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Post Righting the ship with recruiting

Friday February 7, 2020

By now we’ve become accustomed to most of the recruiting drama occurring around the early signing period in December. February is now for tying up loose ends and revisiting what happened in December. Even so, the late signing period offered some twists and turns in recent years. In 2018 Tyson Campbell committed and signed in February. Quay Walker had his infamous Tennessee hat-tossing signing ceremony. Otis Reese flipped from Michigan – a big deal at the time, but alas…

Of course the signing of George Pickens (and the flip from Auburn) dominated the February news in 2019.

The late signing day in 2020 was a little different. It featured some uncertainty but not much drama.

The day’s biggest question was whether Georgia would hold on to two long-time offensive line commitments. Sedrick Van Pran and Broderick Jones didn’t sign in December, and that caused a bit of consternation given the new position coach and the need to rebuild the line quickly after several early departures. Neither decommitted, but not signing opened the door for rivals to attempt to flip these highly-regarded prospects. Van Pran more or less shut things down well before signing day. Jones went so far as to hold an announcement on signing day, but his cancellation of a scheduled visit to Auburn in early February was a big sign that Georgia had convinced the five-star tackle to remain in the fold. There was uncertainty, and there always is until the ink is dry, but there was no shocking or unexpected news around Georgia’s signing class.

The Dawgs did add a couple of pieces at the offensive skill positions. 4* tailback Daijun Edwards was the first signee of the morning. Edwards committed to Georgia in late January, and he will join Kendall Milton to replace D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien in the Georgia backfield. Ladd McConkey was a late addition to a stellar group of freshman wide receivers.

Georgia also was able to flip three-star defensive back Daran Branch, landed three-star defensive lineman Cameron Kinnie and added walk-on quarterback Jackson Muschamp, the son of South Carolina coach Will Muschamp, to add to its already outstanding class.

Now that everyone has signed, the most impressive story over the past two months is how quickly and definitively Kirby Smart changed the narrative around Georgia football. Think about the state of the program around mid-December. We just saw an ugly loss to LSU in the SEC Championship that exposed just how far Georgia had to go to become a true national contender. Sam Pittman, one of the most popular members of the staff, left to helm the Arkansas program, and an important class of offensive line commitments was up in the air. We learned that around 20 players would miss the Sugar Bowl for a variety of reasons. Four of five offensive line starters left the program, and by the end of it all only two starters would return on offense for 2020. Georgia still had a bowl game to play, but no one really seemed to care. Fans grumbled about the state of the offense as they had since mid-October, and the memory of last season’s half-hearted performance against Texas meant that there would be plenty of seats available in New Orleans.

The response started before the bowl game. Matt Luke was brought on to replace Pittman, and the former Ole Miss head coach jumped right into the job of salvaging recruiting and preparing the team for the bowl. Luke cobbled together a serviceable group of five linemen for the bowl game, including one first-time starter, and they performed well against a top-ten opponent. Georgia’s December signing class received high marks, and there was only a single decommitment. The remnants of the 2019 team regrouped for the bowl game and handled a decent Baylor team to end the year on a high note. The new year started strong with significant signings from top tight end and defensive back prospects. Jake Fromm’s decision to leave was a temporary shock to the system, but the Dawgs soon added the top available graduate transfer quarterback. Todd Monken arrived in mid-January to lend immediate credibility to Smart’s imperative to transform the offense.

The dust has settled, and Georgia has finished with one of, if not the, top classes in the nation. They are well-positioned at the quarterback position despite the unexpected departure of Fromm. They’ve addressed the shortcomings on offense with a respectable new coordinator whose experience aligns with the vision of a more open, modern offense. Time will tell of course, but events since December have served to create a much more positive outlook heading into the 2020 season than we faced two months ago.

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