ATHENS, Ga. -- Mark Richt fell back on a well-worn sentiment Wednesday when asked whether Georgia's largely fruitless pursuit of a number of elite prospects in January left him disappointed on national signing day.
"We got the No. 1 class in America as far as I'm concerned. We took care of business in the areas that we needed," Georgia's coach insisted. "We got the guys that are very, very talented and are excited about being here, and we're going to develop these guys into a great football team. That's what really matters the most."
Richt has responded to such signing-day questions in similar fashion in previous years, and, even if no recruiting service is going to rank this class first nationally, he has a point. The Bulldogs' 32-man class -- featuring 14 ESPN 300 players and 20 four-star prospects -- adequately addressed a number of roster needs and is 10th nationally in ESPN's class rankings as of Wedneday evening.
Yes, Georgia could have pushed for the top overall spot if targets such as No. 1 offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and No. 2 defensive tackle Montravius Adams had picked the Bulldogs, but the program still enjoyed an enormous influx of talent that should be able to make an immediate impact.
"When you look at our class, we had six [defensive] guys come midyear and when you start looking at the guys that came midyear -- Tray Matthews for example, John Atkins -- if those guys had waited until today to sign, it would have been a splash," defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "But in reality, those six guys are here right now working, which is going to greatly benefit us moving forward with our ability to prepare for next season."
The class features several elite prospects who will not only address depth-chart concerns but project as stars -- possibly as early as this fall. But it's also only natural for Georgia fans to come away disappointed after Richt's staff came close with a number of top players over the past few weeks, but repeatedly struck out.
There was Tunsil -- thought to be a Georgia lean for most of January -- who signed Wednesday with Ole Miss. There was No. 1 inside linebacker Reuben Foster, who picked Alabama. There was Adams (Auburn), No. 1 outside linebacker Matthew Thomas (Florida State) and No. 4 running back Alvin Kamara (Alabama). All of them gave Georgia a look before picking other programs.
Georgia's staff did manage to reel in two new players today -- offensive tackle DeVondre Seymour and outside linebacker Davin Bellamy, both ESPN 300 honorees -- to complete the class. But as things turned out there was little in the way of signing day drama for the Bulldogs faithful who gathered at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall to celebrate the new batch of recruits.
Richt disputed the notion that he should be disappointed, however.
"I really don't have any disappointments right now," Richt said. "I've said this for years: Once signing day hits, we're going to be excited about everybody that we sign, which I am, which I know our staff is, and that's all we're really going to focus and concentrate on. It's our jobs now for everybody to get to work. We're very thrilled about all these guys here and everybody that's coming in and how we know they're going to contribute to our football team."
Missed targets aside, it was important that Georgia sign a large number of players capable of filling holes on a defense that lost 12 significant contributors. Not only did Richt's staff accomplish that goal -- particularly with additions at nose guard, inside linebacker and in the secondary -- but they brought in a sizable group of 13 early enrollees in January.
That's more than twice as many early enrollees as Georgia has brought in under Richt in years past, forming the backbone of a class that will be crucial in returning depth to a roster that was well below the NCAA-allowed 85 scholarship players in 2012.
Among the early enrollees are defensive linemen Atkins and Chris Mayes, inside linebackers Reggie Carter and Ryne Rankin and defensive backs Reggie Wilkerson, Matthews and Quincy Mauger, all of whom will have a chance to win playing time this fall, pending strong performances during spring practice.
Add the star power of quarterback Brice Ramsey, South Carolina's Mr. Football Tramel Terry, receiver Jonathon Rumph and cornerback Shaq Wiggins and the class is not one that simply rebuilds depth. It also adds talent in key positions.
"You need help from every class that you sign. Even last year's class, there's a lot of guys that we know are developing, but there's a lot of guys that stepped in and actually had production that everybody can see," Richt said. "I think that this will be one of those classes where we're going to need some type of a boost."