Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Smart's first UGA signing class shapes up nicely. No shock there

Toward the end, the most-voiced reason for keeping Mark Richt was because Georgia’s 2016 recruiting class was shaping up nicely. Well, here we sit on the morning of Signing Day, and Georgia’s 2016 class is …

Shaping up nicely.

This wasn’t quite a given. Georgia should always recruit well, but Richt recruited very well. There was no guarantee such success would be transferable. And it mightn't have been – had not athletic director Greg McGarity moved with alacrity to secure Kirby Smart, who apprenticed under Nick Saban, the greatest recruiter ever. (Maybe also the greatest coach. Might there be a connection?)

It was the maniacal Saban who said, after Alabama beat Notre Dame for the BCS title, “That damn game cost me a week of recruiting.” It was also Saban who, when asked what he did with his championship rings, said: “Sometimes I throw them on the table for the recruits."

Smart arrived in Athens with three such rings and a fourth awaiting delivery. Apparently that impressed a few touted teenagers enough for them to honor the commitments they’d made to a different coach. And two 5-star prospects – tight end Isaac Nauta and “athlete” Mecole Hardman Jr. – pledged themselves to Georgia after the coaching change. At issue, as ever, is whether the Bulldogs will win bigger under the new man. As heartening as it was to see the heralded Jacob Eason enroll last month, Richt didn’t want for big-name quarterbacks. (Until the end. Might there have been a connection?)

For now, all we can know about Smart as head ball coach is that recruiting hasn’t suffered. But recruiting at Georgia has rarely been an issue. Coaching ’em up has. Guessing you knew that already.

Late-afternoon update: Even with Derrick Brown picking Auburn and E.J. Price opting for USC -- and not the one in Columbia, S.C. -- Georgia's class ranks among the top 10 according to Rivals , Scout , ESPN and 247 Sports . And here we note that Smart didn't move to Athens full-time until Jan. 12, the day after Alabama beat Clemson for the national title. Given the circumstances, that's a pretty fair haul.

Oh, and about Georgia Tech: After a terrible season, Tech reaps a tepid signing class.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.