The gap between Alabama and Georgia football doesn’t seem to be closing.
As much as Georgia football fans want to believe that Georgia is on the cusp of catching Alabama the facts do not seem to back that up. Kirby Smart and company have recruited at an elite level, however, do they really get the best guys to come to their program and develop them to their full potential?
Recruiting titles are nice, but what is even better is having those players go on to be the top performers at their positions. For example, in 2017 Alabama recruited the number one recruiting class in the nation. Six of those players were rated as five-stars according to The 247 Composite. However, they had stud performers all the way through.
Here is a list of all the awards won by that 2017 Alabama recruiting class:
Najee Harris – 2020 Doak Walker Award Winner, All-American
Alex Leatherwood – 2020 Outland Trophy Winner, All-American
Jerry Jeudy – 2018 Fred Biletnikoff Award Winner, All-American, First-round pick
Tua Tagovailoa – 2018 Maxwell Award Winner, Walter Camp Player of the Year, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, All-American, 2020 First-round pick
Devonta Smith – 2020 Heisman Trophy Winner, Maxwell Award Winner, Walter Camp Award Player of the Year, Biletnikoff Award Winner, All-American
Mac Jones – 2020 Davey O’Brien Award Winner, Heisman Runner-Up
In 2018, Kirby Smart’s third recruiting cycle as Georgia football head coach, he brought in his first number one overall recruiting class. That class has gone on to win the SEC East twice, but has never made it to the College Football Playoff, has never had a player win a national award, and hasn’t had a single player voted to the Consensus All-American Team.
In fact, there have been more players from that recruiting class transfer out of Georgia than there have been trophies collected by them (four trophies, six transfers). Justin Fields is the most memorable transfer, but he was surely not the only one. Georgia football has seen a total of six players that committed to playing for the Bulldogs in 2018 leave for other opportunities.
Those six players were:
Five-star quarterback Justin Fields
Five-star tackle Cade Mays
Five-star defensive end Brenton Cox
Four-star safety Otis Reese
Four-star cornerback Divaad Wilson
Four-star tight end Luke Ford
That is a lot of talent to lose, regardless of why they decided to leave. One of the problems that have surfaced for Georgia football when it comes to recruiting is not getting the right guys. Smart is able to recruit talented guys, but some of the time those guys don’t exactly fit into Georgia. Whether it be underperforming, attitude issues, or both these sorts of things should be filtered out in the scouting phase of recruiting.
Just to be clear, Ford was not such a recruit. He transferred out because his grandfather had become gravely ill and he wanted to be able to play in front of him before he passed.
This is by far the biggest reason Alabama continues to have an edge on Georgia football. Yes, Georgia has the same amount of talent (on paper) but Alabama is better at scouting out those diamonds in the rough, those superstars in the making. If you remember it was 2017 recruit Devonta Smith that did Georgia in on that second and 26 in overtime for the National Championship, who just happened to be committed to Georgia before they chose to go with someone else.
Creating a championship roster is not just about getting the best-rated guys in recruiting. It is about scouting the right guys with the right tools that you can nurture into big-time contributors. Mac Jones was just a three-star quarterback when Saban brought him in. He will now leave Alabama as the best quarterback of the 2020 season and runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.
However, it is not just the three-star recruits turned studs that Coach Smart can work on. He also needs to work on developing the five-stars he brings in. As was pointed out earlier, Smart brought in the number one recruiting class of 2018. That class included seven five-stars.
Five-star quarterback Justin Fields
Five-star running back Zamir White
Five-star guard Jamaree Salyer
Five-star cornerback Tyson Campbell
Five-star linebacker Adam Anderson
Five-star guard Cade Mays
Five-star linebacker Brenton Cox
Three of those five-stars have transferred away. Fields has his team playing in the College Football Playoff this weekend. There have been mixed reviews from Cox and Mays, however, that is still a slight against Georgia football recruiting. If Mays and Cox fail to live up to their five-star status Georgia should have done a better job scouting them so they would have known that before they got on campus.
Simply put, if you go by the numbers and recruiting titles, Georgia football looks like they are right on the cusp of catching Alabama. However, when you look at how much production Alabama gets out of its recruits vs the level of production Georgia gets out of its recruits the gap becomes much clearer. This is why Alabama always seems to catch Georgia at the end of games, the cream rises to the top.
Until Georgia football shows the ability to develop these blue-chip superstars the program will always play second fiddle. No program has ever won a National Championship without a few players that stood out among the nation’s best. Georgia needs to start getting their players into that conversation more often.
The 2018 recruiting class can still make some noise in 2021. Quay Walker, James Cook, Channing Tindall, Kearis Jackson, Tommy Bush, Warren Ericson, Devonte Wyatt, Christopher Smith, John Fitzpatrick, Jordan Davis, Owen Condon, and Jake Camarda will all be back to take one more swing at bringing home a National Championship.
This group that was assembled gave all of Dawg Nation hope that Georgia football was about to become the next dynasty of college football. That simply has not happened. As of now, this group has not lived up to its hype. The time is now to fix that. There are eight months to get these men ready to take on Clemson and to show the world that this group can achieve the goal it was put together to achieve.
This is the unfinished business that this class needs to handle. This is why so many of the players are coming back for another season. There is one goal, there is only one thing that will justify the rating of this number one recruiting class and that is a new National Championship trophy inside of Georgia’s trophy case.
In order to do that there will need to be a few that step up and completely dominate at their position. Not just get their job done, but get it done at a level that is better than just about everyone else in the nation. This is the kind of performance Georgia football will need from Anderson, Walker, and Cook especially. Can they reach another level? Time will tell.