Darnell Washington wore a special visor at the Under Armour All-American Game on Thursday night.
It was a picture of his young daughter, Laila Washington, imprinted on his visitor. That made a lot of sense. That’s because the eight-month-old was the star of his decision declaration, too.
Washington let the world where her 6-foot-7.5-inch father was going to play college football first.
This wasn’t a hat, but a onesie.
— All-America Game (@AllAmericaGame) January 3, 2020
Those colors let the world know that the nation’s No. 1 ATH and No. 10 overall prospect (247Sports Composite ratings) was going to be a Bulldog.
He told DawgNation earlier in the week that he made several silent commitments during the official visits along his recruiting journey.
Yet the one he went public with is no longer silent. Washington signed with UGA during the early period and now becomes the 20th commitment but also the 18th signee for Georgia in the 2020 class.
The 265-pound senior from Desert Pines (Las Vegas, Nev.) also now slots in as the third 5-star commitment or signee for the 2020 class in Athens. His national ranking at No. 10 overall now makes him the highest-rated commitment in the class of 2020.
Darnell Washington: Why he chose Georgia
Washington shared what stood out in the days leading up to the Under Armour All-American Game.
“It came down to how like I got along with the coaches,” he said. “Not only that with the recruiting pitches. I know what’s real and what’s not. It came down just to like the vibe of the schools and the vibe of the coaches. I just want to work. Work hard. I don’t want anything given. I want to earn everything I get.”
Georgia was just “different” in his mind.
“Every place is different but when I was there, I really can’t even,” Washington said. “I really don’t know. I think Dell McGee was like an honest coach. Even though he is a running back coach. At that time, he was the one recruiting me. I think he was a good dude. A good-hearted dude.”
Washington is now one of nine Georgia commitments or signees in the Under Armour All-American Game. That leaves 4-star Missouri cornerback Dontae Manning as the other target for DawgNation to pay attention to during the game.
The newly-declared Georgia signee brings a lot to the table athletically.
All of this from TE Darnell Washington (@_Dwfootball11) at 6-7.5, 261 ..
40 • 4.75
SH • 4.50
VJ • 31.3”
PB • 51’
RATING • 114.24 pic.twitter.com/0MOv1IbXh3
— Ronny Torres (@RonnyTorresSS) July 16, 2019
Darnell Washington: What this decision does for Georgia
Eli Wolf was a graduate transfer this year from Tennessee. Charlie Woerner was a fourth-year senior. Those two no longer have any eligibility at tight end for the Bulldogs in Todd Hartley’s room.
Georgia had a redshirt freshman in John FitzPatrick and two true freshmen in Ryland Goede and Brett Seither as the only other scholarship tight ends on the roster this year.
The quest for Hartley in the 2020 class was to refill his room with a different type of athlete. That’s why Arik Gilbert and Theo Johnson and Washington were prioritized for the room.
Georgia has had had unique athletes like those names at the tight end position who can run routes with true wide receiver attributes in quite some time.
Gilbert chose LSU. Johnson chose Penn State. The reason? Georgia has not yet shown the ability to showcase an elite tight end in its offense of late. Especially not the way that other TE-heavy schools like Iowa, Michigan and Penn State have over the last few years.
Washington becomes the first 5-star prospect to come in to play tight end since Isaac Nauta did in Kirby Smart’s first class in 2016. But Nauta’s career didn’t yield the promise it held when he joined the program.
Nauta left for the NFL after three seasons and 68 catches, 905 yards and eight scores. He was a seventh-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and saw some time on the field and on the practice squad as a rookie.
Washington brings in the ability to change all of that. He becomes an instant red zone weapon, but needs to work on his conditioning and effort level and work rate in college to fulfill his immense potential. He was not selected by his coaches to start the game on Thursday.
That role went to Iowa TE signee Elijah Yelverton. Yelverton rates as a 3-star and the nation’s No. 20 TE and the No. 516 overall prospect in the 2020 class.
Yet with that, there is a staggering amount of potential inherent in Washington.
Johnson deftly articulated what he might mean for the tight end room at Georgia. That’s even though he signed with Penn State.
“I think it would be huge for Georgia in just a lot of ways,” Johnson said. “Just because he brings so much to the table. It would bring a lot of momentum for the team and for recruiting. Because once you get a guy like Darnell, it is a lot easier because it’s hard to recruit tight ends right now. They don’t have guys like Darnell. So if they were to get Darnell would be huge for them this season and seasons to come because they can say, ‘look at our guy Darnell.’ The kids can then say, ‘Look at Darnell, I want to be like that guy. Bang, I’m going to Georgia.’ It would be a lot easier for a kid to trust in that decision seeing like a very dominant tight end like Darnell. I think it would be huge for them.”