Mark Richt didn't recruit poorly at Georgia. Over the last four cycles, he brought in more four- and five-star players than two- and three-stars, which has been the level for national champions since the BCS.
Yet after spending the weekend in Atlanta covering the Nike Opening tour, the feeling that Kirby Smart is recruiting a lot better than Richt did is inescapable, though tougher to articulate than I expected, both for me and for recruits I asked.
Anecdotally, Smart's Georgia seems quicker to evaluate and offer prospects than Richt's did. It's common to pull up a prospect's profile I've been asked to check out and see that Georgia is one of or the first to offer. That didn't happen as much under Richt. Early offers matter an awful lot to recruits, who perceive the school as having faith in them throughout the process. Georgia even recently hosted a "freshman day" to invite the state's youngest stars to see the school.
Recruits are feeling something different, too.
"That vibe down there at Georgia is just different," said 6'5 receiver Nico Collins, the No. 1 player in Alabama. Collins knew Smart from his time at Alabama. "It seems fun and outgoing. It's Kirby, he likes to have fun."
"He's building something big," said Jamyest Williams, an elite cornerback from Lawrenceville (Ga.) Archer who is considering Clemson, Georgia and Florida State.
It's clear recruits are feeling the excitement over Kirby Smart, but what is tougher to determine is how much of this is simply "new coach smell," and how much of it is legitimate changes Smart is implementing for the Bulldogs.
One thing is certain, though: recruits are feeling Georgia right now and if Smart can steer the Bulldogs to a solid season, UGA should land an elite class.
Something I like a lot about what Smart has done is that he has some excellent recruits committed early, like elite like safety Richard LeCounte and linebacker Jaden Hunter, who are vocal and charismatic in trying to convince fellow stars to pick UGA.
Jim Harbaugh landed a commitment from Joshua Ross, one of the best inside linebackers in the country. Michigan also secured a commitment from one of 2018's best linebackers.
Miami secured a commitment from QB Cade Weldon, the son of Casey Weldon who Mark Richt coached at Florida State during the early 1990s. Weldon was the best of the admittedly lackluster quarterback group at the Miami Nike Opening Regional.
If you're a recent signup or missed a day, that's OK. I link my previous Crootletters in this section.
Georgia, Florida State and Clemson recruits shined at The Opening Atlanta Regional.
Who are the top players in Dallas? Where are they leaning? Find out in this recap of the Nike Opening Regional Camp.
What happens during a "junior day?"
Steven Godfrey and I discussed the mechanics and timing of negative recruiting.
Which states kept top talent home the most? Plus, observations about in-state recruiting across the Southeast.