ATHENS, Ga. — Editor's Note: This ranking is based on current numbers from Rivals.com as of 6 p.m. Wednesday. Any commitment flips could affect the rankings. Check back for updates.
The addition of five-star wide receiver George Pickens was an unexpected surprise for most Georgia fans on National Signing Day.
It wasn’t the only one.
Pickens’ addition enabled Georgia to overtake Alabama and finish No. 1 in the team recruiting rankings for the second straight year, according to Rivals.com.
The margin was about as close as it could get.
Georgia finishes with 3,063 points followed by Alabama with 3,047. Both teams signed a trio of five-star performers, with Alabama signing 21 four stars compared to 15 for the Bulldogs.
LSU gave the SEC a sweep of the Top 3 in the standings, followed by Texas and Oklahoma. Texas A&M came in at No. 6 and Florida at No. 8, giving the SEC five of the Top 10 schools.
Pickens was almost an afterthought when the day began Saturday, that is, until he pulled the shocker during a ceremony at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, announcing that he was Georgia-bound.
“George was a kid who visited over here multiple times, came to our game against Auburn as an unofficial visitor, had a great time,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “I thought we had a tremendous official visit with him a couple of weeks ago when he came over to campus and we didn’t have a lot of other kids here. We didn’t have a lot of other official visitors, we only had a few spots and were really kind of narrowing our focus and even into our in-home this last week, I thought we had a great in-home visit. He was very honest with us, kind of told us where we stood. It was a case of staying alive and keep working and he felt this was the best for him.”
Smart’s comments came during an interview on ESPNU Wednesday afternoon after not holding his customary signing day press conference with beat writers.
“I recruit them as hard as other people recruit our committed players. It’s certainly an open game and you know that really when you’re committed, you’re just a target. Nobody stops recruiting kids these days, it’s just the way of the world,” Smart said. “I think just keeping an open line of communication because when you do that and you keep yourselves in the areas you need and the areas you are concerned with, you’re able to sign good players.”
Pickens wasn’t the only new addition to the Bulldogs’ roster. Three-star tight end Brett Seither chose Georgia over Alabama during a ceremony at Central Catholic High School in Clearwater, Florida.
By signing Pickens and Seither it also enabled Georgia to soften the loss of Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman and Isaac Nauta to the NFL, along with Luke Ford, who transferred to Illinois.
“Coming out of the December signing day, we had some surprise guys leave early - from juniors, tight ends and receivers, especially. So, we had to fill those needs,” Smart said. “That’s what we really went after and really targeted, and we were able to fill that.”
Looking ahead, Smart made it clear what’s on his recruiting agenda for 2020 – defensive tackles.
“There were not a lot of defensive linemen, and that was a big area that we needed,” Smart said. “We’ve got six guys leaving off our defensive line next year. So, in this 2020 class, we’re really going to have to hit the defensive line class hard and get some good pass rushers. There weren’t a lot in our state. The ones we targeted we didn’t get, so we had to go out of state and get some more areas of need.”