ATLANTA — Practices for Georgia and Georgia Tech are underway, and both schools can shift their attention from recruiting to football without as much worry as in recent years.
Most of the work is already completed.
UGA has 16 commitments for its 2014 class and will likely sign 21 or 22 recruits in February. The Bulldogs’ newcomers are rated seventh or higher among the four major recruiting services.
Meanwhile, Georgia Tech has 14 commitments and projects to finish with around 20 or 21 on national signing day. The Yellow Jackets are rated No. 33 by Rivals, No. 38 by 247sports, No. 62 by Scout and unranked by ESPN.
Regardless of recruiting rankings, UGA and Georgia Tech are in good position for filling some of their biggest personnel needs early in the recruiting process.
Both the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets can be selective with their final scholarship spots over the next six months.
“As a staff, Georgia has to probably be very happy knowing that they’re going into the football season with 80 percent of their class already done,” said Rusty Mansell of 247sports. “Now Georgia can really concentrate on their season. With recruiting, they can focus and work hard on these last five, six guys.”
UGA is in good shape after a sizzling summer. The Bulldogs received 12 of their 16 commitments during the months of June and July.
“I make this comment all the time: Recruiting is all about momentum, just like a game,” Mansell said. “There are swings of momentum in a football game and the same thing happens in recruiting.
“Georgia started reeling off kids in June ... and recruits pay attention to that. They want to play with other kids. They know spots are filling up. And if they are serious about a place, there’s no sense in waiting around. At Georgia, they had a lot of kids take their spots early and get recruiting over with.”
The biggest names Georgia landed were at running and the defensive line. Cedartown’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are both ranked among the nation’s top 10 running backs. Defensive linemen Lamont Gaillard of Fayetteville, N.C., Dontavius Russell of Carrollton and Kendall Baker of Marist are all rated as 4-star prospects or higher.
“I think it’s an interesting situation for Georgia,” said UGASports.com’s Jake Rowe. “There’s not a lot of spots left and not a lot of guys on the board. But there’s also not very many glaring needs.
“I think they want to bring in two, three outside linebackers. That appears to be the only major need. Everywhere else, they’ve kind of got balance.”
In the national rankings, UGA is listed at No. 3 with Scout, No. 4 with 247, No. 5 with ESPN and No. 7 with Rivals.
UGA won’t sign nearly as many recruits as last year’s super-sized group of 33. Two members of that class did not meet NCAA entrance requirements. Swainsboro wide receiver Rico Johnson intends to go to prep school while North Gwinnett offensive lineman DeVondre Seymour is headed to junior college.
Meanwhile, Georgia Tech has also been on a recruiting streak, landing 12 of 14 commitments within the last two months. It’s the best recruiting start for the Yellow Jackets since Paul Johnson was hired as coach in 2009, according to JacketsOnline.com’s Kelly Quinlan.
“They’ve really done a good job of filling their needs with high quality guys, getting a lot of their first couple of choices and not having to fall back on other guys,” Quinlan said. “They’ve got a good chance at finishing much higher this year with all the recruiting services.”
There are several reasons for the fast start, but the biggest probably has to do with adding much-needed resources within the program. In May, Georgia Tech quadrupled the size of its recruiting staff to four full-time employees. There appeared to be a more organized effort in identifying targets earlier and recruiting them more aggressively.
Tech’s biggest success has been in the defensive secondary, landing five recruits who could play cornerback or safety. Also, the Yellow Jackets beat out Nebraska for quarterback Matthew Jordan of Jackson, Ala.
“They need at least two more offensive linemen and an outside linebacker who can cover tight ends and work in pass coverage, in my opinion,” Quinlan said. “They also may get an A-Back and a quarterback-athlete who can also play some at running back or wide receiver.”