Georgia first full recruiting cycle under Kirby Smart dominated by beef

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart speaks in a press conference during National Signing Day at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, February 1, 2017. (Photo by John Paul Van Wert)

ATHENS, Ga. - Snack time at Georgia just got a lot more competitive.

The Bulldogs signed six offensive linemen in coach Kirby Smart's first full recruiting cycle, with D'Antne Demery the slimmest of the bunch at 6-foot-6 and 312 pounds. Demery will be joined in the not-too-distant future by Justin Shaffer (6-4, 350), Netori Johnson (6-4, 334), Isaiah Wilson (6-7, 350), Andrew Thomas (6-5, 338) and D'Marcus Hayes (6-5, 330).

"I am very pleased with the size of that group," Smart said. "Some of them have to be careful that they don't get too big, because for them to come in and be successful, they're going to have to move."

Addressing an offensive line that struggled for much of Smart's 8-5 debut season before losing three starters after the Liberty Bowl win over TCU was a point of emphasis for the Bulldogs, who have a crop of 26 overall signees. Georgia compiled the No. 3 class in the composite rankings, trailing only Alabama and Ohio State.

The Bulldogs matched their highest ranking first set in 2006, when the Bulldogs landed quarterback Matthew Stafford, running back Knowshon Moreno, defensive lineman Geno Atkins and safety Reshad Jones.

"It was an exciting, uneventful day," Smart said Wednesday, "if there is such a thing."

Smart will wait a long while before determining whether this year's class is a success, but the Bulldogs inked 18 players who were ranked among ESPN's top 300 nationally. The only classes with more were Alabama in 2014 and again this year, and LSU last year.

Analysts not only believe Georgia compiled a successful class but landed touted offensive linemen in a banner year at that position group.

"If you would have asked me the strongest position from top to bottom in this class, I would almost have to say offensive line," ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill said. "In the last 11 years, I would never have given you that answer. It's that good of a year in the offensive line in this 2017 class."

Five of Georgia's six incoming linemen are at least four-star prospects, with Wilson a five-star and among the top five tackles nationally. In one game this past season for Poly Prep Country Day in Brooklyn, N.Y., he scored three touchdowns as a quarterback operating out of the wildcat formation.

"This guy is talented," Smart said. "I've been fortunate to be around some really good offensive tackles. We had Cam Robinson play for us at Alabama as a freshman, and Andre Smith played before I got there as a freshman.

"He has the right mental makeup and the right demeanor. He has to take care of his body and not let his weight get out of control."

Hayes played this past season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and is the only offensive lineman to have enrolled early.

The Bulldogs were eighth in last year's recruiting rankings, the highest finish ever for a newly hired Southeastern Conference coach, and Smart said this class started to form when last year's recruits were faxing their letters of intent.

"I don't think people know how deep we were into this class last year at this time," he said. "I remember being at the national championship game (as Alabama's defensive coordinator), and during the time I was able to recruit, I was on the phone with a lot of these guys."

Georgia's 2017 class has two defensive linemen and no tight ends, but those were positions the Bulldogs stockpiled a year ago. There still is not a kicker on scholarship, though Wofford's David Marvin announced Wednesday he would play as a graduate transfer for the Bulldogs, who recently extended a preferred walk-on opportunity to kicker Brooks Buce of Greater Atlanta Christian.