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Everything Georgia Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart Said about Another Top Recruiting Class

December 15, 2021
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ATHENS - Georgia Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart talks about his 2022 class, which might wind up as the No. 1 class in college football.

"I'm excited about these guys joining us. Another great group, very hard-working staff to bring this into one group. It's still not over, as far as our guys will sign in February. I'm excited about this group. It's been one of the funnest to recruit here. It was kind of a half-COVID recruiting class because they didn't get to come to campus until June 1. Everybody came through—it was a wild time with everyone trying to come at the same time. Our staff did a tremendous job. Our recruiting staff did a tremendous job. Our administration helped. Our academic folks that meet with these kids, they come on visits. There was a span from June 1 to June 28, 29, where we spent every single day here with somebody here, so that was a big part of our signing class. It started before that on Zoom, it started before that in communication, talking. But physically seeing people, in front of them, it was certainly great to have these kids being able to come to campus like they did. I'm proud of the group. We feel like it's spread out the way it should be dispersed that way. We hit some needs that we needed. A lot of great stats that I could read through, but you guys have all those. It's really a well-rounded class in terms of multiple-sport athletes, high academic achievers, top-ranked guys, which I don't really care about what they're ranked. I care a whole lot more about how they play, and we've seen evidence of the guys that have played a big role on our team, some of those guys were not the guys we talked about on this day during their career and I think we know a lot about those guys. It's a lot more about what's inside you that matters the most."
 

On the emphasis placed on defensive backs in this class…
"We don't have enough DBs now. I don't know what you would be referring to—I don't know how many are in there, I get confused between what's in and what's not in, but we don't have enough. We're still lower than we've ever been in terms of defensive backs. We have more leaving than we have coming. We were already below, so if you have more leaving than you have coming, you're actually net gain, so we're still working on that defensive back position. It's a position that's been tough for us this year because we've not been able to play dime packages, we've not been able to do some of the things we've wanted to do, put six DBs on the field. I am really proud of the DBs in this class that we have, but we're not anywhere near where we used to be. I think there are seven that have left since the last year, then you throw in the seniors, those core Georgia guys that have been here forever and they're all finishing. When you add those seven plus four or five, that's a one-year window of 14 to 15 guys. In my mind, we're still short numbers of scholarship players."
 
On the addition of Gunner Stockton…
"The recruitment of Gunner was really interesting because we've known, at least I've known, Gunner since he was a small kid. His dad hosted me at an official visit at Georgia Southern many years ago, so I've known his dad for a long time. My dad was the high school there was Gunner was a young, young kid. Tremendous athlete, tremendous character, I don't know you could raise a finer young man in today's day and age of all the attention-seeking people. He's never done that. He's stuck to his guns that he loves UGA. He wants to be here, and certainly, a major part of our class."
 
On the quality of the defensive backs in this class…
"I don't think you actually ever know what you have. You certainly feel great about them, but to tab anybody the next guy or the first guy to start, it's hard. The length and the speed is what stood out the most. We missed some size in recent years. We like to have length; we like to have toughness. I like intelligence; I like ball skills. I think a lot of these qualities and traits show up. Your ability to play man-to-man—more in college football now than ever before, if you have a liability in coverage, it's easier to find it. It used to be we were all up in a little phone booth, now we're all out here, so your mistakes or your guys who can't cover, it's almost out of control. They spot it and they get you. I think this group, number one, has speed, they have man-to-man cover ability and they're going to help us. There's just not enough of them. What's interesting is it used to be you couldn't find O-linemen and D-linemen, and I still think they're hard to find, but you've got these top-notch schools all saying DBs because there's not enough of them to go around. The premier position is to go play wideout and we've got to find some guys that can cover those guys."
 
On the wide receivers in this class…
"It starts with speed. You've got to have vertical speed down the field, and we feel like we've got some guys that can really stretch the field and do that. High character—you've got to be able to learn, buy into the offense, understand the splits, understand the route tree, understand the intricacies that go with playing the position. We've got a really good group there. I think each one of those guys that we bring on board brings a different attribute, whether it's excellent speed, excellent size, quickness, toughness, all the things you look for. Wideout is another position where when you look across the board, we're down. We were down all year, not just because of injury but because we had three or four leave, and now, we're trying to replace those guys and catch up, and that's tough to do. I like to have the numbers where we hit quota, and you're finding out more and more now it's easier to leave than it is to get them, so we've got to get some more guys there."
 
On the offensive lineman in this recruiting class…
"I think it's like everything. You have a group, a class of O-lineman. Any NFL general manager or scout will tell you, 'OK, this class is loaded with this.' Last year's NFL Draft class had a lot of really good corners. We had two good corners go pretty high. We had corners go before, but that was a really big corner draft class. As you look across the country, the offensive line class now, I'm not talking about recruiting rankings like you referenced—I would refer to that because they are going to have a certain number of five stars and four stars that they've got to hit—but the pool of offensive lineman probably wasn't as great as it's been in years past in terms of quality depth at that position. Now if you go statistically, there is 100 four stars, 20 to 25 five stars. There may be the same number, but we're talking about on our board we rank things completely different than stars and things like that. We rate them where we can rate them across classes. Compare a guy three classes ago to a guy in this class. There were probably not as many guys. I feel great about the guys we got. We have a couple guys with great size. We have a couple of guys with great upside, kids that we think are going to be really good players that maybe haven't played football for a long time. I love the core group we got, and we have a good group here, a good nucleus here on campus that we feel good about in terms of offensive line."
 
On having two signing periods, NIL deals, and the Playoff all at once…
"I don't, I don't have many thoughts really. A mess would probably be your words. It's the world I live in. It's not a mess to me, it's just the world I live in. You better learn to deal with it and be on top of it. We're all dealing with the same 'mess,' so who handles it better is everything. I focus on how we can do it better and not on how messy it is."
 
On Chandler "C.J." Smith…
"Character. He's a high character young man that we actually recruited a long time and had an official visit set up with and then he ended up committing to Florida. After that, we kept in contact with him. I think he has a great set of parents—military-based, on time to everything. Academics are important to him. He's really fast. A track guy. Has excellent hands. When you look at the skill positions, that's the one trait you really don't develop as much as a lot of other traits—just sheer speed."
 

On recruiting to the STAR position versus corner or safety…
"If we thought a guy could be a STAR, then we could also say he'd be a really good corner or safety. It's not that we recruit to the STAR position. Certainly, it is a position in and of itself. He's on the field 80, 85 percent of the season, but we don't look at it that way. I look at it as you're developing two positions when you're here at any position. If you're a guard, you're developing as a center too. If you're a tackle you might be developing as a guard or center. If you're a back, you're going to develop as a wideout because you play in space. If you're a wideout, you're going to develop as a slot. Everybody has two homes because we want to develop you where you become better and not specialize. The STAR position is a guy—we've had corners that have played STAR and we've had safeties that have played STAR."
 
On Malaki Starks… 
"I think Malaki has a bright future. He's fast. Number one, he's very intelligent. He's high-character and you're going to hear me repeat that over and over because that matters way more than what reputation they're coming in with."
 
On the importance of persistence in recruiting…
"It's always the cause. I wouldn't say that just this class has been persistence. It's every class. It's consistency in messaging. It's consistency in communication. It's the number one overall quality that I want to be known for in recruiting: consistency in performance, consistency in messaging, continuity of our staff and program. We won out a lot on that because a lot of folks by default had things change, and we didn't have a lot of change. We were able to continue developing a relationship with people even if they were committed somewhere else because you never know what's going to happen."

 

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