JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Georgia head coach Kirby Smart's first season as head coach of the Bulldogs didn't end they way he planned, but his second recruiting class appears to be among the nation's best.
That class was improved by the signing of Ameer Speed, the Sandalwood High School defensive back. Unlike many of the top recruits, Speed had not publicly made his choice known until his announcement Wednesday morning at his school. He was one of two players whose choices were unknown. The other player is Covington, Ga., defensive back Eric Stokes.
Georgia's haul was impressive with 21 four- or five-star recruits signing for the Bulldogs. In addition to Speed, Brunswick High School offensive tackle D'Antne Demery also signed to play in Athens.
Florida's class isn't as highly ranked as Georgia's, but the Gators landed some talent who made their decisions on signing day. Massive, 356 pound offensive lineman Tedarrell "T.J." Staton from American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla., and a pair of defensive backs, Brad Stewart from New Orleans, and Donovan Stiner from Houston will also be joining the Gators. Jim McElwain further bolstered the defense, landing linebacker Lacedrick Brunson from Jackson High School in Miami. One of the surprises for Florida came late in the day,when James Robinson, a four-star defensive back from Lakeland High School, signed. Two days earlier, he had tweeted that he would not be signing on National Signing Day. Then again, teenagers tend to change their minds. Robinson was arrested and charged with marijuana possession while on a recruiting trip to Ohio State, but McElwain said that he wanted to give Robinson a second chance.
The Gators top talent came on defense and the offensive line. Among their top 10 recruits, only two are offensive skill position players, four star wide receiver Daquon Green from Tampa and fellow four-star tight end Kemore Gamble from Miami. The Gators did not sign a single player from the Jacksonville area and for the second straight year, the Gators didn't land a five-star recruit.
Florida and Florida State both lost out on Levi Jones, who put a different spin on the pick-a-hat ceremony. He revealed his decision to attend Southern California. The outside linebacker from Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, took off his jacket to reveal a long-sleeve Florida T-shirt. He then pulled off the Florida shirt to reveal a Florida State shirt underneath. He then removed the Florida State shirt and was left with a USC shirt. Jones then put on a USC hat and said, "Fight On."
Florida State's class included Trinity Christian wide receiver and defensive back D.J. Matthews, the only local player who signed with the Seminoles. Florida State had been in the running for DeMarco Aretis, an outside linebacker from Seminole High School, but instead, he signed with Baylor.
Seven of the Seminoles' 21 recruits are already enrolled in Tallahassee and over half of their signees are considered four- or five-star recruits. With the departure of Dalvin Cook, who is expected to be a first round pick in the NFL draft this year, the Seminoles bolstered their future running game with the signing of two of the top four running backs in the nation, Cam Akers, from Mississippi, and Khalan Laborn, from Virginia.
Several national recruiting analysts have ranked Georgia's recruiting class in the top five, including one service, Scout.com, naming Georgia as the number one class in the country (most analysts have ranked Alabama as the number one class in the country). Florida State is considered to be a top five class, with Florida ranked somewhere in the teens.
Miami also landed a pair of Jacksonville-area defensive players. Bradley Jennings, Jr., a linebacker from Sandalwood, and Trinity Christian safety Derrick Smith.