NEW: Opinion on 5 of the Hottest UGA Recruiting Topics of the Week

UGA coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer

Here’s Kimberley Nash’s perspective on five of the biggest UGA recruiting stories that people are talking about this week:

1. Does UGA Need to Be Concerned About Jacob Eason?

Let me start by saying it’s tough to talk about UGA recruiting when everything around the program points to a dumpster fire.

The last 48 hours have been a hot mess of turmoil, and the chatter isn’t likely to quiet down until someone comes out and refutes every rumor, makes a statement which will make it clear there was nothing to any of the hoopla in the first place, or fires the entire staff.

That said, regardless of the reports regarding the stability of UGA’s coaching staff, there are still recruits to be wooed. One of the biggest is 5-star quarterback Jacob Eason (Lake Stevens, Wash.).

Eason, if you’ll recall, signed financial aid papers, and is set to enroll at UGA in January. Barring any wholesale changes to the coaching staff, that is still the expectation.

Even so, Eason set off alarm bells when it was reported he’d opened the lines of communication with Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier just days after the Bulldogs dropped an embarrassing loss to the Gators in Jacksonville.

Some fans figured: Why wouldn’t Eason want to jump ship? Why would he possibly want to come to a program that (currently) can’t seem to find the end zone with two flashlights, a map, and a navigator? 

Unless the entire staff gets canned and the new regime runs something akin to  the triple-option, the expectation is that Eason will be in a red and black uniform next season. He wants to be at UGA, he’s actively recruiting players to play with him in Athens, Ga., and nothing he (or his family has been told), has changed his mind.

Now, should UGA flop further  and lose two or three out of the next four games, then it may be a point worth revisiting, but for now it’s not a concern.

2. Brian Schottenheimer …sigh

Piggy-backing on the Eason topic just a bit, you have to be even more concerned about Brian Schottenheimer’s continued inability to play to his quarterback’s strengths.

Mobility seemed to be the most beneficial part of Faton Bauta being tabbed the starter against Florida. The fact that he’s not a statue in the pocket would be a plus because he can extend a potentially dead drive by scrambling out of the pocket. That was something Lambert either couldn’t do or simply didn’t have the confidence to try.

On Saturday, I counted a handful of designed run plays for Bauta (none of which were successful), and multiple other occasions when the ball could have been pushed forward on the ground. But Bauta hesitated

UGA offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer looks on at Wednesday’s practice. Schottenheimer is under fire after his offense has failed to put up a touchdown in their last two games. (Joshua L. Jones/Special)

too long before making the decision to go.

Can you put that all on Schottenheimer? In my opinion, yes. I mean, if you were going to limit what Bauta could do with his legs, you may as well have taken your chances with Brice Ramsey. Why bother starting your most mobile, and least experienced pocket passer, if you were only going to set him up for failure by putting him in an untenable situation?

It made zero sense.

Once Eason arrives, does UGA have faith that Schottenheimer can make him a better quarterback? Based on what I’ve seen him do with Ramsey, Greyson Lambert (the guy whom Schottenheimer actually had input in bringing to UGA), and Bauta this past Saturday, I’m skeptical. However, that’s why he’s paid nearly $1 million and I’m not. Perhaps the talent he’s worked with thus far just isn’t enough to showcase his coaching acumen and, maybe, Eason will change minds about what Schottenheimer is capable of doing.  

3. Demetri Moore

Three-star offensive tackle Demetri Moore (Moorehead, Miss.) is scheduled to officially visit UGA for the Kentucky game Saturday. In a perfect world, he’ll see a solid performance from the offensive line, and get a good feel for how well he’d fit next season. However, even if the line doesn’t perform up to snuff, it’s a chance for offensive line coach Rob Sale to sell Moore on the opportunity to come in, right away, and make a difference.

The performance of the offensive line has been abysmal. It’s not gotten much done and the lack of success shows up in both the passing stats (where the team hasn’t found the end zone in two games), and the running game (where the rotating trio of Sony Michel, Keith Marshall, and Brendan Douglas, have

UGA offensive line coach Rob Sale looks on during drills at Wednesday’s practice. After high expectations, Sale’s offensive line has fallen short this season and underwent changes this week. (Joshua L. Jones/Special)

combined for fewer than 200 yards, 2.2 yards per carry, and logged zero touchdowns) has stalled miserably.

The offensive line has been absolutely demoralized in the trenches. If you’re a junior-college prospect, like Moore happens to be, it’s likely easy for him to imagine how he could come right in and make a play for a starting spot.

Auburn is still a program to watch out for here, but if UGA can manage to crawl out from underneath the muck and the rumors of its demise, then the Dawgs certainly have a chance to nab a solid player for the future.

4. Does a new Wide Receiver’s Offer Mean Another Has Eliminated UGA?

On Wednesday, UGA reached out to junior-college receiver Javon Wims (Jacksonville, Fla.). The offer was a head-scratcher because the Bulldogs already have four commitments at the wide receiver position, and are hopeful to have at least another from one of four remaining targets: 3-star Grant Holloway (Chesapeake, Va.), 4-star Tre Nixon (Melbourne, Fla.), 5-star Kyle Davis (Lawrenceville, Ga.), or 5-star Demetris Robertson (Savannah, Ga.).

Both the offensive line and quarterback play have been discussed to exhaustion, but think about the number of drops the wide receivers have had in key situations this season. Outside of Malcolm Mitchell and Terry Godwin (both of whom have struggled at points as well), the wide receiver play has not been as consistent as you would like.

With that in mind, when you consider how inconsistent the receiver play has been this season, you get the feeling the Bulldogs don’t want to take any chances. It’s possible wide receiver’s coach, Bryan McClendon, isn’t willing to take the chance he’ll end up one set of good hands shy, come National Signing Day

Wims is as close to a sure thing the Bulldogs have, from a commitment standpoint. If it came down to it, they could always find a way to take any one of the other aforementioned guys, who are high on their

board, if they did choose to sign with UGA.

Even so, the fact that Davis has been quiet since deciding not to commit on Oct. 23, Robertson still lists Stanford as his No. 1 — and hasn’t said much about UGA in quite some time — and Nixon, admittedly, falls in love with every school he visits, I wonder if the Bulldogs stand as great of a chance with them as they did earlier in the year.

As for Holloway, he’s still a strong possibility, but you can bet the Gators (a school he campaigned hard to gain an offer from) will have plenty to chomp to him about after last Saturday.

Bottom line, UGA can’t wait around for any prospect, at this point. It’s not a luxury they currently have at their disposal, so they may as well go after the ones that are ready to make a decision.

5. What if Pruitt is Let Go?

As I said from the start, it’s impossible to ignore what’s being said about the UGA football program. You’d have to be wearing ear muffs, blindfolded, and underneath a rock to block out the level of noise surrounding it right now — especially if your name is Jeremy Pruitt..

A lot has been said about Pruitt, and his relationship with coach Mark Richt. So much has been said, in fact, you start to wonder where truth meets fiction.

What I know is the offense is not going to win games for the Bulldogs; not if what I’ve seen so far is as good as it gets.That means it’s up to the defense to keep the remaining games close enough to make them winnable.

It’s a challenge the players on Pruitt’s defense willingly accept because they love playing for him, and they trust in his ability to prepare them to get the job done. A lot of the freshmen and sophomore players signed up because they knew they could be a part of something special. Pruitt sold them on their place at UGA. No question.

From a recruiting standpoint, that level of passion and focus is the very reason a prospect like 4-star defensive back Shyheim Carter has the Bulldogs on his short list. It’s the reason the Bulldogs were even in the conversation with more than a few others. But, what if Pruitt decides to leave, or gets fired?

You have to ask the question. No matter how much you try to avoid it, it’s out there.

What happens to this class, and those players, if Pruitt goes elsewhere?

Say what you will about Pruitt’s methods: his brash attitude and his inability to toe the company line (at times). He’s done a better job than his predecessor at elevating the talent level on the field.

You could certainly argue that his defense’s performances against Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida say otherwise.But the offense’s inability to produce has as much to do with that as anything, in my opinion.

If Pruitt leaves, this recruiting class will suffer. There’s not a doubt in my mind. He’s the draw for a lot of these prospects, and many of them are looking at UGA because they want to play for him.

Does that mean I advocate his being retained at all costs? No. In my mind, no one man is bigger than a program. But, what I am saying is most prospects have not come to understand the concept that college football is a business. They can say they understand, but they don’t, not really. It’s still about stability,longevity … and relationships.

Recruiting is built on relationships.

Prospects go where they feel the most at home. Once a home is considered broken and the relationships appear severed (or about to be), there’s no need to keep up the communication.

Everyone is simply content to go their separate ways.

 

Kimberley Nash has blogged about UGA Football Recruiting since 2011.

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