keep the best talent in-state.
It’s always a challenge, because dozens of top programs recruit the state of Georgia hard. Smart, in his first recruiting cycle in Athens after replacing Mark Richt, also had to deal with adversity of another kind by being forced to split duties during his first few weeks on the job, remaining back at Alabama to catch the Crimson Tide defense in the playoffs, which resulted in two wins and a national championship.
Here’s how Smart’s first pass looks as National Signing Day wraps up on Wednesday:
Georgia signed only two of the state’s top-10 recruits (Mecole Hardman, Jr. and Julian Rochester) but in the top 25, Georgia signed nine locals. All things considered, that’s not so bad from a volume standpoint. Georgia needs to hit on three or four of those top 10 kids at least every year. They missed on a few too many this go-round.
But there were several local kids who signed on with Georgia who will help immediately. The Bulldogs are still hoping to contend in the SEC East, and no one will deny that they won’t battle for it.
Here are a few of the most critical pieces that the Bulldogs kept at home:
TE Isaac Nauta: The five-star tight end finished his high school career at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., but make no mistake, he is a true-and-true Georgia kid even though he wasn’t listed in the state rankings. Nauta played at Buford High School before transferring and he’s a huge get for Georgia. He was a Florida State commitment and seemed like a perfect fit there, considering how well FSU uses its tight ends. But then he decommitted and flipped to Georgia. With the likelihood of a freshman starting a quarterback, having a reliable tight end target is going to be huge. Nauta was the only tight end in the country to earn five stars and he should have an immediate impact in Athens.
ATH Mecole Hardman: Hardman is one of the more interesting recruits in the country. He’s tagged as “athlete” because he can play on either side of the ball, either as a receiver/runner or in the secondary. The Elberton, Ga., native runs a 4.32 in the 40-yard dash, which is NFL-eye-popping speed. He’ll probably be a special teams contributor right from the start. You can’t teach speed, and it’s great to have a weapon like this on the roster.
WR Tyler Simmons: The big thing about Simmons is that Kirby Smart wasn’t really planning on having him. He was hoping, of course, but Simmons was committed to Alabama, and it seemed fairly solid. Getting him to flip was huge, especially since adding pieces at wide receiver was critical. The Powder Springs, Ga., native is sure to be a fan favorite fairly quick. Smart took his entire offensive staff to Simmons’ house on their recruiting visit, and even line coach Sam Pittman’s English bulldog came along, pulling out all the stops. Adding two other receivers – four-star Riley Ridley and No. 3 junior college WR Javon Wims – increases the talent level at that position immediately.