Kirby Smart had a few main goals for Georgia’s 2017 recruiting class: Add depth in the secondary, improve along the offensive line and own the state of Georgia.
“We wanted to attack the offensive line, attack the front, improve the depth in the secondary and just throughout the team,” Smart told ESPN’s Maria Taylor on Wednesday. “We really struggled on special teams to find fast guys that can run, and that’s always a target for us: To get really good players and protect our state.”
He didn’t just meet those goals, Smart blew past them on his way to building the country’s No. 3 recruiting class — the Dawgs’ best since Matthew Stafford’s 2006 class.
It’s a class that hit in all of the key areas. The Bulldogs hauled in one of the best groups of offensive linemen in the country, added legitimate playmakers on defense and kept some of the state’s top prospects home.
Smart’s first season as a head coach had some rough spots, but his first full year on the recruiting trail delivered on the hopes that Georgia had upon hiring him.
Overall rank: No. 3
SEC rank: No. 2
The Bulldogs didn’t have much drama on National Signing Day, but that’s only because they had most of the class wrapped up well before then.
Much to Georgia fans’ delight, offensive line was the major priority.
Six linemen are in the fold, with an average size of 6-5 and 337 pounds. This added size should help the Bulldogs develop more consistency and physicality in the trenches and keep Jacob Eason clean.
It’s a group that’s headlined by 5-star tackle Isaiah Wilson and D’Marcus Hayes, the No. 2 JUCO offensive tackle. The depth and talent at the position is unlike any Georgia has had in recent seasons and it came at an important time.
Outside of the offensive line, the defensive back class was one of the other notable units for Georgia. Heading into National Signing Day, the Bulldogs already had the nation’s No. 2 and No. 4 safety prospects locked up in Richard LeCounte III and Deangelo Gibbs, respectively. At cornerback, Tray Bishop will bring some size to Athens, while William Poole III is a fantastic defender in coverage.
The Bulldogs also added a few more pieces in the secondary on signing day. Eric Stokes and Ameer Speed are two fast corners who will bring length and speed to Athens. Latavious Brini was the final commitment of the day for this 26-man class, and he became the fourth defensive back who is 6-2 or taller to sign.
Size was a priority in the secondary for the Bulldogs. When discussing his defensive backs after the day was over, Smart put it simply, “Length, man, length. We needed it.”
Brini’s announcement seemed to signal that the Bulldogs would miss out on one of their final top targets, 4-star cornerback Jamyest Williams. The Georgia native confirmed that notion when he announced that he would remain pledged to South Carolina, despite a late run from the Bulldogs.
Williams was one of the few top in-state prospects who said no to the Bulldogs. Smart dominated the state of Georgia in a way that Mark Richt didn’t in his final years.
Four of the state’s top five 10 prospects, and 14 of the top 22, committed to Georgia’s 2017 class. In ESPN’s recruiting ratings, the Bulldogs signed all three of the state’s 5-star prospects.
The state of Georgia has 24 recruits in the ESPN 300
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 1, 2017
Big names like LeCounte, Gibbs, Robert Beal and Jake Fromm are important parts of this class. Smart’s first full year of recruiting clearly made waves within the state, and his message struck a chord with the players in Georgia’s backyard.
This is exactly what the Bulldogs were hoping for when Smart came back to Athens as the program’s head coach. He still has a learning curve when it comes to managing a team and program, but he hasn’t missed a beat in recruiting.
Nick Saban has indicated many times that recruiting is the most important aspect of building a championship program. Georgia hired Smart to build a program of Alabama’s caliber.
After Wednesday, it looks like he’s got this ship moving in the right direction.
William McFadden covers the University of Georgia for Saturday Down South. For news on everything happening between the hedges, follow him on Twitter @willmcfadden.