Here’s Kimberley Nash’s perspective on five of the biggest UGA recruiting stories that people are talking about this week:
1.The recruiting trail is a lot more interesting in wake of the rumors.
UGA rumors of staff dissension, and coaches on the brink of being fired, haven’t made the recruiting trail any easier to navigate. Luring a prospect to play for your program is tricky enough without having to worry about the conversations he’s having with a rival program’s coaching staff behind closed doors.
On the one hand, the kitchen got a touch cooler with the Bulldogs win over Kentucky. But the room’s climate is still warm enough to make the atmosphere stifling, and the comfort level is only mildly bearable.
In other words, the UGA coaching staff is hardly out of the woods, and it knows it.
“You get questions,” UGA recruiting coordinator (Bryan) McClendon said. “You get questions. So you’ve just gotta make sure that you’re upfront with people, and doing your best to kind of education them with what you know, and everything else that goes there. But also educate them on the stuff that’s beyond our control too.”
Recruiting is a highly-competitive business. When you’re fighting for the best of the best, you have to find an advantage wherever you can. No one is going to play fair simply because your coach is a nice guy. So, UGA will have to work even harder to make their message clear: We’re okay here in Athens, Ga., despite what you’ve heard.
For recruiting to get an ideal boost, the Bulldogs would beat Auburn this weekend, and run the table against the rest of their opposition. That will likely stick a very large fork into any further conversation about the stability of this staff. However, lose to Auburn … or Georgia Tech … shucks, even Georgia Southern, and the questions will be asked again: Is it time for a change at UGA?
Some are already banking on the answer to that question being “yes” well before another down is played by the Bulldogs. Those same people are sending that message to some of UGA’s most coveted targets for 2016.
2. It’s Kyle Davis or bust … honestly.
It’s dangerous to put all your eggs in one basket because it’s tough to predict what an 18-year-old kid will do. Even so, when you look at what UGA has cooking at the wide receiver position for this class, it’s obvious they’re missing something major in the way of an elite player.
No disrespect to any of the commitments the Bulldogs have managed to grab to this point, but none have the potential Day 1 impact of a 5-star like Kyle Davis (Lawrenceville, Ga). They just don’t.
Here’s the thing: Once Malcolm Mitchell leaves, UGA will have a void to fill.
While, it’s good the Bulldogs managed to break last year’s big signee (Terry Godwin) in quickly, the other two most-relevant 2015 signings, Michael Chigbu and Jayson Stanley, have a combined three receptions for 32 yards. That’s not enough to say that either can break into the starting lineup next season and help fill the gap that’ll surely be left by Mitchell’s departure.
I understand there aren’t any guarantees with Davis either, but I’m willing to take the chance I’m wrong in his case because I feel strongly that he’s the type of player UGA needs to compliment Godwin next season: sure-handed, physical, and almost certain to make man coverage difficult for even the most talented defensive back.
That said, he’s gone silent. After he decided not to make his Oct. 23 announcement, he’s not said much, if anything, about his recruitment. Could that have something to do with his desire to finish out his high school career strong, without distractions? Sure, as the playoffs approach for Archer High School, he’d hardly be looking to add more distractions. Understandable.
On the other hand, this could just as easily be about an uncertainty as to where he should play at the next level. UGA may have been trending a few months ago, but it’s clear Auburn has a lot of steam right now and, if the Bulldogs should lose to the Tigers this Saturday, you can bet the Tigers’ coaching staff will be the first to let Davis know.
Bottom line, UGA needs a big name to add to the list at wide receiver. Four-star Javon Wims (Jacksonville, Fla.) was a great get, but it’s Davis or bust.
Even if 4-star Tre’ Nixon (Melbourne, Fla.), 3-star Grant Holloway (Chesapeake, Va.), or 5-star Demetris Robertson (Savannah, Ga.) sign, it won’t matter because Davis is the only player who would be ready to come in, on Day 1, and make an impact. UGA knows that … so does everyone else.
3. Revisiting the tight end conversation … briefly.
I have to admit I had a bit of a chuckle over Richt’s description of what’s been ailing sophomore tight end Jeb Blazevich this season. Honestly, the first thing I thought when he said it is, how on earth can his legs be tired when the offensive coordinator doesn’t bother having him run and catch?
In any event, Blazevich seems to be over whatever’s been keeping him down (I still say they’re letting Brian Schottenheimer off easy, but … we’ll go with Richt’s “tired legs” explanation *wink, wink*), and he’s ready to get back in the game for the Bulldogs this Saturday.
Auburn has had a tough time covering the middle of the field.If whomever is playing quarterback can find a way to consistently make passes, it should be a good day for a guy like Blazevich to find some room and be a factor. If nothing else, it’s an opportunity for Schottenheimer to show he’s ready to employ a bit more creativity in the passing game.
Last week’s “Wild Dawg” was a start, but the Bulldogs will need to do more, on the road, against a much more confident (after a win over Texas A&M) Auburn defense to win this one.
4. Mecole Hardman
Five-star athlete Mecole Hardman (Elberton, Ga.) didn’t allow the hoopla of last week’s rumors interfere with his opinion of UGA. He understands that people will say a lot of things, but not all of it will be true. In other words, the Bulldogs are still in his top 2, and will remain so. But a recent trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala. begged the question: How will he decide where he wants to be in 2016?
I have long felt that, for Hardman, it’s going to come down to fit versus location. I think he has a great relationship with the coaching staff at UGA — defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to be exact — and he likes the idea of playing so close to home.
However, he’s made it clear that he’s no longer going to concern himself with whether or not his folks can watch him play. Yes, he’s super close to his parents, and his mother adores Richt, but they also understand that this is a decision that Hardman has to make for himself because it’s not just the next three to four years of his life we’re talking about, but beyond.
Hardman would be a defensive back at UGA, and that is the position he feels gives him the most longevity from a pro perspective. He doesn’t want to go to a school that will lock him in only as an offensive player.
Tennessee and Alabama want him on offense, UGA would allow him to play both, and it has Pruitt. It’s a win-win-win, but if Alabama was to let him know he’d have the chance to play defense, would that make things more interesting? Probably.
If I were to make a prediction right now, I’m still going to say Hardman signs with UGA. Alabama may look like a wonderful fit, defensively, but he’d have more opportunities at UGA and he’d have the added bonus of playing in front of his family. I think those things will win out in the end.
That said, if there are any changes to the staff, then I will need to revisit my thought process. Hardman likes the Bulldogs but, unlike 4-star UGA commit Charlie Woerner, he wouldn’t sign just because he wants to be at UGA. The relationship he’s built with the coaching staff is a definite factor.
5. Derrick Brown will be watching to see how well UGA plays at Auburn
It’s no secret UGA needs/wants to do well against the Auburn Tigers this Saturday. There are numerous targets, aside from the aforementioned Davis and Hardman, for whom the Bulldogs are battling the Tigers. A win would go a long way toward re-establishing some positive recruiting momentum.
Five-star defensive tackle Derrick Brown (Lanier, Ga.) will be at the game to see how well the Bulldogs play the Tigers. He told Dawgs247’s Kipp Adams that it’s “a pretty big game”, and he wants to see if UGA can finish strong.
It’s clear he’s paying attention to the school he once called his leader, and that should be considered a good thing. If you couple that interest with the fact that he was on the UGA campus for the Kentucky game last weekend, you get the impression his interest in UGA is definitely more than a passing one, and the Bulldogs are in it for him.
Could a win at Auburn seal that? Maybe, maybe not.
Brown has made it clear that he gets along well with UGA defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, but he’s also said he’s closest with Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Garner. Remember, much of recruiting is about relationships. If Brown feels more comfortable with Garner that may be all he needs to choose one over the other.
That said, a win this weekend would certainly leave a good impression heading into the final stretch. And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that for all his recruiting prowess, there are some on the Plains of Auburn who are a bit disappointed with what Garner’s been able to do with the talent he’s been given on that Tigers defensive line.
I can’t say I’ve heard any of those types of complaints about Rocker at UGA … just throwing that out there.
6. A side note on the de-commitment of Miami’s Zach McCloud
Late Thursday evening, 4-star outside linebacker Zach McCloud (Lake Worth, Fla.) de-committed from the University of Miami.
It could be much ado about nothing, but it’s worth noting that UGA offered McCloud in November of 2014.He made an unofficial visit to the Athens, Ga. campus in late July, and UGA linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer stopped by to check in on McCloud as recently as a couple weeks ago.
The Bulldogs are obviously interested. Will they have get an official? Yes, if his own admission is to be believed. McCloud told Scout.com as recently as October that the Bulldogs would be one of five schools to which he’d take one.
As of now, McCloud has two officials scheduled: Ohio State (Nov. 21) and Auburn (Nov. 28).
If UGA actually gets him back on campus, it’d be a plus. But, for now his name is one to simply stick in your back pocket.
Kimberley Nash has blogged about UGA Football Recruiting since 2011.