Building UGA's highest-rated recruiting class from the past decade
Although Georgia’s on-field performance has fluctuated a bit over the past 10 years, its recruiting has consistently been among the best in the SEC.
Only three times in the past decade have the Bulldogs put together a class that did not rank among the top five in the conference. Many of the team’s biggest stars were highly-rated recruits who had fans excited well before they set foot on the field.
With recruiting season now in full swing, we’ve decided to take a look back at some of the top prospects that signed with Georgia since 2007. Please note that these selections are the highest-rated prospects coming out of high school, and their performance in Athens has no bearing. There will be another list that covers on-field play coming soon.
Here is what a Georgia recruiting class would look like if it took its highest-rated prospect of the past decade at each position.
Quarterback – Jacob Eason (2016): Eason arrived at Georgia as the highest touted prospect since Matthew Stafford. The Washington native was the nation’s No. 5 prospect and had a grade of .9973. His freshman season had its share of ups and downs, but the ups were exactly what fans had hoped to see from Eason. Next season, he will be expected to take the next step in his maturation process, but the future looks bright for this Bulldogs quarterback.
Honorable mention: Aaron Murray (2009)
Running back – Isaiah Crowell (2011): The crown jewel of the Bulldogs’ 2011 class, Crowell had fans excited when he held up a puppy and told the nation he was headed to Athens. He was the nation’s No. 1 running back prospect and had a .9958 grade coming out of high school. Injuries plagued his freshman season, and a perceived lack of toughness soured his reputation a bit. Crowell, now starting for the Cleveland Browns, was dismissed from the team before his sophomore year after facing gun charges that were later dropped.
Honorable mention: Keith Marshall (2012)
Wide receiver – A.J. Green (2008): Before he was tearing apart NFL defenses, Green was the country’s No. 2 receiver prospect in the Class of 2008. Boasting an impressive grade of .9972, Green signed with Georgia and immediately made his mark between the hedges. Green finished his college career with 2,619 yards and 23 touchdown catches.
Honorable mention: Terry Godwin (2015)
Tight end – Isaac Nauta (2016): It’s rare for a tight end prospect to earn a 5-star designation, but Nauta (below) was certainly deserving of his. The top tight end in the 2016 class with a grade of .9903, Nauta was a big part of the Bulldogs’ freshman class this season. Already looking like a talented veteran, Nauta established great chemistry with Eason and finished third on the team with 27 catches for 353 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Honorable mention: Jay Rome (2011)
Offensive tackle – John Theus (2011): Georgia hasn’t recruited well along the offensive line, but Theus was a big-time commit for the Bulldogs. The 5-star tackle was the No. 3 prospect at his position and had a .9911 grade coming out of high school. He was a solid player while in Athens and helped pave the way for the likes of Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, Keith Marshall and Sony Michel.
Honorable mention: Austin Long (2009)
Offensive guard – Isaiah Wynn (2014): One of the Bulldogs’ most versatile offensive lineman, Wynn arrived at Georgia as a 4-star prospect. The No. 7 player at his position coming out of high school, Wynn had a grade of .9456. He dealt with injuries throughout the 2016 season but should be one of the few returning veterans on the line next year.
Honorable mention: Kolton Houston (2010)
Center – Brandon Kublanow (2013): An anchor on Georgia’s offensive line since 2014, Kublanow was a coveted prospect coming out of high school. He had a grade of .9202 and was the No. 4 center in his class. Kublanow earned All-SEC honors in his junior and senior seasons and played his final game as a Bulldog against TCU in the Liberty Bowl.
Honorable mention: David Andrews (2011)
Defensive end – Lorenzo Carter (2014): Before he was transformed into a versatile outside linebacker, Carter was one of the top defensive ends in his class. Carter was the No. 2 defensive end prospect and had a .9911 grade. He was the top signee in a class that included Chubb and Michel. Going into the Liberty Bowl, Carter had 8.5 sacks in his college career to go along with 97 tackles and 12 tackles for a loss.
Honorable mention: Ray Drew (2011)
Defensive tackle – Trent Thompson (2015): The nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in 2015, Thompson was a massive get for the Bulldogs. With a .9991 grade, he is the highest-rated recruit Georgia has signed in the past 10 years. Thompson made major progress during his sophomore season and should become a true impact player in 2017. He has 73 tackles thus far in his career and 8.5 tackles for a loss.
Honorable mention: DeAngelo Tyson (2008)
Outside linebacker – Josh Harvey-Clemons (2012): A major Georgia target throughout his recruitment, Harvey-Clemons (below) made fans ecstatic when he chose the Bulldogs on live television on national signing day. The 5-star linebacker was the top prospect at his position and had a grade of .9888. Harvey-Clemons saw limited action as a freshman, but he emerged as one of Georgia’s top defenders in his sophomore season. He was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules before his junior year, then joined Louisville and emerged as one of the ACC’s top defensive backs.
Honorable mention: Roquan Smith (2015)
Inside linebacker – Alec Ogletree (2010): Another No. 1 linebacker prospect that signed on with Georgia, Ogletree became one of the premier defenders in the SEC. He carried a grade of .9885 and was a 5-star recruit for the Bulldogs. Ogletree made a solid contribution in his first season and improved from there. As a junior, Ogletree led Georgia with 111 tackles and also had 11.5 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks, an interception and a crucial touchdown off a blocked kick against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
Honorable mention: Tim Kimbrough (2013)
Cornerback – Branden Smith (2009): Smith was the star defensive prospect in an offense-heavy recruiting class. The 5-star cornerback was the nation’s No. 2 player at his position and had a .9894 grade. Smith had a slow start to his career, but soon became one of the most versatile players on the team. When he left the Bulldogs, Smith had accounted for 426 yards of offense, 623 yards in punt and kickoff returns, 80 tackles and 4 interceptions.
Honorable mention: Damian Swann (2011)
Safety – Tray Matthews (2013): Matthews was the top recruit in a 2013 class that was a little below Georgia’s standards for the decade. Still, Matthews was a 4-star prospect and the No. 11 safety in his class with a .9632 grade. He showed plenty of promise during his freshman season, but that would be his only one with the team. Matthews was dismissed from Georgia before the start of the 2014 season and wound up at Auburn.
Honorable mention: Rashad Roundtree (2015)
Kicker – Blair Walsh (2008): It’s not common for most programs to include a kicker as a member of a recruiting class, but Walsh proved to be a great addition. The No. 2 kicker prospect in his class, Walsh had a grade of .8694. He started as a freshman and became one of the nation’s top kickers in his sophomore season. Walsh finished his Georgia career with 412 points scored, which set a school and SEC record and was second in NCAA history.
Honorable mention: Marshall Morgan (2012)
Punter – Marshall Long (2016): Long broke off his commitment to Virginia Tech and followed Shane Beamer to Georgia. His first season with the Bulldogs was a little rocky, however, as he finished with the worst punting average among qualified punters. Long did flash promise, but will need to improve heading into next season. He was a 3-star prospect with a .8160 grade.
Honorable mention: Colin Barber (2012)
All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.com’s composite ratings, unless otherwise indicated.
William McFadden covers the University of Georgia for Saturday Down South. For news on everything happening between the hedges, follow him on Twitter @willmcfadden.