Fact or Fiction: Georgia will sign a five-star prospect in the 2023 class
Rivals national recruiting analyst Ryan Wright along with JacketsOnline.com publisher Kelly Quinlan, UGASports.com recruiting analyst Blayne Gilmer and AuburnSports.com site publisher Jay Tate tackle three topics and determine whether they believe each statement is FACT or FICTION.
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1. Georgia Tech's recruiting efforts would benefit from a move to the Big Ten.
Wright’s take: FACT. On the surface, any change that includes more money coming into the program would be in favor of the Yellow Jackets. Geoff Collins is mired in a rebuilding project, posting three consecutive three-win seasons with a critical fourth season ahead – and winning matters with recruits. The pitch of early playing time and living in Atlanta routinely grabs recruits’ attention with Georgia Tech getting top four- and three-star players on campus. But the commitments are not happening as planned. Maybe lining up against Ohio State, Michigan and the like will be that breath of fresh air the program needs.
A spot with the Big Ten may change how recruits view Georgia Tech. The potential change may also sway in-state players away from the Bulldogs, and depending on what happens with Clemson, keep those Tigers at bay from taking top Peach State talents in favor of Big Ten competition.
If the Yellow Jackets become members of the Big Ten and more money comes into the program with more of those resources dedicated to the football program and recruiting, Georgia Tech’s program could return to the winning seasons seen under Chan Gailey and Paul Johnson.
Quinlan’s take: FACT. Moving to the Big Ten would help Georgia Tech’s recruiting efforts because it would have a seat at the table at one of the two superpower conferences and have money to compete on a more level playing field for the first time in at least two decades.
The Jackets have punched above their weight relative to budget and ACC TV dollars on the field and often in recruiting. Still, with NIL and schools that have budgets much larger than the Jackets, the influx of Big Ten dollars would allow for more resources in recruiting, a wider recruiting pitch area than just Georgia and Florida where most of the current recruiting takes place.
Georgia Tech’s brand gets stronger out of the Atlanta area and having games in places like the DMV with Maryland or near Chicago with Northwestern would help with some prime private school locations. The current staff has strong connections in many Big Ten areas including Ohio so having games in those markets at least semi-annually would help their recruiting pitch and likely improve the signing classes.
I think it would also be a win for the Big Ten as it would get some guaranteed games in one of the deepest recruiting areas in the country. That is why this nearly happened a decade ago when Maryland left and at that time the Jackets' leadership opted to stay in the ACC. Times are different now.
2. Georgia will land a five-star in the 2023 class.
Wright’s take: FICTION. Holding to the current state of affairs, that includes without flips, there are 19 five-stars in the Rivals250 with 11 still up for grabs. Of the 11, taking Jayden Wayne’s recent move from the state of Washington to IMG Academy in Bradenton (Fla.) out, there are five players in a desirable geographic position for the Bulldogs: CB Cormani McClain, WDE Samuel M’Pemba, ATH Nyckoles Harbor and WR Kykeem Williams.
I can see McClain, M’Pemba, and Harbor signing with UGA. I can also see McClain and M’Pemba signing with Alabama or even Florida, Harbor staying close to home with Maryland or going to Miami, and Williams heading to Texas A&M.
Another potential get is offensive tackle Samson Okunlola out of Massachusetts. Okunlola has taken official visits to Michigan State, Alabama and Miami. In the middle of his busy month of June taking officials, Okunlola dropped by Athens for an unofficial with Georgia. Okunlola has not announced which two programs will receive his final official visits.
Gilmer’s take: FACT. Yes, Georgia will land a five-star in this class.
Georgia has a legitimate shot with Samuel M’Pemba, Nyckoles Harbor, TJ Shanahan, Samson Okunlola and Hykeem Williams. I don’t see them coming up empty with all of them.
I wouldn’t count Georgia out with Cormani McClain. Simply put, Georgia will land at least one five-star in the 2023 class.
3. It's too early to hit the panic button on Auburn's 2023 class.
Wright’s take: FACT. Putting everything into perspective, Auburn’s class is currently ranked 13th out of the 14 SEC teams just above Missouri. During the Gus Malzahn era, Auburn was a perennial top-15 team with the occasional appearance in the top 10. The Tigers' 2022 class rallied to finish No. 18 in the Rivals.com Team Recruiting Rankings. Where might this class end up?
Time is on Auburn’s side, as is the fact that there are nine uncommitted four-stars in the state of Alabama. Another positive, of the Tigers' four commits each is a four-star prospect. With a solid foundation set, Auburn can make up ground in a hurry. Yet, Auburn fans want SEC and national championships, not settling for nine-win seasons. To compete against the best the SEC has to offer, elite recruits are needed and a lot of them.
Many SEC teams have been off to slower than usual starts, and that includes the Tigers’ in-state rival and Texas A&M. But in June and July, Alabama, LSU, Tennessee and even Arkansas made waves landing their targets. Most college teams are now pushing to have their classes wrapped up before preseason practices begin in August; many of the currently available may no longer be on the open market.
I’m hitting the panic button for Auburn with belief that the staff can close strong in July. Even with the vast majority of players committing before the 2022 season kicks off, there will still be talented players available heading toward the Early Signing Period. But targeting that group to fill in the class will mean they missed out on those higher on their board signaling big misses early in the process.
Tate’s take: FICTION. Auburn’s 2023 recruiting has been a mixed bag so far. The Tigers only have four commits so far, though two of them (safety Terrance Love and wideout Karmello English) were the team’s top overall targets at those positions. To put it diplomatically, Bryan Harsin has started his second recruiting class well.
The problem is that most SEC teams are farther along, which means the Tigers may find themselves picking through the big dogs’ leftovers if they don’t strike soon.
This program is in the midst of a pretty serious overhaul to its recruiting paradigm. Harsin and his staff were cavalier toward recruiting last summer and failed — quite spectacularly — at getting high-quality recruits on campus during the June window. A furious rally in December helped salvage the 2022 class, but the Tigers were conspicuously shut out during the February window. A big reason for that whiff was a lack of relationships that should have been established during the summer.
This year? Much different. Auburn has worked diligently to get its top targets on campus and was generally successful to that end. A number of top-tier targets — most notably defensive end Rueben Cain, defensive end Qua Russaw, defensive tackle James Smith, quarterback Brock Glenn, tight end Jelani Thurman — made official visits last month. Those relationships have been forged. Will that time spent in June make a difference come December and/or February? The answer probably has more to do with the Tigers’ season on the field than anything else. At least a proper foundation has been built.
Is it time to hit the panic button? I’d say no, but four commits is not enough. They need to at least double that number by the time their Big Cat Weekend ends on July 31. It’s time to pick up the pace.