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Post Dawgs had one or two surprises left for Signing Day

Thursday February 7, 2019

Even in a sleepy late signing period with room for at most two or three additions to the outstanding 2019 class, Georgia still managed to make some news on Wednesday.

The Bulldogs once again made national recruiting headlines when they announced the signing of Hoover, Ala. WR George Pickens. Pickens, rated a 5* prospect by Rivals, had been committed to Auburn for two years. Georgia rekindled their interest in Pickens when Jadon Haselwood signed with Oklahoma. With other schools including Tennessee and Miami looking to flip Pickens, he wasn’t exactly a firm commitment to Auburn, but it’s impressive that Georgia could make up so much ground so quickly on a prospect of this quality. According to the Rivals ratings, Pickens is a signing on par with A.J. Green. We’ll see about that, but at 6’5″ he’s a nightmare matchup problem with an ability to go up and get passes. In short, he brings the physical attributes and skill set you imagine in a top receiver prospect.

There was one reason Pickens didn’t have the high profile you might expect given his rating: academics. I don’t like to speculate about academic standing and don’t know Pickens’ specific situation, but enough recruiting sources have been open about this to give it credibility. It’s enough to say that Pickens has work to do and will have to watch his grades closely. As a signee, he’ll have all of the support and resources allowed from Georgia, but it’s now up to him to qualify.

Georgia would have to pass on most prospects with academic uncertainty. With so few spots remaining in this class, they’re not going to risk a nonqualifier with so many other quality prospects looking at Georgia. You make exceptions for 5* talent. Pickens is a “take” under most any circumstances. Now we wait…

We were almost certain Georgia would take a tight end in this late period whether it was a freshman signee or a graduate transfer. The Dawgs signed one of the best remaining tight end prospects in the nation when Brett Seither chose Georgia over Alabama. Seither began to draw interest from top programs late in the process, and he earned offers from “Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, Rutgers, Syracuse and TCU since the end of his senior season.” Georgia’s urgency at the position got turned up when Isaac Nauta declared for the NFL and Luke Ford transferred leaving the Dawgs with only two returning scholarship tight ends. While there were contingencies in the transfer pool, Seither was an important addition at a position of need.

Georgia still might have to be a little creative with its tight ends next season: incoming freshman Ryland Goede is coming off ACL surgery, and Seither checks in around 235 pounds. It’s possible neither will redshirt in 2019 just out of necessity, but it will be asking a lot for either to become major contributors right away.

If Georgia had a disappointment on Wednesday it was Kaiir Elam’s decision to stay home in Florida. Elam rode the coaching carousel with Mel Tucker leaving for Colorado and Florida’s defensive backs coach moving to Georgia. In the end familiy ties won out. The December signing of Tyrique Stevenson eased Georgia’s immediate need at cornerback, but Georgia had worked hard on Elam. Good cornerbacks over 6′ tall with technical skills aren’t common, so we’d rather he be in Athens than Gainesville.

Most analysts had Georgia signing two players – a tight end (Seither) and a defensive back (either Elam or FSU commitment Nick Cross). No commitment happens in a vacuum. We’ve seen many times how a decision here can ripple down to create or close opportunities elsewhere. Pickens’ morning announcement signaled that something was up. I doubt that Georgia would have turned away Pickens in any event, but it was much less of a quandary to take the risk if the staff knew of Elam’s decision.

In the end Georgia did get two new signees. It’s too confusing to guess whether that uses up all of Georgia’s scholarships for the coming year. People obsess over the numbers every year, and the staff always seems to find room to add someone out of the blue. We don’t know how active Georgia will be in the transfer pool this spring and summer, but it’s doubtful we’ll see any more freshman signings this month. Then again, Nick Cross didn’t sign anywhere on Wednesday…

UPDATE: Well this is interesting. Pickens’ signing along with decisions elsewhere around the nation moved Georgia ahead of Alabama for the nation’s #1 signing class according to Rivals. It gives Georgia the top class for the second straight season. You can insert your own disclaimers about recruiting rankings, and I’m sure other services will have different rankings, but when people were talking about Bama’s 2019 class as one of the best ever, it’s worthwhile to note that Georgia is right there with them. At the very least it’s an indication that Georgia and Alabama once again were among the best at assembling the pieces they’ll need to compete for the SEC and national titles, and neither program is fading anytime soon.

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