ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia replenished its roster with a mammoth 32-player football signing class it reeled in on Wednesday.
But the highly-rated prospects who got away might have been the predominant storyline on National Signing Day.
Dooly County five-star defensive lineman Montravius Adams put on an Auburn cap not long after the nation’s top offensive tackle prospect Laremy Tunsil from Lake City, Fla., announced he was heading to Ole Miss.
Those decisions weren’t unexpected, but it didn’t make it any easier for fans to watch televised announcements Wednesday morning.
Georgia did land four-star Chamblee outside linebacker Davin Bellamy, a Florida State decommitment who picked the Bulldogs over Tennessee, and Oregon and became the last player to fax over his letter of intent in the class.
“As far as I’m concerned, we got the No. 1 class in America,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “We took care of business in the areas that we needed. We got the guys that are very, very talented and are excited about being here. We’re going to develop these guys into a great football team. That’s what really matters the most.”
Georgia’s roster that had been gutted by attrition, departures for the NFL and graduation now is closer to full.
The Bulldogs had 51 players on its roster that were recruited on scholarship before the new bunch was added.
“This will be one of those classes that we’re going to need some type of a boost,” said Richt, who showed up for a news conference four days after hip replacement surgery. “These guys know that they’ve got a great opportunity to come in and compete. I would say there’s going to be an awful lot of guys that are going to be playing. When you talk about 40 percent of your team in this class, there’s going to be a bunch of them that will have to play and come through for us.”
The 32 players in the class is the biggest haul in Richt’s 13 classes, topping the 31 that Georgia signed in 2002.
Georgia was able to sign beyond the 25 of a typical signing class because rules allow a team to count back to last year’s class with early enrollees. The Bulldogs only had 17 signees make it to campus from last year’s class.
The Bulldogs’ class was rated No. 10 by Fox Sports Next and ESPN.com and No. 12 by Rivals.com and 247Sports.
In the SEC, Georgia was No. 7 by Rivals and 247Sports. Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn were ahead.
Georgia brought out 11 of its 13 early enrollees to stand shoulder to shoulder behind Richt as his news conference started. Each said his name and hometown.
“It’s almost like they’re having two top-10 classes,” former Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said on ESPNU. “The quality is important, but they’re getting quantity.”
The class lacked what was regarded by recruiting analysts as the elite in-state and national talent. None of the players are five-star rated prospects.
The Bulldogs coaching staff recruited against the backdrop of longtime recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner leaving for Auburn and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s name being mentioned as a candidate for NFL coordinator jobs.
“I really don’t have any disappointments right now,” Richt said. “Once signing day hits, we’re going to be excited about everybody we sign. ... It’s our jobs now for everybody to get to work. We’re very thrilled about all these guys right here and all the guys that are coming in and how we know they’re going to contribute to our football team.”
The class includes eight defensive backs, seven linebackers, six receivers, four offensive linemen, three defensive tackles and two running backs.
Georgia signed 21 players that played their high school ball in the Peach State, but landed just one of the top 12 prospects in state by Rivals,com — Newnan safety Tray Matthews, who was No. 5. Georgia missed Wednesday on Norcross tailback Alvin Kamara, who picked Alabama.
“The other kids that we had, that we thought we were going to get, at the end of the day, it’s their decision,” said Brice Ramsey, quarterback from Camden County High School. “I heard some things from other people. Personally, I heard it from them out of their mouth (that they would pick Georgia), but at the end of the day it comes down to the wire and they do what’s best for them.”
Losing Garner might have hurt Georgia’s chances with Dooly County’s Adams, who will play for him at Auburn.
“Coach Garner going over there helped a lot,” Adams told ESPN.com. “If he hadn’t have gone there, I would not have looked at Auburn.”
Matthews is the highest rated Georgia commit by Rivals at No. 44 nationally. Ramsey is the top prospect by 247 Sports at No. 37 and by Fox Sports Next at No. 82 nationally. Sandy Creek cornerback Shaq Wiggins at No. 39 by ESPN.
“The reality is what’s going to happen when you hook it up and play versus Clemson,” Richt said of the season opener. “I think that’s going to be the most important things our fans care about the most.”