Smart gives his thoughts on top-ranked class
When Sam Pittman left to become the head coach at Arkansas, many Georgia fans feared what his departure would mean for the status of the five offensive linemen who were committed to the program.
Thanks largely to new offensive line coach Matt Luke, they need not have worried.
With the exception of Florida four-star Joshua Braun, Kirby Smart was able to keep his impressive collection of offensive line recruits totally intact. Wednesday Georgia signed four-star Sedrick Van Pran, five-star Broderick Jones, and three-star Cameron Kinnie. It's a group of signees that helped Georgia wrap up the nation’s top class in Rivals for the third straight year.
“Coach Luke is a big part of that energy. Getting him on staff fast was probably one of the critical roles to that transition. It wasn’t a long-time process where they had to sit on the unknown,” Smart said. “Two days, three days after Coach Pittman left kids, we had somebody new to meet, and we began to meet them before the middle dead period, the Christmas dead period. It was critical so that he could communicate with them throughout that period and keep a relationship. He’s got a lot of energy. He’s been a blessing for us. In addition, it helps me from a head coach standpoint. It did help a lot on the offensive line.”
The nation’s top-ranked center, Van Pran can also be slotted in at guard, and along with Jones and Tate Ratledge give Georgia three names who appear on the Rivals100 offensive line.
Jones, who stuck with the Bulldogs despite a heavy push from Auburn, is the nation’s No. 1 tackle. He will likely be in the discussion for early playing time when camp opens in Athens.
“We’re excited about the offensive line class. First of all, it ranges from large and wide to a little bit lighter and more athletic. These guys will have to develop. I’ve always said the offensive line position is probably the toughest to come in and play right away, if you just rank all the positions going forward,” Smart said. “Andrew (Thomas) was very unique to be able to do that, but it's very rare at that position. These guys will have to come in, develop, lift, work. What’s going to be unique for us is a lot of these guys may be littered across the two-deep.”
Smart also made it clear that the addition of Kinnie was in the plans all along.
A standout defensive lineman at Collins Hill, Kinnie told UGASports that he will play on the interior offensive line for the Bulldogs.
"Cameron Kinnie is a kid we targeted and felt like was, number one, extremely high-character, extremely high-academic, really good athlete, played both ways, played at the highest level of football where he played. We're fortunate to get him signed with us, and we're excited about him,” Smart said. “We think he's going to be a program player in that he's always going to be doing the right things on and off the field, and he plays at a high level at multiple positions. This guy played 4-I, he played three-technique, and he played center. I've got a lot of respect for the program he comes from and what he can provide to our depth on the offensive line."
Edwards, who led Colquitt County with 1,008 yards and 11 touchdowns, joins Kendall Milton to complete the pair of running backs signed by the Bulldogs.
“Getting a second back in this class was key for us. We’re excited about the young man we have. We’ve been after him for a long time; he’s come up to a lot of camps. He plays in what probably is one of the toughest regions in our state, and he’s played at a high level,” Smart said. “You talk about the people he’s had to play against, he’s been a really good player. I’m talking about Daijun Edwards, and Kendall joining mid-year has been a big addition, too.”
Although Smart shrugged off the fact that Georgia boasts the nation’s top-ranked class, he did agree on one thing, and that’s why it’s imperative to recruit at a high level if dreams of a national title are ever to be accomplished.
“Do I think this has something to do with it?” Smart said. “Absolutely it has something to do with it. But what that ranking is, or when that happens, or how it plays, I don’t think that necessarily correlates.”