The No. 1 recruit in the class of 2024 has committed to Georgia. (Should we mention that, not long ago, he pledged himself to Ohio State? Nah.) His name is Dylan Raiola. He’s a quarterback. Some might call this a coup. I call it …
Georgia has won the past two national championships. Its quarterback was a former walk-on, though by the time Stetson Bennett IV left he was a former everything. Former scout team QB. Former outbound transfer. Former JUCO. Former inbound transfer. Former fourth-stringer. Former starter. Former demoted starter. Current king of the world.
About Raiola: His name is pronounced “rye-OH-la.” His father Dominic grew up in Honolulu. He was an offensive lineman. Dominic’s dad Tony played O-line as a Miami Hurricane. Dominic signed with Nebraska, where he played center. Playing center was, for a Cornhusker, like playing tailback at USC or QB at BYU.
The award given the nation’s best center is named for Dave Rimington, former Husker. Dominic Raiola was the first winner of the Rimington Trophy. In 2001, he was drafted in Round 2 by Detroit. He played 219 games over 14 NFL seasons, all for the Lions, who made the playoffs twice over that span. In 2008, they went 0-16, which left them with the No. 1 pick.
They exercised it on Matthew Stafford, quarterback from Georgia. Raiola spent the second half of his NFL career snapping the ball to Stafford, who became Dylan Raiola’s godfather.
Stafford’s position coach at Georgia was Mike Bobo. In Stafford’s final UGA season, Bobo became the offensive coordinator. After stints elsewhere, Bobo is again Georgia’s OC. Like godfather, like godson.
Raiola is on his third high school. He spent his sophomore year at Burleson, a school in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. He moved to Chandler High in Arizona for his junior season. He’s now at Pinnacle, located in a different part of the Phoenix area. The life of a phenom is never dull.
Bulldog fans were ready to fire Kirby Smart – slight exaggeration – when last year’s No. 1 recruit had the gall to sign with Texas. Like Raiola, Arch Manning is a quarterback. Like Raiola, he comes from a lineage of footballers. Arch’s granddad is Archie of Ole Miss. His uncles are Peyton and Eli of wisecracking fame.
Last year’s lament: “We’ll never have another chance at a talent like Arch.”
This year’s victory song: “Everyone knows Dylan has more upside.”
The quarterback position was created for the express purpose of giving Georgia fans something to gripe about. Many denizens of Bulldog Nation haven’t gotten over Jake Fromm starting over Justin Fields. The saga of Stetson the Mailman drew smiles in 49 states, Hawaii included, but was slow to melt the icy hearts who couldn’t grasp why the master recruiter Smart was reduced to winning national titles with a 3-star from Blackshear.
Post-SBIV, gripes have receded. Carson Beck would appear to be QB1 for 2023. Whispers of a Brock Vandagriff dive into the transfer portal have subsided. He appears to be staying. So does Gunner Stockton.
These three will have eligibility remaining beyond the 2023 season. Even if Beck – or Vandagriff, or Stockton; with UGA and QBs, you never know – leads the Bulldogs to a third straight national title, the advent of Raiola will loom large. Could Beck go from championship-winning starter to QB2 in the space of eight months? Didn’t that happen with Jalen Hurts at Alabama?
We’re getting ahead of ourselves. Raiola could change his mind, again, and decide he’d rather back up Arch in Austin. Smart and Bobo could, just to outflank everybody, install the wishbone. Smart could leave to coach Alabama when disgruntled Tide fans buy out the serial underachiever Nick Saban. In life as in college sports, the future is unknown.
Or, to borrow from a different Dylan: Tomorrow is a long time.
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