Monroe Freeling: Georgia football signed a ‘Next Generation’ offensive tackle in 2023
This post represents the first installment in a DawgNation series this spring featuring the “Next Generation” of Georgia football players from the 2023 signing class. 5-star Monroe Freeling ranks as the nation’s No. 5 OT and the No. 33 overall prospect for 2023 on the 247Sports Composite ratings and the On3 Industry Ranking.
It is a fall Friday night in coastal South Carolina. The palms in the Palmetto State are swaying. There’s a blissful breeze drifting inland.
Oceanside Collegiate Academy is coming out for the second half. We fix our eyes on a Bunyanesque offensive tackle walking out.
Monroe Freeling offers a unique visual. His weight ranged between 290 and 295 pounds for his senior season.
South Carolina measured Freeling at 6 feet, 7 inches with no socks on. The Gamecocks offered him before he played his first varsity game as a sophomore.
He’s big and long and lean. Like a walking parenthesis in size-16 cleats. Freeling will not take up a lot of space. But he’ll eclipse everything in front of him.
With that second half about to follow, we keep our eyes on Freeling.
The rest of the team is getting warm. Running in place. He had to hang back a bit from the rest of the team. Probably needed more tape. That’s what head coach Chad Wilkes thinks.
Those two have a quick word.
“Alright Monroe,” Wilkes says. “Go stretch.”
“Do you mind if I just do yoga?” Freeling replies.
Wilkes did not. His 4-star OT can indeed do yoga if that’s what he needs. As long as he goes back out and physically dominates opponents and finishes every block with domination on his mind.
It was no random request. Freeling’s mother, Brandy, had established a tradition of doing yoga with the team on Fridays in the season. She started Monroe on yoga after his freshman season.
“It is all about knowing your body coach,” Monroe Freeling said to Wilkes at the moment.
What the factory sticker says about Monroe Freeling
That’s a 2023 move for a 5-star offensive tackle if we ever heard one. That’s all the proof necessary to convey that Freeling is the latest model for offensive tackles in Athens. That’s not all the luxury features in this package.
There is also:
- A 320-pound power clean heading into his senior season
- 247Sports measured Freeling with 34 and one-eight-inch arms. His hand was at 10.75 inches. That’s one of the largest figures they’ve ever recorded at the All-American Bowl.
- His wingspan was measured at 84-plus inches. When Kirby Smart discussed Freeling on signing day, he said Freeling and fellow 2023 signee Bo Hughley had “top 10″ wingspans of all the players they’ve recruited. That translates into keeping the defender’s hands away from them. That’s a vital trait in today’s college football.
- Freeling also recorded a 31-inch vertical leap at close to 300 pounds at Oceanside
- His coaches stretched their brains to think of maybe two plays in his high school career where he got beat and his man made the play
- An extremely competitive family. His older brother was a high school basketball star that went on to play Division II ball. His mother used to run triathlons before having four boys under the age of six years old. That’s when she turned to yoga to manage all of her aches and pains while training.
- Throwing down two-hand tomahawk dunks in the front of the whole defense in high school basketball games
He stands tall. Moves that much weight. Jumps that high. Bends well. To top it off, he wants to be great.
Freeling is described as loyal and thankful. Especially to those who helped him. He made a point to thank his former head coach, Chad Grier, for instilling the drive in him to become an All-American and to sign with a program like UGA.
“He developed greatly throughout his high school career,” said Grier, who’s now at Providence Day in Charlotte. “Really competitive. Just a first-class young man from a first-class family. What Monroe had early on was he had a fiery side to him. The emotional investment he puts into the game and into the team is really there. He’s going to compete with passion. Early and often. I think he is going to just be a tremendous player at Georgia.”
The 2023 signee enrolled early at UGA. He reported right after the All-American Bowl. This will be an important season for him to get used to the college level and gain weight and strength. He’s likely going to be called on to play a lot in 2024.
That’s because a Georgia offensive line will likely see tackle types like Amarius Mims and Xavier Truss move to the NFL. The entire offensive line should lose four of its five projected starters after the 2023 season.
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Next Generation: Why did Monroe Freeling choose UGA?
When Freeling signed with Georgia, it marked the 16th time Kirby Smart’s program signed the top-rated player in a state. That goes back to his first recruiting class in 2016.
Well, it is actually only the 15th time for a state. We’re playing fast with the fact Georgia signed the No. 1 player in Australia (punter Brett Thorson) in the 2022 cycle. Thorson proved to be the second time the ‘Dawgs signed the top player on a continent. All-time DGD Nolan Smith was the first out of North America in 2019.
This was a comeback recruitment. Georgia’s chances soared with two big visits in May and July of last year.
“It might have been because they were just going through a national championship run and coming out of it, but it didn’t feel like the recruitment was really hard until [offensive line] coach [Stacy] Searels got there,” Monroe Freeling said in August. “Then it all kind of changed and they really tried to recruit me harder.”
He had visited UGA before. But had not gotten the chance to speak to Smart.
“I don’t know but I don’t think they thought I was a priority until Coach Searels went into the office and was like ‘Look Monroe is a priority’ and that kind of changed everything,” Freeling said back during the season.
There was the loyalty aspect between those two. That dated back to when Searels was recruiting him for North Carolina.
“He was still recruiting me extremely hard at UNC and when he went straight to Georgia I think I might have been the first guy he called,” Freeling said. “Take it with a grain of salt. But I think the loyalty is there.”
UNC is on the rise and on the “come up” in college football to Freelking. But he said the ‘Dawgs were already there and had been there. And then they reached a new level with their first national title in 2021.
What was the big reason he chose Georgia?
“It checked all my boxes,” Freeeling said. “They got great competition. That’s a big thing. You are going to get developed by a great coach at Georgia. But you are also going to get developed by the competition every day in practice with other great players. Then piggyback off of that is the development. I think coach Searels has got a pretty good track record of sending guys to the NFL.
“Then also I asked some of the players at Georgia since he got there about him. The other players were excited about their development. I was talking to one of their guys, I forget their name, but they said it was like night and day how much he’d improved since Searels arrived.”
Freeling is a serious student. So much so that Wilkes will tell him to “sleep” and get some rest when he sees him studying in the morning before school. The big screen TV at the school cafe is on ESPN most mornings, but Freeling pays it no mind.
“I tell him to stop worrying about it,” Wilkes said. “He’s stressed over grades and classes that I know he was a 100 in.”
Freeling initially wasn’t aware of Georgia’s strong academic standards. But he spoke to Smart about it. He also learned that one of his older brother’s best friends tried to get into UGA with a 34 on the ACT and a 4.0 GPA.
“He didn’t get accepted into Georgia with that,” Freeling said. “When I heard that, I chalked it up as something else that was good to know about Georgia.”
The late July visit locked things down for him. He had a great time and the long car ride home back to Charleston gave him time to think. The visit highs were there from other schools, but they quickly went away when he got into his daily and weekly routines.
Georgia stuck with him.
“I got everything I need and just felt like I didn’t need to hold back anymore with where I wanted to go,” he said.
He committed back in August. Then signed during the early period in December.
“It just hasn’t ever wavered for me at all with Georgia,” Freeling said at the All-American Bowl back in January. They proved themselves during the season. The biggest reason they are heading back-to-back and in the national championship again is their development and their strength program. I mean they lost 15 guys or something to the NFL Draft and went back and did it again. Now, they’re back into the championship.”
“My decision never really wavered. I’m just so happy to be at Georgia and going to Georgia.”
He’s now at a program that has won the last two national titles. Is that a burden? A blessing?
“I think it is just the standard,” Freeling said in Texas. “I think that’s something I have got to match and come in and do. I think I might have a good chance to at least get on the field for my freshman year. So I’m going to go in there and try my hardest. Hold myself to the same standard all the other guys have the last two years.”
The scouting report on Monroe Freeling
Freeling is driven to be the best. He doesn’t have a heartfelt story but just wants to be at the top in everything he does. There is a strong internal drive to him.
His grades are an example, but he comes from a family of achievers. His father is a successful anesthesiologist in Charleston. His mother’s degree came in Exercise Science. The Freeling family moved from Oregon to the Lowcountry in 2016. Monroe Freeling is the third-youngest of the four boys.
“He’s big on development,” Wilkes said. “That powered his college decision, but he wants to be developed. When I first got the job here, that was the first thing his Mom told me. She said he was obsessed with getting better and he acts like it. It is true.”
There’s also the way that Freeling is wired from a family of competitors. Wilkes remembers him matching 100-pound dumbbell bench presses with a teammate. That was the biggest dumbbell in the weight room.
They were doing reps of eight, but his buddy was keeping up. Freeling wasn’t having it. So he started attaching medicine bands to his lift to increase the difficulty.
“They were absolutely blowing it out,” Wilkes said. “Poring sweat. Screaming at each other. That is definitely Monroe’s mentality. That’s why he is so good. He matches that athleticism and size up with that fire to compete.”
He knew what he had in Freeling. But also wanted to know where he really stacked up nationally. So he asked all of the offensive line coaches that came through his program to recruit Freeling about that.
“All of them basically said there’s basically only one other kid that can match Monroe,” Wilkes said. “That was the kid up in Massachusetts (5-star Samson Okunloa) but he’s not as big and long as he is. I saw some drill tape of that kid and footwork wise he is a little bit above Monroe, but he’s only six-foot-five. He doesn’t have the length and his shoes aren’t as big as Monroe’s shoes are, too.”
Here’s a twist. Freeling was a 4-star that actually saw his rankings increase after he faced the other All-Americans out in Texas. He went from a 4-star to a 5-star after his senior season.
Antoine Rivens coaches the line at Oceanside. He’s had Freeling for three seasons. Rivens was a three-year starter on the OL at South Carolina. So he knows what it takes to play in the SEC.
He shares two impactful stories about Freeling.
The first was when he was a freshman. Freeling was a JV player then but was always trying to get reps and test himself against the varsity.
Freeling was only about an inch shorter then but weighed just 230 pounds. He was getting rag-dolled and yet always kept coming back.
It wasn’t so much that he thought he could win. He just wanted to find a way each time to lose with a little more dignity.
“He was getting his butt whupped and he would literally cry,” Rivens said. “But if it was up to him, he would go over and over again until he came close to winning one. I knew then that he was a different breed then. Just off that mentality, he had that then, at a very young age when he was getting whipped.”
“Never satisfied. Just always trying to do better. He’s the same way still now.”
Contrast that with the finished high school product. The length and the size and a yoga man’s flexibility create a totally different matchup during board drills.
“What sets him apart is he’s tall and that agile,” Rivens said. “He can stay at left tackle. He’s flexible and not just a stiff big ol’ kid. Those edge guys he has to block can really bend and turn. But he can bend and turn with them. It is just a matter of him getting stronger in college. But the college coaches love that he can bend and can get low enough to block that edge guy that is going to come off the ball about two inches off the ground. That’s how he is going to negate their advantage.”
“He’s also an aggressive kid for a kid that big who was that big early. That’s unusual for a tall kid like Monroe. Most of them are passive and lazy or one of the two. I have to keep reminding him with that wingspan of his he doesn’t have to work as hard. But he wants to grapple sometimes. That’s okay in the run game. But he has such great feet and long arms, if he locks his arms out and really moves his feet nobody will beat him. Ever.”
Check out his HUDL highlight film from his senior season. He played both ways and his defensive highlights actually lead off the reel.
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Monroe Freeling breaks down how yoga as only he can
The conversation about yoga poses eventually had to happen.
It was one of those moments where one can’t believe they are actually talking yoga with an 18-year-old offensive tackle. NFL Hall of Famer Joe Thomas did it. So he knows he is on the right track with it.
When the Bulldogs do it every Thursday of next season, he won’t feel like a raw freshman then.
His go-to pose is “Pigeon” here. No matter how his body feels, he knows he’ll feel something in that stance. The “Highboat” and “Lowboat” and “Svanasana” poses also quickly come to mind for him.
“Pigeon hits a lot,” he said when asked about his favorite pose. “If you are really warm, then that will really get you. Like straight off a lift? When you are lifting heavy? That will get you. That’s one I like a lot like that.”
“Then there is the supine twist. You’ve got a knee over it. Kind of stretching out the spine a little bit. Then it depends on just the day and when and if you are feeling it but a lot of times stiffened stretches hit better than others. There’s one where you have a little lunge. You just walk your hip out. I can’t remember what it is called but that is just another really good groin and hip stretch.”
“Those are like my favorites. Obviously ‘Downward Dog’ is good but it is sometimes hard to hit your hamstrings as well. Child’s pose is really good for me as well.”
He said his best visit was the annual “cookout” weekend at UGA. That’s the one with cornhole and water guns and lots of BBQ and food.
Then there was the annual Slip-n-Slide competition.
“I carried my team,” Freeling said. “I was the only one who went all the way across with one try.”
“Everyone else was paddling and I was like ‘Obviously you guys don’t engage your core sliding across it’ and you know there is a technique to it.”
That’s a recruiting story we never expected to report in three lifetimes. Yoga helped out a 5-star’s Slip-N-Slide technique.
But that’s Freeling.
He should be a fixture in Athens for the next three to four seasons. You might not know his number the first few games. Maybe just look for the tall strapping Bulldog trying out a “Pigeon” pose during warm-ups.
That might just be Georgia’s next great left tackle. Getting ready to go to work.
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