Here’s Kimberley Nash’s perspective on five of the biggest UGA recruiting stories people are talking about this week:
Assuming the weather remains sunny, and rain doesn’t re-appear to dampen the flurry of activity promised for this weekend’s top flight prospects—you can certainly bet if it does, you will hear plenty more chatter about how valuable that Indoor Practice Facility will be once it finally does happen—UGA promises to have plenty of opportunities to impress the best of the best in a two session display of some of the best talent the state, and the nation, has to offer.
That said, there are a few storylines worth taking note of this weekend:
1. How many commitments could there be?
The one thing ‘Dawg Night’ has been good for over the years is commitments, and there are a few targets out there who may be close to making their intentions clear—Jaleel Laguins likely won’t be one of them; he’s already stated he wants to make his declaration in front of the hometown crowd (at his school, with three hats on the table, and all that)—and while many feel Mecole Hardman is a definite possibility, he’s already made it very clear that he isn’t going to let anyone but the staff, at his chosen school, (currently UGA and Tennessee remain in his Top 2) know his intentions. He wants to “silently commit” and then keep the world guessing.
“One prospect that made a silent commitment, I am not going to say his name, but he said to just keep it between you and the head coach and position coach,” Hardman said. “And also don’t give any hints about where you are going, just keep it a secret so the silent commitment stays that way.”(Kipp Adams, Dawgs247)
That said, defensive end Brian Burns (Fort Lauderdale, FL) could also be one to keep an eye on. He’s expressed an interest in multiple SEC schools (including LSU and Florida), but his ties to UGA, and the Bulldogs’ interest in him as the player who could come in and, potentially, replace the outgoing Leonard Floyd next season, is something he’s really intrigued by; add to that his knowledge of what a few fellow alumnus of American Heritage (Marshall Morgan, Isaiah McKenzie and Sony Michele all played at American Heritage) have done at UGA, and he’s one that could be close to making a decision very soon.
2. Jacob Eason will be in town and he hopes to can sway a few more prospects UGA’s way.
Right from the start, Jacob Eason has made it clear he hopes to bring as much 2016 talent with him as possible.
He’s already forged relationships with both Kyle Davis and Demetris Robertson—he’ll try to deepen that bond this weekend—and he hopes to play a pivotal role in bringing a few others on board as well…including Isaac Nauta.
While both were at The Opening last weekend, Eason was able to exchange information with the committed Florida State tight end.
Nauta is a guy who will be interesting to watch, for what remains of this process, because he’s been very outspoken about his desire to continue his relationship with UGA’s coaching staff—even going as far as saying the ability to play close to home is something that’s hard to overlook.
“I think at the end of the day, they’ll (his parents) be happy with any place I go…. I don’t think they’d ever tell me where they’d be happier with me going. They think that would alter my decision, and I’d have to factor that in, definitely. I know that because they’re right here (in Buford), the convenience (to UGA is hard to beat.” (Radi Nabulsi and Jake Reuse, UGA Sports)
Perhaps the transfer to IMG has allowed him a taste of what it will be like to play away from home; that could be making him think twice about burning any bridges that could, potentially lead back to UGA—especially if he needs to cross them in the future.
Back to Eason.
He has continually made it clear that he’s looking to corral talent to come with him, and so far he’s done a good job of making the pitch, but it’s hard to say who is and is not listening—the aforementioned Robertson doesn’t have UGA in his Top 2 and Davis is still a wild card—but the spectacle surrounding this weekend can only help his efforts.
3. Rashan Gary wants Georgia to earn it.
Gary (Paramus, NJ) is the top defensive end in the country,and a recent trip to UGA impressed him enough to return this weekend, with tons of family in tow, for Dawg Night.
His intention for coming is clear: he wants to make sure UGA is worth spending one of his official visits on, and he expects them to prove he’s making the right decision by keeping them in the loop.
“Their chances of getting an official visit are pretty good,” (Jennifer) Coney said. “We are going to Dawg Night, and that will determine for sure Georgia makes the cut.” (Kipp Adams, Dawgs247)
Gary’s mother will be a major part of this decision and she’s already enamored of a couple of schools that boast national notoriety, from an academic standpoint—Michigan and Ohio State—but Gary loves the competition and prestige of the SEC, so he’s taking everything under consideration.
If UGA can impress again, they are sure to earn one of his officials but, even with that, they will have to battle Auburn (whom some feel has a bit of momentum here) to sign him.
He’s a long shot, honestly, but getting him back on campus, and having another shot to impress his family, cannot be understated, so UGA will do what they can to at least earn one more shot.
4. Will UGA be extending any new offensive line offers?
Chandler Tuitt has basically made it clear that UGA won’t be the school for him, so what does that mean for the offensive line in 2016?
So far, E.J, Price is back on the market, and UGA is being careful about who they will and won’t extend an offer to at the offensive tackle position.
Landon Dickerson’s (Hudson, NC) name has been floating around a bit more as a potential target, but he has yet to receive an offer from UGA and it’s unclear how interested he would be if he were to receive one; to be honest, there would be some serious wooing to do if UGA were to get in on Dickerson because they really haven’t been as involved with him as they have been with others.
Scott Lashley (West Point, MA) is another option—assuming he follows through with his plans to make it to Dawg Night—at least he actually has a confirmed offer on the table. The problem for UGA with him, though, is that he’s already committed to Mississippi State and there’s very little indication that he’ll change his mind; consider him another very slim option…and that’s if he makes it to Athens this weekend.
5. This and That
Ben Cleveland will be back for Dawg Night. It was him, along with Eason, who set the 2016 class off at last year’s event by committing at the same time.
Where Eason is certainly the bigger name (on a national level), Cleveland may be the bigger influence on some of the in-state guys–particularly Mecole Hardman.
Said Cleveland, “Mecole and I live 45 minutes away from each other and have played with him and against him. Mecole and I have a bit more of a personal relationship so I think I’ll be able to recruit him to come to Georgia pretty hard.” (Jeff Sentell, AJC)
Kevin Sherrer continues to make his mark as one of the top recruiters in the SEC, and even though it sounds like an offer from Auburn would be the game changer for Jamal Couch (Couch lines up as a slot tight end in his high school’s system, and Auburn’s use of him could mirror that, and that, in his mind, makes them the ideal fit), he plans to be in town for Dawg Night, and he says Sherrer is pitching him at the position he feels UGA has the best credentials to prepare him to play at the next level—linebacker.
“From a linebacker recruiting standpoint, UGA is my number one,” he said “UGA is also trying to help me be able to play outside linebacker and tight end and receiver in college.” (Jeff Sentell, AJC)
Couch is on board with whatever gets him on the field the fastest, but it sounds like, this weekend, he’s just looking to compete, and one thing’s for sure, there will be plenty of opportunities for that at Dawg Night.
Kimberley Nash has blogged about UGA’s football recruiting since 2011