National Signing Day, a day that should be a national holiday, has come and gone. It’s the one day a year where people don’t think I’m weird for constantly checking up on kids that are still in high school. I started off the day at 6am by waking up to a text from recruiting all-star and future SportsCenter anchor Jamie Han which read “Merry Christmas”. I couldn’t think of a better way to describe it. Personally, I had to take a day off from living the dream in my cubicle to fully focus on the festivities so I could bring you this article. Here’s a rundown of what happened on signing day for the University of Georgia and my predictions of how some will fare on the field.
The University of Georgia has now officially received letters of intent from 20 student athletes who look to help to bring a title back to Athens. According to the 247 sports composite rankings, the class was made up of three 5-stars, ten 4-stars, and seven 3-stars. Of the twenty, 6 are already enrolled in classes for the Semester, most notably 5-star Quarterback Jacob Eason (Lake Stevens High School, Lake Stevens Washington). The signees consisted of 14 kids who call the Peach State home, three from Florida, one from North Carolina and one from Washington. Without further ado, let’s get into the details of Kirby Smart’s first signing class in Athens by taking a look at who the Dawgs picked up on singing day.
Signing Day Hits
- Mecole Hardman (Elbert County High School, Elberton, GA) 5-star Defensive Back – The headliner commit of the day, 5 star athlete Mecole Hardman did the inevitable and committed to UGA early Wednesday morning. Living approximately 20 minutes from Athens, Hardman was on the UGA campus more than some current students were the past two years. The coaching staff turnover in Athens gave some a scare that Hardman would leave the state and follow former UGA defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to Alabama. In the end, though, UGA was able to convince the 5-star athlete to stay home fending off competition from the aforementioned Alabama Crimson Tide and Ohio State Buckeyes, among others. Hardman says the staff wants him to play cornerback, but I have a hunch it will be too hard to keep the ball out of his hands and he sees time at receiver. Either way, a great athlete who will have a big impact at UGA
- Tyler Simmons (McEachern High School, Powder Springs, GA) 3-star Wide Receiver- Simmons was a big commit to UGA for multiple reasons
- UGA was able to flip his commitment from Alabama on signing day.
- He attends Mceachern High School, a powerhouse program in the state where UGA will certainly be recruiting at in the future.
- He is good. He’ll be one of the fastest guys on campus in Athens as a freshman.
- UGA is very thin at receiver and needs as many bodies there as possible.
- David Marshall (Upson Lee High School, Thomaston, GA) 3-star Defensive end – UGA was able to flip Marshall’s commitment from Auburn on signing day. Stealing a commit from a big rival is always a big deal, getting two in one day is twice as good, which prompted Glenn Schumann to tweet the picture below. Look for Marshall to be a good run stuffing defensive end in a year or two.
- Michail Carter (Jackson High School, Jackson, GA) 4-star defensive tackle – Carter’s decision ultimately came down to UGA and Alabama with the Dawgs eventually winning out. Beating out Alabama for a prospect is a win, partially because you know if Alabama wants him he can play ball. Carter is a big, fast defensive tackle who is very much in the mold of the stud defensive linemen Kirby Smart had over the years at Alabama.
Signing Day Misses
- Derrick Brown (Lanier High School, Buford, GA) 5-star defensive tackle (Signed with Auburn) – Brown’s recruitment was a wild one, but ultimately former UGA defensive line coach Rodney Garner was able to secure Brown’s commitment for Auburn. The consensus going into signing day was Brown would sign with Auburn but there was some chatter UGA had pulled ahead, either way this one was very close. Assuming Brown stays healthy, don’t expect him to ever be a senior on the Plains, I foresee him being selected high in the 2019 NFL Draft.
- EJ Price (Archer High School, Lawrenceville, GA) 4-star offensive lineman (Signed with Southern Cal) – Price is the only one of the misses who was considered to be a heavy UGA lean going into signing day. Much has been speculated but ultimately former UGA offensive coordinator and current USC offensive line coach Neil Calloway was able to convince Price to take his talents out west. Price is from powerhouse Gwinnett County Archer High School where UGA will certainly be recruiting at for the 2017 class and beyond.
- Brian Burns (American Heritage High School, Fort Lauderdale, FL) 4-star defensive end (signed with Florida State) – Burns is ultra-athletic and has an elite first step; once he puts on some weight in college linemen will have a hard time blocking him. UGA was rumored to have been heavy favorites to land Burns before Mark Richt was fired and the ‘Noles capitalized pulled ahead. Burns hails from the same high school as current players Sony Michel and Isaiah Mckenzie. Pairing Burns with former 5 star defensive end Josh Sweat does not bode well for the rest of the ACC.
- Demetris Robertson (Savannah Christian, Savannah, GA) 5-star wide receiver – Robertson is waiting on getting his SAT score in the hopes of getting a high enough score to be admitted to Stanford. Since he is still waiting on the results, Robertson decided not to sign a Letter of Intent on Signing day. If Robertson is admitted to Stanford, he will take an official visit to Palo Alto and see of the Pac-12 program is right for him. Robertson is expected to visit Athens this weekend (February 5th-7th) which bodes well for the Bulldogs. Notre Dame and Alabama are also fighting for Robertson’s signature. A decision should come within the next two weeks, and your guess is as good as mine where he goes to school. UGA has had success signing prospects after signing day, such as former tight end Orson Charles and current linebacker Roquan Smith. Kirby Smart sent out this tweet Wednesday night, undoubtedly a subtweet at Robertson to join in on #Squad16.
Immediate Impact – Some players need a couple of years to develop into good players in college. Others step foot on campus and are ready to play immediately, as seen with the likes of Nick Chubb, Todd Gurley, and Dominick Sanders just to name a few. Here are my picks for who could will see a lot of snaps in 2016.
- Jacob Eason (Lake Stevens High School, Lake Stevens Washington) 5-star Quarterback– Having already been anointed the savior of UGA football by some, Eason will look to win the starting quarterback job this offseason. Brice Ramsey and Greyson Lambert have age and experience on the young freshman but Eason’s talent is immense. Keep your expectations reasonable for the kid but I would not be surprised to see Eason starting against North Carolina in the Georgia Dome. My prediction is that Lambert wins the job and is much improved from the 2015 campaign, but with each Lambert incompletion there will undoubtedly be hundreds of drunk, obnoxious Georgia fans yelling “PUT EASON IN.”
- Javon Wims (Hinds Community College, Raymond, Mississippi) 4-star Wide Receiver- Wims is the lone Junior College transfer in the 2016 class, meaning he is older than all of the other signees. The point of bringing in a Junior college guy is to fill a need sooner rather than later so Wims is an easy pick for immediate impact. Wims will have two years of eligibility remaining and looks to be a starter from day one. At 6’4”, Wims is the type of big bodied receiver that gives cornerbacks fits. UGA hasn’t had much success with Junior College players in the past but look for Wims to turn that trend.
- Elijah Holyfield (Woodward Academy, College Park, GA) 4-star Running Back – The son of legendary heavyweight boxer Evander Hoylfield, Elijah looks to be the real deal as well. Look for Holyfield to get his touches early, especially if Nick Chubb is not healthy to start the season. UGA fans have seen how crucial depth is at running back due to propensity to injury. Even with a fully healthy backfield look for Holyfield to split carries with Chubb and Sony Michel.
- Mecole Hardman (Elbert County High School, Elberton, GA) 5-star Athlete– What position will Hardman play? I’m not sure yet but he is way too good of an athlete to make it onto the field in some capacity. Offense, defense, special teams, trash talk, whatever: he can do it. He even played quarterback for his high school last year. His versatility and athletic ability reminds me of the Booby Miles clip below. I wouldn’t expect Hardman to be filling up the Gatorade cooler or painting your back porch though.
- Isaac Nauta (Buford High School/IMG Academy, Buford, GA) 5 star tight end- If anyone is physically ready for the demands of college football it is Nauta. After starting for three years at powerhouse Georgia program Buford, then transferring to football factory IMG Academy for his last season, I would basically consider UGA to be the third college he has attended. New offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is known for getting his tight ends involved in the game (unlike Brian Schottenheimer) so look for Nauta to be on the field early and often.
Best College Player – Charlie Woerner (Rabun County High School, Tiger, GA) 4 star WR/TE – I’m going the easy way out on my highest draft pick so I’ll go out on a limb with my pick for best college player. At 6’5” 230 pounds Woerner is a freak athlete who looks to catch a lot of passes from Jacob Eason. Position is also a question for Woerner, as he may grow into a tight end but either way he is an elite pass catcher. A good player comparison for his potential (strong emphasis on the word potential) would be Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots or perhaps former Georgia Tech star Calvin Johnson, depending on what position he ends up at.
Highest Draft Pick – Jacob Eason (Lake Stevens High School, Lake Stevens Washington) 5-star quarterback. He’s just so good I can’t avoid picking him. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and watch his high school highlights. Its as if he’s throwing a nerf ball; it just looks different when he slings it. Eason has the size and arm strength that NFL general managers drool over and is often compared to former UGA quarterback and former first overall pick Matthew Stafford. If Eason has even an average career in Athens, he’ll most likely be a three years and out player and be drafted high based upon his upside and skill set.
Considering the coaching turnover and the limited amount of time Kirby Smart had to focus on recruiting at UGA this staff did an outstanding job. UGA was able to hang on to nearly all of the commits they wanted, especially Eason, and bring some other good players into the fold. While this signing class is relatively small with just 20 commits, look for UGA to take 31 or 32 in the 2017 class. Obviously there is still one BIG recruit left on the board in Demetris Robertson; he would be a huge addition to this class and would be a statement recruiting win for this staff. With Kirby Smart and crew having a whole year to recruit for UGA I would anticipate a higher overall class ranking than 7 next year.