Kirby Smart’s first full year of recruiting has Georgia among the best classes in the country.
The Bulldogs have dominated their home state and managed to lure some elite out-of-state prospects to play football in Athens. Georgia’s 2017 class has a strong blend of top-end talent, size and critical depth.
The Dawgs had nine recruits participate in the U.S. Army All-American Game.
Positions of need have been addressed, and there are several players who should compete for playing time right away. All told, this currently ranks as the Dawgs’ best class since Mark Richt’s 2006 class, which included Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno and also was ranked No. 3 in the country.
Let’s break it down.
SEC class rank: 2
Overall class rank: 3
Did they own the state: Yes
One of the biggest criticisms of Richt in his final years at Georgia was his inability to keep some of the state’s top prospects at home. Too many programs were stealing kids such as Deshaun Watson from the Peach State, but that doesn’t appear to be the case under Smart. In short, the Bulldogs are cleaning up in Georgia.
Thirteen of the state’s top 20 prospects are committed to Georgia, including 5 of the top 10. There are still several big names who could end up picking the Bulldogs on signing day. Homegrown talents like Richard LeCounte III, Deangelo Gibbs and Andrew Thomas will be representing their state at the next level.
Top player: Richard LeCounte III
Although 5-star offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson is the highest ranked prospect in this class (No. 16 overall), LeCounte is the one who already looks like a future star. The defensive back is ranked No. 22 overall, is one of the top athletes in the 2017 class and makes plays all over the field.
LeCounte (5-10, 174) isn’t as big as some of the other defensive backs in Georgia’s class, but he plays much bigger on the field. He is mentally and physically tough and plays with an edge that has been lacking in Athens in recent years.
— The Gridiron Crew (@Gridiron_Crew) January 4, 2017
Still chasing: Aubrey Solomon
Georgia’s in-state dominance would be complete if it manages to land Solomon. The nation’s No. 2 defensive tackle prospect is one of the most coveted 5-star prospects remaining, and he is being courted by the likes of Alabama and Michigan.
Still, the Bulldogs are right there in the mix for Solomon. He appears to have locked on to Michigan as of late, but it’s still a very fluid process and the Bulldogs will have a hat on the table when he picks.
Best unit: Secondary
The Bulldogs’ secondary improved over the course of the season, but it was clear that some changes would be necessary moving forward. This class is a great way to start that transition. LeCounte is a bona fide 5-star prospect, who should become a playmaker at the next level. He is joined by 4-stars Gibbs, Tray Bishop and William Poole III.
Biggest area of need filled: Offensive line
No unit needed a tune-up more than Georgia’s offensive line. A constant problem throughout the 2016 season, the Bulldogs lacked the size to effectively execute the style of football Smart wanted to play.
Georgia addressed that issue very well on the recruiting trail. The Bulldogs have six offensive linemen committed who will bring a lot of size to Athens. Wilson (6-7, 350) leads this group, which also includes D’Marcus Hayes (6-6, 320), the No. 2 JUCO offensive tackle, and Netori Johnson (6-3, 341), the No. 6 offensive guard.
Better or worse than last year: Better
It’s always challenging for a first-year coach to put together a good class in the limited time after his hiring, but Smart managed to land the No. 8 class in the country last season. Retaining Jacob Eason after Richt’s departure obviously was key. Now, with a full year on the trail, he has built the best class in more than decade.
The 2017 class isn’t just filled with talent, but it’s loaded with talent at crucial areas of need. Smart and his staff expertly diagnosed the positions they needed to address and then brought in elite prospects to improve those areas.
All recruiting rankings provided by 247Sports Composite
William McFadden covers the University of Georgia for Saturday Down South. For news on everything happening between the hedges, follow him on Twitter @willmcfadden.