Georgia closing in on 'incredible' signing class

Georgia early enrollee Jake Fromm is part of a 2017 class that is considered among the best in Bulldogs history.

Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason was a top-five national signee last winter who wrestled away the starting role after one game this past season to become the centerpiece of the program for the foreseeable future.

If only things were so simple.

Kirby Smart is ratcheting up the talent level during his first full recruiting cycle as coach of the Bulldogs, which should create competition at just about every position in the upcoming months. That includes quarterback, because Eason could be challenged by Jake Fromm, a top-50 national prospect out of Warner Robins, Ga., who enrolled early.

"I'm excited to have another young kid like myself coming in with a lot of expectations," Eason said after Georgia's 31-23 win over TCU in the Liberty Bowl last month. "It should be a great competition. I'm looking forward to teaching him what I know and having him learn from me.

"It will be a great competition and a great learning experience for both of us."

Top-10 signing classes are nothing new at Georgia - former coach Mark Richt had 13 of them in his 15 years in Athens, with the exceptions ranking 11th (2010) and 12th (2013) - but none of Richt's classes were viewed as elite as this 2017 bumper crop.

With Wednesday's finish line of national signing day approaching, Georgia's class of six enrollees and 17 commitments ranks third behind Alabama and Ohio State, according to ESPN, and has Alabama and Georgia tied for the top class in the country.

"This is absolutely the best class I've ever seen at Georgia," ESPN recruiting analyst Derek Tyson said. "Mark Richt had some good classes, but this class has been pushing for the top spot. It's really incredible. Everybody knows that it all starts with the offensive and defensive lines in the SEC, and that's where they've done a fantastic job.

"They got offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson out of New York, and Robert Beal is one of the top defensive ends in the country. They put a focus on getting bigger, more physical guys up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage."

Georgia's disappointing 8-5 start to the Smart era was due to struggling special teams and offensive instability, with the offensive line often finding itself under the microscope. The Bulldogs have six offensive linemen either signed or committed, which includes the five-star Wilson and a quartet of four-star recruits, which is the most since Richt's 2007 crop had eight offensive linemen headed by Clint Boling and Trinton Sturdivant.

It could be argued the 1980 signing class was the best in Georgia history because it included running back Herschel Walker, who finished third, second and first in the Heisman Trophy voting during his three seasons under coach Vince Dooley. Walker played on teams that went 18-0 in Southeastern Conference games and 32-1 in the regular season, losing only to Clemson's 1981 national champions.

Safety Terry Hoage, defensive lineman Freddie Gilbert and tight end Clarence Kay were also part of Georgia's 1980 class, which went 43-4-1 in four seasons with three SEC titles and the 1980 national crown.

Georgia's 2000 recruiting class was the most undervalued in program history. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 23 after losing out to Georgia Tech on the Peach State linebackers trio of Keyaron Fox, Hobie Holiday and Daryl Smith. Yet coach Jim Donnan's final collection included quarterback David Greene, running back Musa Smith, receiver Reggie Brown, defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan, defensive end Will Thompson and safety Sean Jones, and it served as the nucleus of Richt's 2002 SEC champions.

Georgia's highest-rated class under Richt was signed in 2006 and headed by quarterback Matthew Stafford, running back Knowshon Moreno, defensive lineman Geno Atkins and safety Reshad Jones. Ranked No. 3 nationally, that class had 16 signees who were either four- or five-star prospects, but this year's group has 20, the most for the Bulldogs since Rivals and Scout started awarding stars in 2002.

The Bulldogs also have landed 11 of the Peach State's top 16 players.

"They have really put a fence around their state," Tyson said. "Their in-state competition is Georgia Tech, which runs a completely different scheme than Georgia, and they've really done well getting guys like Deangelo Gibbs, Robert Beal and William Poole. They've done a great job of identifying the top players in the state and getting them."

Georgia may not be finished, as the Bulldogs are finalists along with Alabama, Michigan and Southern California for defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon, a top-75 prospect out of Leesburg, Ga. The Bulldogs could also flip South Carolina cornerback commitment Jamyest Williams of Loganville, Ga., another top-75 prospect.

While Alabama may be closing in on a ninth No. 1 class in the last 10 years, Tyson believes that is not the top narrative in this year's SEC recruiting cycle.

"I would say the success of Georgia is the thing that has stood out to me most," Tyson said. "They've done a tremendous job despite not having the greatest of years on the field. It's pretty remarkable what Kirby Smart has been able to do."

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.