Dawg Night 2015: Ranking the Top 30 recruits

Mark Richt prays with prospects before start of UGA's Dawg Night camp. (AJC/Michael Carvell)

Mark Richt prays with prospects before start of UGA’s Dawg Night camp. (AJC/Michael Carvell)

There are a lot of lists out there about Dawg Night this week. Who’s coming? Who’s big?

Those are all important. Yet every one funnels to single thought: Which players are the most likely to help UGA win in December?

That’s what we’re shooting for: The 30 most important Dawg Night visitors this week.

The AJC has been tracking players across the Southeast all summer. If you see a player’s name below, it is because our reporting team has been given a clear indication they will be at Dawg Night.  It is worth noting there is maybe a caterpillar’s width of difference between the players at spots Nos. 6-15 on this list.  These guys can all ball. Opinions will also vary.

The guiding principle is which attendees would make the biggest impact if they enrolled at UGA or even went elsewhere.  That lumps commitments in with the top recruits who have yet to make their college choice.

Got a thought about this list? Please share you thoughts in the comments below.

The 30 most important visitors at Dawg Night

 1. 2016 QB Jacob Eason (Lake Stevens Senior/Lake Stevens, WA)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-5.5/220

Star ranking: 5 (No. 1 QB overall)

Commitment status: UGA

Why:  5-star passer and class cornerstone 1A will spend a few extra days in the South trying to woo others to join him. The nation’s top-ranked QB can use his charisma and skill set to make that happen.

2. 2016 OT Ben Cleveland (Stephens County/Toccoa, GA)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-7.5/315

Star ranking: 4 (No. 8 OT overall)

Commitment status: UGA

Why: Cornerstone 1B pairs impressive size with intelligence and humble country drawl. It makes him immediately likeable. “Big Ben” inspires respect even in a room full of elite players.

Brown is the state's top prospect for 2016. (Michael Carvell/ AJC)

Brown is the state’s top prospect for 2016. (Michael Carvell/ AJC)

3. 2016 DT Derrick Brown (Lanier/Lanier, GA)

Hgt./Wgt:  6-4/322

Star ranking: 5 (No. 3 DT overall)

Commitment status: Uncommitted. UGA is bunched up at the top with Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee

Why: These rankings prioritize the premium positions. That’s QB first and then the trenches. UGA needs to create some distance with Brown and his other suitors this weekend.

4. 2016 OT Willie Allen (River Ridge, LA)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-7/315

Star ranking: 5 (No. 3 OT overall)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss are seen as the teams to beat)

Why: He’s been planning to make it to Dawg Night all summer, but his coach wasn’t sure when asked about his status this week. One source told the AJC he was coming. If he does there’s a chance to gain ground. Allen and Cleveland would be a dream pair of bookends.

5. 2016 DT Rashan Gary (Paramus Catholic/Paramus, NJ)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-4/311

Star ranking: 5 (No. 1 DT and No. 1 player overall)

Commitment status:  Uncommitted (Michigan, Alabama and Auburn are the favorites)

Why: Can be argued he’s No. 1 on the board, but this isn’t a scale of future NFL draft stock. The Bulldogs are considered a longshot here or he’d be at least two spots higher. This is a return trip to UGA, though and his mother was a big fan of Athens after that visit.

6. 2016 TE Isaac Nauta (IMG Academy/Brandenton, FL)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-4/237

Star ranking: 5

Commitment status:  FSU (UGA is his No. 2)

Why: Place a tight end this high? Madness, you say?  Ponder the thought of Eason-to-Nauta for three seasons. Nauta is the bluest of chips. Mix in his Georgia family roots, FSU’s off-the-field PR woes and there’s more than a glimmer here for a flip.

Peachtree Ridge rising junior Deangelo Gibbs is the nation's top-rated cornerback for his signing class. (Michael Carvell / AJC)

Peachtree Ridge rising junior Deangelo Gibbs is the nation’s top-rated cornerback for his signing class. (Michael Carvell / AJC)

7. 2017 CB DeAngelo Gibbs (Suwanee, GA)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-2/203

Star ranking: 5 (No. 4 overall for 2017 and No. 1 CB)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (He states he’s wide open. Everyone wants him. UGA has been hitting him hard for a long time)

Why:  The nephew of two NFL uncles has it all from size to speed to ball skills. He could be the nation’s top player for 2017 and also is a tremendous receiver. Signing Gibbs might wind up as the biggest get for defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt at UGA.

8. 2016 ATH Mecole Hardman, Jr. (Elberton, GA)

Hgt/Wgt: 5-10/175

Star ranking: 4

Commitment status: Uncommitted. (Tennessee and UGA are his co-leaders. Auburn is No. 3)

Why: This might be a shade high, but his tool box has rare acceleration to go along with elite top-end speed. He’s this high on the board because he could be an ALL-SEC cornerback or receiver one day without any stretch of the imagination. Love his competitive fire.

9. 2016 WR Kyle Davis (Lawrenceville, GA)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-1.5/217

Star ranking: 5 (No. 1 WR overall)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (Auburn, UGA and Tennessee are the perceived teams to beat)

Why:  Blew away the field to be named MVP at the Opening and earn his fifth star. Has a great mix of size, strength, speed and ball skills. UGA likes it chances, but it needs to keep up it recruiting pace.

10. 2016 DT Antwuan Jackson (Cedar Grove/Ellenwood, GA)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-1/305

Star ranking: 4 (No. 8 DT overall)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (Auburn and Ohio State lead. UGA is third)

Why: Jackson has said he’ll consider his home state school until the end. Believe that. Auburn is the team to beat. He needs to see a big dose of what UGA could land on both sides of the ball this weekend.

Robertson is the nation's No. 1 athlete (Special)

Robertson is the nation’s No. 1 athlete (Special)

11. 2016 ATH Demetris Robertson (Savannah Christian/Savannah, GA)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-0/176

Star ranking: 4 (No. 1 ATH overall)

Commitment status: (Alabama and Stanford as co-leaders. UGA is No. 3)

Why: Blistering top-end speed and great shiftiness. He’s seen as the home run threat of this class. It will be important to win this battle with Alabama to show the upgraded recruiting muscle of the UGA staff.

12. 2016 DE Marlon Davidson (Greenville/Greenville, AL)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-4/260

Star ranking:  5 (Nation’s No. 3 strong-side DE)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (Auburn and Alabama loom large. Michigan and UGA are in it)

Why: His high school coach says his recruiting is “wide open” despite his status nestled between two SEC West powers in Alabama and Auburn. How can UGA’s defensive line haul get better? Steal this guy.

13. 2016 DT Julian Rochester (McEachern/Powder Springs, GA)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-5.5/335

Star ranking: 5 (No. 7 DT overall)

Commitment status: UGA

Why: He’s a highly-rated big man who clearly loves UGA. That can go a long way as one of the core leaders and recruiters of the 2016 class. He needs to slim down for the season.

14. 2016 OL E.J. Price (Archer/Lawrenceville, GA)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-6/311

Star ranking: 4 (No. 9 OT overall)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (De-commit. UGA still leads Auburn and Michigan)

Why: Big guys are football. That’s why seven of the first 13 names on this list are trench players. The one-time de-commit still says UGA leads. Offensive line coach Rob Sale needs at least two elite prospects in this class.

15. 2016 DE Xavier Kelly (East Witchita/Witchita, KS)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-5/255

Star ranking: 4 (No. 8 weak-side DE in the nation)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (UGA is in there with Alabama, Clemson, Florida State and Kansas State)

Why:  UGA has a chance for 3 reasons: 1) Family ties in Savannah; 2) He’s already said UGA will get and official visit; 3) He’ll see the other DLs at the camp and think he’s in the right place.

16. 2016 CB Trayvon Mullen (Coconut Creek/Pompano Beach, FL)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-2/170

Star ranking: 4 (No. 4 CB in the nation)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (LSU and FSU are the teams to beat. UGA needs to make up ground.

Why: Let’s keep it real. He’s a longshot and yet his teammate is already at UGA commit. That’s plus. He also likes what he hears from defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

elijah holyfield, collefe footbal, woodward academy, recruiting, running back

Woodward running back Elijah Holyfield (Phil Skinner / Special to AJC)

17. 2016 RB Elijah Holyfield (Woodward Academy/Atlanta, GA)

Hgt./Wgt: 5-10/204

Star ranking: 4 (No. 6 RB overall)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (UGA is right there with Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee)

Why: This position is vital. A school with UGA’s vaunted RB tradition currently has a goose egg in commitments at that spot. Holyfield lives up to the family name with his relentless running, but also uncanny vision and jump cut ability.

18. 2016 DT Tyler Clark (Americus Sumter/Americus, GA)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-3/290

Star ranking: 4 (No. 22 overall DT)

Commitment status: UGA

Why: Give this guy two years in an elite strength and conditioning program. He’ll be the sleeper gem of this group. He’s underexposed or he’d be rated much higher nationally.

Manac had been committed to UGA since September of his junior year. (Michael Carvell / AJC)

Manac had been committed to UGA since September of his junior year. (Michael Carvell / AJC)

19. 2016 DE Chauncey Manac (Clinch County/Homerville, GA)

Hgt./Wgt:  6-3/220

Star ranking: 4 (No. 9 DE overall)

Commitment status: UGA

Why: Been solid to UGA since last September. He’s part of a defensive line class that should easily be the biggest impact position in this year’s signing class at Athens.

20. 2016 DE Brian Burns (American Heritage, Plantation, FL)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-6/220

Star ranking: 4 (No. 13 DE overall)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (UGA right there with Miami, FSU and LSU)

Why: UGA has played the Leonard Floyd card with his recruiting from the start and made strides. His lightning-fast first few steps are lethal. American Heritage has been a pipeline with Marshall Morgan, Isaiah McKenzie and Sony Michel of late.

21. 2016 RB Devwah Whaley (Central Senior/Beaumont, TX)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-0/205

Star ranking: 4 (No. 4 overall RB)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (UGA made his Top 5 with Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M)

Why: RB is a true position of need in this class. Does UGA have a shot? Whaley wasn’t supposed to make it to Dawg Night, but now he’s coming. It would be a huge pull to lasso him to Athens with Arkansas, Oklahoma and those Texas schools in the race.

22. 2017 S Jeffrey Okudah (South Grand Prarie/Grand Prarie, TX)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-1.5/194

Star ranking: 5 (No. 1 safety for 2017)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Stanford and UGA in the mix)

Why: According to reports, he’s making a return trip to Athens this summer. That’s big. That type of size and skill would be a boon coming all the way over from Texas to Athens.

23. 2017 RB Anthony McFarland (Dematha Catholic/Hyattsville, MD)

Hgt./Wgt: 5-9/181

Star ranking: 5 (No. 2 all-purpose back for 2017)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (UGA, Florida State and Michigan are the perceived leaders)

Why: See above. He’s another 5-star talent will visit both Alabama and Georgia this week. RB coach Thomas Brown has a chance to make his recruiting mark with this kid.

24. 2016 WR Binjimin Victor (Coconut Creek/Pompano Beach, FL)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-4/170

Star ranking: 4 (Nation’s No. 8 WR)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (Florida, Ohio State and Tennessee are also in it)

Why:  UGA had a chance awhile back, but the offer never came. When it did, it was catch-up time. That said, his teammate is committed to UGA and he wants to play with an elite QB.

Young is bringing two 4-star teammates with him to Dawg Night. (Rob Saye / Special to the AJC)

Young is bringing two 4-star teammates with him to Dawg Night. (Rob Saye / Special to the AJC)

25. 2016 DB Malek Young (Coconut Creek/Pompano Beach, FL)

Hgt./Wgt: 5-10/175

Star ranking: 3 (No. 43 CB in the nation)

Commitment status: UGA

Why: That star rating is too low to place him here, but this evaluation has him seriously undervalued. He’s also bringing two 4-star teammates to Dawg Night. That really boosts his value.

26. 2016 DB Chad Clay (Peachtree Ridge/Suwanee, GA)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-0/180

Star ranking: 3 (No. 32 CB in the nation)

Commitment status: UGA

Why: Here’s another connected guy. He’s a great talent in his own right, but he’ll have two talented teammates at Dawg Night, too.

27. 2016 WR Randrecous Davis (Mays/Atlanta, GA)

Hgt./Wgt: 5-11/180

Star ranking: 3 (No. 72 WR in the nation)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (But the man sports a UGA “G” tattoo)

Why: He’s the most likely commit. If he has a great camp, the UGA offer will be waiting and he’ll likely take it.

28. 2016 RB Calin Fils-Aime (Naples/Naples, FL)

Hgt./Wgt: 5-11/180

Star ranking: 4 (No. 10 RB in the nation)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (Auburn, Miami, North Carolina, Tennessee and UGA are the teams to beat)

Why: He’s a viable option at the position that has no commitments. It has been speculated he might commit this weekend, but look for it to play out until at least the end of the month.

29. 2016 LB Jaleel Laguins (Oconee County/Watkinsville, GA)

Hgt./Wgt: 6-2/204

Star ranking: 4 (No. 16 OLB)

Commitment status: He was donned in UGA gear for his Twitter background for a time. He’s seen as a likely commit at a position without a true LB at this time. He’s tipped the AJC it will not likely be this week, though.

30. 2017 CB Jamyest Williams (Archer/Lawrenceville, GA)

Hgt./Wgt: 5-9/170

Star ranking: 4 (No. 11 ATH for 2017)

Commitment status: Uncommitted (UGA made his Top 10)

Why: He’s a 2017 kid who has UGA low on his board, but told the AJC that’s because he’s not sure what position his offer is for. He showed at The Opening he is one of the nation’s elite cover corners.

BONUS: 2017 QB Bailey Hockman (McEachern/Powder Springs, GA)

Hgt./Wgt:  6-2/210

Star ranking: 4 (No. 2 pro-style QB for 2017)

Commitment status: UGA

Why: Will be a huge benefit for the prospects on hand to see not one, but two elite passers committed to UGA.

BEST OF THE REST:  2017 CB Malcolm Askew (uncommitted); 2016 ATH Korey Banks (uncommitted); 2016 OT Chris Barnes (UGA); 2016 CB Baylen Buchannan (Louisville); 2016 ATH Jamal Couch (FSU); 2017 LB Vandarius Cowan (FSU); 2017 ATH DeeJay Dallas (uncommitted): 2017 OL D’Antne Demery (uncommitted); 2016 OL Aaron Dowdell (UGA); 2016 WR Bryan Edwards (South Carolina); 2016 TE Nick Eubanks (uncommitted); 2016 DE/LB Tomon Fox (UNC); 2016 WR Brandon Johnson (uncommitted); 2016 WR Velus Jones (USC); 2016 LB Elysse Mbem-Bosse (uncommitted); 2016 WR Brandon Johnson (uncommitted); 2017 OL Netori Johnson (Alabama); 2017 RB Khalan Laborn (uncommitted); 2018 QB Trevor Lawrence (uncommitted); 2017 WR D.J. Matthews (FSU); 2016 DE/OLB Chidi Okonya (Tennessee); 2016 CB Tyrique McGhee (UGA); 2016 TE Chris Roberson (Mississippi State); 2016 ATH Dylan Singleton (uncommitted); 2017 WR Shawn Smith (uncommitted); 2017 RB Kurt Taylor (uncommitted); 2016 TE Garrett Walston (UGA); 2017 LB Leonard Warner (uncommitted);  2017 CB LeAnthony Williams (uncommitted)

Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.

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