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Chip Towers

Georgia heads into signing day with Top 10 class that could go Top 5

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See important notes regarding National Signing Day coverage below story …

ATHENS – You know national signing day is bearing down on us with all the recruiting drama we’ve witnessed the last 48 to 72 hours.

As always, the Bulldogs were right in the middle of it. In the past couple of days, we’ve seen the Bulldogs add an under-the-radar 2-star recruit, move to the top of the list with a late offer to a 4-star prospect, fail to flip two other commitments and lose a 4-star to Marshall because of academic shortcomings. Meanwhile, all kinds of unresolved outcomes await Georgia tomorrow, with the Lorenzo Carter and Andrew Williams sweepstakes and nobody knowing for sure what Homestead (Fla.) wide receiver Gilbert Johnson is going to do.

Depending on how some of those little one-act plays turn out, when it’s all said and done, experts seem to think Georgia has had a pretty good 2014. The Bulldogs head into national signing day with an aggregate national ranking of 10 for its 2014 class, according to 247Sports.com’s composite ratings. That’s especially impressive when you add in the wrinkle that the Bulldogs have had to go about their business while having to completely rebuild their defensive staff and still having one assistant’s position open.

Plus, it’s not a huge class.  UGA is expected to sign 20-23 players, including early enrollee Jacob Park. The NCAA maximum is 25 and you can back-count early enrollees overall space is available.

“It’s very good for the number (of scholarships) they’re at,” said Rusty Mansell, who covers Georgia’s recruiting for 247Sports.com and the UGA-dedicated website Dawgs247.com. “I expect that number to get better. If they were to pull in Lorenzo Carter and Andrew Williams and now Isaiah McKenzie out of Florida, another highly-rated player out of Florida, if Georgia closes with those three, they could be pushing to be a top 5 class tomorrow.”

Obviously, the top 10 in anything is good, but it’s all relative. SEC competitors Alabama (1), Texas A&M (3), LSU (4), Tennessee (6), Auburn (7) and Florida (9) were all ahead of the Bulldogs in the same ratings, as of Tuesday.

The reality is, this class is not hugely important to the Bulldogs’ immediate future. Georgia lost only 13 scholarship seniors off last year’s squad and the main position impacted by graduation – the offensive line with three starters – is generally not addressed by incoming freshmen (that said, Mansell expects tackle Dyshon Sims and Isaiah Wynn to play next season.

The Bulldogs lost three non-starters in the defensive backfield and, while young there, remain questionably talented. So they’re looking for impact players in the secondary. They believe they got at least a couple in junior college transfer Shattle Fenteng (originally from Grayson) and Brooks County’s Malkolm Parrish.

Of course, most of the buzz regarding Georgia’s class starts and ends with its commitments of two 5-star rated running backs –  Nick Chubb of Cedartown and Sony Michel of Miami. Both players appear to be head and shoulders above anybody else in the class in terms of can’t-miss qualities.

“I think when you go back and look at this class in a couple of years, you’re going to realize these are great young men,” Mansell said. “Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Jeb Blazevich, Kendall Baker, Shakenneth Williams, all those types of kids are great young men, good players and also high-academic kids. That has impressed me as much about this class as anything else. They’re a good group of football players but just as important a group of good kids that will not be a locker room issue for you.”

As always, there were misses. That’s always going to be the case in a state that produces upward of 100 Division 1 prospects each year, you can sign only 25 and you’re getting several top-notch recruits from other states. Linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who played for former Georgia tight end Kirk Warner, would have been a nice addition. He’s an early enrollee at Ohio State. So would have Gainesville quarterback DeShaun Watson, who did the same thing at Clemson. And defensive tackle Dontavious Russell, a very early commitment to Georgia, got snatched away by former Georgia defensive line coach Rodney Garner and landed at Auburn.

Said Mansell: “There were some guys they recruited in state they didn’t get. But if you look at their out-of-state targets, with Sony as a 5-star, Isaiah Wynn a highly-rated 4-star offensifve lineman, Lamont Galliard a top five player in the state of North Carolina., they also went and got some good out-of-state players. We’ve seen Georgia do that in the past, with guys like Todd Gurley and Marshall Morgan and Arthur Lynch. Those are some out-of-state guys that panned out. They were all-conference this past year. That helps balance it out.”

All-in-all, Georgia seems to have kept pace in the ultra-competitive SEC. And, let’s face it, what school ever thinks it did a poor job recruiting?

A NOTE FROM OUR EDITORS ON NATIONAL SIGNING DAY COVERAGE …

Start with us at 7 a.m. and come back often as the AJC will be your Signing Day Central. No matter the platform or device you prefer, our team will have your team covered in depth. Go to ajc.com to get four important features:

  • We want to display your photos documenting your athlete’s signing. Email to recruiting@ajc.com and we’ll have photo galleries showing the big day.
  • AJC recruiting expert Michael Carvell provides the latest news and a running analysis of the day.
  • You can tap into our live updates on our new Current ATL page throughout the day and find commentary from other news sources, the schools involved and updates on anyone who matters on National Signing Day in one-stop shopping for information. You can use #SigningDay or #NationalSigningDay to follow or be part of the conversation.
  • We’ll offer a new feature, a region-by-region signing list, that will be updated continuously.

Go to myajc.com to get special premium features:

  • You’ll get minute-by-minute updates from our beat writers on site at Georgia, Georgia State and Georgia Tech beginning at 7 a.m., and in the afternoon the same update on the first-ever signing class for Kennesaw State as Vince Dooley visits with new coach Brian Bohannon on the KSU campus.
  • You can get deeper insight into the signings for Georgia and Georgia Tech with a complete list of inside information for each player.
  • Each beat writer also will provide special video coverage of the day on campus.
  • Our photo coverage extends to our premium site as well with multiple galleries.

In our Print AJC Sports section:

  • You’ll find eight pages of expanded coverage including special analysis by our beat writers and columnists.
  • Complete lists of SEC, ACC, State and AJC Super 11 signings.
  • Interviews with key recruits and coaches.

In our Olive E-edition:

  • We’ll provide coverage and analysis only found in the E-edition with a page on each of the major conferences, the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 along with information on the other Division I conferences and independents.
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