Here’s Kimberley Nash’s perspective on five of the biggest UGA recruiting stories that people are talking about this week:
1. Gotta Get Stronger (and BETTER) Up Front!
UGA’s defense hasn’t scared anybody this season. Not even smaller schools, with their middling players, have seen fit to feel intimidated.
In my opinion, UGA runs out on the field with two intentions: to intimidate and hope like hell no one remembers they have a young secondary, a non-existent pass rush, and a quarterback who can’t seem to figure out where to throw the ball once his first option is taken away from him.
That said, these last two weeks have exposed plenty about UGA’s defensive shortcomings, and the defensive line has been under a microscope so large that it’s hard to miss just how badly more talent is needed to fill out that unit, and bring UGA back to a level of respectability up front.
The lone bright spot on said line: Trenton Thompson.
The freshman defensive tackle has single-handedly made the run game a no-go when it’s headed in his direction. No one can do a thing with him right now…and he’s a TRUE freshman!
That said, he could use a little help. A lot, actually.
Keeping that in mind, imagine how much of an upgrade UGA’s defensive front would get if it were able to add 5-star defensive tackle Derrick Brown (Buford, Ga.), and 4-star defensive tackle Michail Carter, (Jackson, Ga.) to go along with 5-star DT Julian Rochester (Powder Springs, Ga.), and 4-star defensive tackle Tyler Clark (Americus, Ga.).
That, my friends, would be a defensive line worthy of some serious conversation. As of now, it’s barely worthy of a tweet.
As it stands, UGA is in great condition with both Brown and Carter. It would not surprise me to see them snag both on National Signing Day. Brown has UGA in his top group and Carter continues to maintain a high interest in playing for defensive line coach Tracy Rocker.
Barring any unforeseen changes to the coaching staff, I say Carter definitely ends up playing for UGA. As for Brown, I feel UGA’s chances are definitely good with him as well, but it’s obvious he’ll want to see stability. After all, he decided against taking an official to USC (Southern Cal) after they fired their coach, Steve Sarkisian.
Brown likely won’t admit that publicly, but there was a definite interest between the two a few months ago, so I’m just putting 2+2 together.
2. Is Pruitt Looking to Sacrifice Speed, for Size, in the Secondary?
The pass rush for UGA is abysmal, but it’s not for lack of talent; it’s for lack of trust in the secondary. Don’t get me wrong, the secondary has some good players, but if that group got any younger, they’d have to climb back inside their bassinets and wait for their lunchtime feeding.
Their best (and most consistent) player is Dominick Sanders…and he’s a true sophomore.
What I’m saying is there is plenty of opportunity to play early, if you sign with UGA, and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is spreading that fact around like free candy on Halloween. In fact, he not only wants more guys to choose from on the depth chart, he wants to see the guys he’s choosing get more physically intimidating. At least that’s what 4-star Oregon defensive back commit, Jared Mayden (Sachse, Texas), told 247Sports Ryan Bartow during a recent interview.
Mayden was considering de-committing from the Ducks, and UGA was the school he stated as his No. 2:
“I talk to coach Jeremy Pruitt,” Mayden said. “He tells me to keep my options open, and that they are trying to get bigger cornerbacks, so if I come in and learn the plays, they could use me immediately. I can see myself in that defense.
The fact that Pruitt wants to get a bit bigger at the defensive back position likely points to a need for more physicality.
Early on, speed was the issue but, as UGA continues to get beat by stronger, more physically aggressive, receivers, Pruitt is obviously trending towards sacrificing speed (at least a little) in favor of guys who do a better job of getting in the receiver’s face and making him earn every yard.
Mayden isn’t an option, at the moment (he has since reaffirmed his commitment to the Ducks), but a 4-star DB like Kristian Fulton (Metairie, La.) would definitely fit the mold of what Pruitt is looking for. And if Pruitt can also get 4-star DB Shyheim Carter (Kentwood, La.) to forget Ole Miss exists, then UGA could end up with a few nice additions to the secondary next season.
3. Ready to Run?
After visiting UGA for the game against South Carolina, Texas 4-star running back Devwah Whaley left feeling very good about UGA. He felt so good that some began to speculate he may already be silently committed.
I don’t know that he is or isn’t, but I do know that UGA will need to get more backs in the backfield next season with the status of Nick Chubb looking more uncertain, and the possibility of A.J. Turman ever playing a down for UGA seeming about as likely as me catching a pass from Matt Ryan.
Let’s face it, Sony Michel can’t do it all by himself. I mean he could, but you’d hope to have a nice compliment to him. A guy who can run between the tackles and get you the tough yards.Keith
Marshall is not going to be that guy. He’s a good running back, but that’s not his game. It would be Turman’s, if he ever were physically able to play, but…*shrugs*.
UGA already has 4-star Elijah Holyfield committed, but they really want to sign another back to go along with him because you just never know. For as loaded as UGA seemed at the start of the season, their embarrassment of riches turned into the Bermuda Triangle of running back depth very quickly once Chubb went down.
Whaley has a spot, if he wants it. We’ll see if he takes it (that is, if he hasn’t already).
4. Isaac Nauta Will Also Visit Alabama.
Former USC (Southern Cal) coach Steve Sarkisian really mucked things up when he got fired.
5-star tight end Isaac Nauta (IMG Academy) has decided to use his final official to see what Alabama can do. Again. That visit was once slated to be for USC (Southern Cal), but then…Steve Sarkisian.
If you’ll recall, Nauta was at the UGA-Alabama game, the one where the UGA offense decided to take a leave of absence for three quarters. You know the one. And while Nauta stated he still felt good about UGA, despite that performance, you have to wonder if Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has finally worn him down enough to make Alabama more than just a destination visit?
If he has, then that visit (which will officially take place when Alabama hosts LSU) is definitely a reason to be concerned.
And, just in case you’re wondering why Nauta would consider Alabama, when they barely use a tight end themselves, I have one name for you: O.J. Howard.
Howard didn’t show up in the box score in the game against UGA, but he’s an All-American and, prior to that particular matchup, he’d seen the ball come his way 13 times for 183-yards. He’s also a junior for whom Nauta could immediately step in and fill the void once he exits.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
As for UGA’s tight ends…*crickets*.
Well, wait, I can tell you this much: the three of them combined (Jackson Harris, Jeb Blazevich, and Jay Rome) don’t have the number of yards, or the amount of catches, of one O.J. Howard.
Like I said, there’s definitely a reason for concern.
5. Will UGA Try to Sway Any of South Carolina’s Commits?
With Steve Spurrier deciding to “fire himself”, the future of the Gamecocks recruiting class became not only uncertain but poachable. Despite perception, there are more than a few guys currently committed for 2016 who might consider making a change. Would UGA be interested in any of them? Perhaps one, 3-star safety Marlon Character (Atlanta).
Prior to committing to the Gamecocks this past July, UGA was in the mix for Character. They were, at the very least, on his radar. However, if he were to de-commit, the stronger possibility would be Auburn.
Outside of him, though, I don’t see UGA pursuing any part of the Gamecocks recruiting class, honestly.
Kimberley Nash has blogged about UGA Football Recruiting since 2011.