Kirby Smart is 5 feet, 10 inches.
Tate Ratledge — one of UGA’s top targets for the 2020 recruiting class — stands 6 feet, 7 inches.
The UGA football coach has repeatedly promised to dunk over Ratledge in some fun chatter within an iMessage group chat that includes the 4-star prospect and members of the Bulldogs coaching staff. “It’s a really good relationship with (Smart),” Ratledge told DawgNation. “I talk to him all the time.”
Ratledge said some of the most memorable conversations happen in that particular group chat, which has been dubbed “Tate’s going to be a Dawg!” by the UGA coaches. “That’s a pretty cool name,” Ratledge said with a laugh. “(Smart) is always joking around in there. He told me that he was going to dunk on me. Other than that, it’s them talking about how bad they need me.”
For the record, the 6-7, 311-pound offensive lineman from Rome, Ga., has yet to commit, but the Bulldogs and Tennessee are considered the frontrunners.
Back to the story: What about the UGA assistants? What are some funny lines by offensive line coach Sam Pittman or the others in the group chat? “They kind of feed off what (Smart) says, although Coach Pittman said he was going to dunk on me, too,” Ratledge said. “They will joke around and say things like that.”
It’s unlikely that Smart will come anywhere close to dunking on Ratledge, but don’t underestimate the coach’s athleticism — as he did start for the Bulldogs once upon a time at defensive back. He still has some of it, as displayed in a TV special last year.
However, obviously the “dunk talk” has more to do with Smart effectively creating a bond with an elite recruit in a light-hearted way, which is critical in the high-pressured world of recruiting. It gives them something else to talk about other than recruiting during the courtship.
DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell wrote a must-read feature on Ratledge recently.
Note: This story reminds me of former UGA star Lorenzo Carter when he was in high school. He played for the Norcoss basketball team, and agreed to participate in the AJC Slam Dunk Content. On the day we sent a videographer there, then-UGA coach Mark Richt showed up at Norcoss to observe Carter at basketball practice. Carter asked Richt if he could dunk over him for the contest – and Richt, believe it or not, agreed to it. However, Richt double-checked with UGA’s compliance office, and they nixed the idea.