5-star OT Amarius Mims hard at work at Georgia

Amarius Mims, a senior offensive lineman at Bleckley County High School.  CHRISTINA MATACOTTA FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Amarius Mims, a senior offensive lineman at Bleckley County High School. CHRISTINA MATACOTTA FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

ATHENS -- Von Lassiter swears Amarius Mims stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 340 pounds. He’s not sure why Georgia has its prize, 5-star offensive tackle signee listed at 6-6, 320, but Lassiter is convinced of his accuracy because he weighed and measured Mims himself.

“That’s what he played at for us,” said Lassiter, head football coach at Bleckley County High School. “I see Georgia’s got him at 6-6. Not sure why. He’s a big ol’ kid.”

Big kid, indeed.

One can quibble over whether the top of Mims’ head is 80 inches above the floor or 78, but either way that remains a long way from the floor. And it’s at least four inches taller when Lassiter inherited Mims at Bleckley County a few years ago.

“He’s just kept growing,” Lassiter said.

Whatever his height is, Mims is plenty tall enough to qualify for playing offensive line in the SEC. That size is why he attracted scholarship offers from virtually every Power 5 football program in America. Mims signed with the home-state Bulldogs on Dec. 16 and has enrolled at UGA. He’s one of a record 16 mid-year enrollees in the 2020 class.

As a potential generational talent, Mims’ recruitment became a frenzied affair. Within the ultra-competitive SEC, the tiny South Georgia town of Cochran became a battleground for Mims’ signature. The pressure to do that landed Tennessee in hot water with the NCAA and resulted in the firing of coach Jeremy Pruitt, two assistant coaches and six other football employees.

After a months-long investigation, those individuals are accused of offering or providing Mims and his family with cash as an inducement to sign with the Volunteers. Since Mims ultimately signed with Georgia, that has brought accusations – or at least caused aspersions – from up on Rocky Top.

Lassiter insists he witnessed no wrongdoing, by Georgia or anybody else.

“Everybody says I’m biased to Georgia, and I may be. But I never saw or knew about anybody doing anything wrong,” Lassiter said. “I never saw it with my own eyes or heard about it. There was never anything I had to check on with any school, Tennessee, Georgia or anybody. And he was recruited by everybody in the nation.”

Mims is the third high school player who played for Lassiter to sign with the Bulldogs. The other two were quarterback Jake Fromm and center Trey Hill from when Lassiter was at Houston County.

Lassiter, too, has heard and read the Internet chatter that Tennessee was doling out cash in McDonald’s bags. He remains cynical about all of the accusations.

“Somebody called me the other day and said they heard Amarius got vehicles,” Lassiter said. “I just laughed. This dude doesn’t have a driver’s license. So, there’s a lot of stuff flying around out there. When you’ve got a keyboard, you can type anything you want and put it on a message board and say you’re an expert on Amarius Mims.

“But I was there. Now I wasn’t on every recruiting trip; I can’t say that. But I was with him throughout most of (his recruitment), and I never saw any wrongdoing whatsoever from anybody.”

You can be sure that Georgia is leaving nothing to chance. Earlier this week, Mims and his parents, Prentice Purnell and Nikki Mims of Cochran, met with UGA compliance officials at the Butts-Mehre complex in Athens.

To date, Georgia has not been accused of breaking any rules surround Mims’ recruitment. Two weeks ago, FoxSports sports-talk personality Dan Patrick said sources told him UGA was “in the on-deck circle” for NCAA scrutiny due to “getting sloppy in recruiting.”

Georgia compliance director Will Lawler responded Friday.

“While we do not comment on alleged NCAA investigations at other institutions, we have no information to suggest there is any validity to the reports relating to our football program,” reiterating a statement he gave at the time.

Meanwhile, as an early enrollee, Mims actually was able to join the Bulldogs for a few of their practices in late December before the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. At least some of the reps he took came at left tackle.

It’s probably not a coincidence that Georgia completely reshuffled their offensive line for the bowl game. The Bulldogs shifted Jamaree Salyer, who had played left tackle all year, inside to left guard for the season’s finale. Redshirt freshman Xavier Truss started at left tackle instead in the 24-21 win over the Bearcats.

The move signaled that left tackle is up for grabs in 2021. Mims will be among those reaching for it.

Lassiter believes Mims could win a starting job, whether it’s left or right tackle.

“You know, you get a lot of information when you’re being recruited, and that’s what they’re going to tell you. But I do think he’s going to have every opportunity to play left tackle,” Lassiter said. “He’s being coached by one of the best O-line coaches there is in coach (Matt) Luke, and he’s going to grow quickly in that system. But as far as knowing anything for sure about whether he is or whether he can, I just don’t.

“I do know he’s definitely a tackle, and I think he’s going to have a bright future there.”

About that, there is no argument. Like most 18-year-old incoming freshmen, especially those that are so much bigger than their peers, Mims remains raw when it comes to technique. He simply didn’t need it to dominate in high school.

For that reason, left tackle may not be his launching point. He might follow the path of Andrew Thomas, who started at right tackle as a freshman, then switched to left for his final two seasons. Thomas became the No. 4 pick of the 2020 NFL draft, landing with the New York Giants.

Likewise, third-year sophomore Warren McClendon could move from right tackle to left this year. Also, redshirt freshmen Broderick Jones and Tate Ratledge, fourth-year junior Owen Condon and Truss all will be in the mix as well.

But even with the through-the-roof recruiting job Georgia has done on the offensive line the past few years, Mims stands apart. Just ask former UGA All-American and NFL veteran tackle Jon Stinchcomb.

“He’s a mountain of a man, but the way he moves is super impressive,” Stinchcomb said. “He plays long and uses his frame well. I’ve seen some big guys on tape and either they’re slow-footed or they don’t use their size to their advantage. Mims, he tries to finish every block he engages in, and he’s dominant.”

Mims’ size and talent comes quite naturally. His parents both were athletes. His father played football at West Georgia and actually played semipro ball for several years after that. His mother ran track in high school.

“He may have to start out at right tackle, but he’s got left tackle written all over him,” Stinchcomb said. “His length, the way he can pass protect, there’s some technique stuff they can clean up, but you talk about a nice piece of clay to work with! Anybody would be excited to have this guy in your position room.”

For now, Mims is just getting started. The Bulldogs began offseason workouts this week. Before that, early enrollees were having to adjust to life in college, which means waking up early, attending classes, getting over to the football complex by mid-afternoon and being pushed like never before.

“I talked to him yesterday; he said everything’s going good,” Lassiter shared. “He really likes the weight room and the whole setup over there. He said the food’s really good. I don’t think it’s going to be too overwhelming for him. He’s been really excited about it so far. It’s going to be an adjustment, it’s going to be a grind, but I think he’ll be fine.”