Final rankings: No. 12 in the nation and No. 5 in the SEC via Rivals; No. 7 in the nation and No. 4 in the SEC via 247sports; No. 9 in the nation and No. 4 in the SEC via Scout.
Star of the class: Jacob Eason (Lake Stevens, Wash.) — That’s pretty clear here. He’s a five-star quarterback who has been rated off and on as the nation’s top passer. He’s already approaching 6 feet, 6 inches and has now packed on 230 pounds. He will compete for the starting job right away in spring practice.
Three others could play next year: The staff should be eager to make sure the two other five-star prospects hit the field. Mecole Hardman, Jr. has elite speed and will immediately be one of the fastest players in the SEC. Isaac Nauta, the No. 1 tight end in the nation, is a physical mauler who doesn’t mind putting his hand on the ground, but he can also shake free of elite defensive backs in the passing game. Look for junior college receiver Javon Wims (6-4, 215) to hit the field early and often and the over-under given his skill set might be at seven touchdown catches in the SEC. There’s not another wideout on the roster who can match his blend of ball skills and size.
Biggest surprise: McEachern receiver Tyler Simmons also qualifies as the steal of the day. UGA flipped him away from Alabama to give Eason a good set of receivers to play with as he develops. The 6-foot, 200-pounder also has elite speed and has some of the same abilities that made Terry Godwin so effective as a UGA freshman in 2015.
The big fish that got away: These seem fairly easy as the hearts of the UGA faithful will still be torn up after seeing two get away on back-to-back afternoon decisions. It is never good to see the state’s top prospect take his talents to another SEC school, but that’s what happened when five-star defensive Derrick Brown chose Auburn. He was rated as the No. 3 defensive tackle in the nation.
EJ Price, another Metro Atlanta standout, would have been a big body who could play early on the offensive line. The 6-foot-6, 323-pounder from Archer High School was rated as the No. 8 prospect in the nation at offensive tackle. Price was just a four-star, but he was sorely needed as the program needs to get bigger and more athletic up front.
Overall grade: A
Analysis: This grade takes into account a few factors. New head coach Kirby Smart has had less than two months to recruit for UGA and a good chunk of that time was spent doing double-duty as Alabama’s defensive coordinator. The Bulldogs did sign three 5-star prospects and that feat was only matched by Alabama and Ole Miss. Smart and his new staff also landed the nation’s No. 1 athlete, the No. 1 tight end and the No. 2 quarterback in Eason. This grade could get some extra credit if UGA is able to land 5-star receiver Demetris Robertson over the next 10-to-12 days. The Savannah resident is regarded as the nation’s No. 1 receiver. That’s the good, but points need to be docked for not fully addressing the program’s needs for offensive line depth. With Robertson still in play, the ugly stat here is that only signed two of the state’s top 10 players this year.
How does that happen even with coaching turnover?
Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.