Towers’ Take: Toneil Carter’s loss may be Rodrigo Blankenship’s gain
CALHOUN — Isaac Newton’s third law told us this was going to happen. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” We just couldn’t be sure where or how.
Now we know how.
The decisions of running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to return to Georgia for their senior seasons — and to a lesser degree the decisions of outside linebackers Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter to do the same — cost the Bulldogs a blue-chip running back recruit. Also related is the Bulldogs’ attempts to get kicker Rodrigo Blankenship on scholarship, which is now expected to happen.
That’s according to Toneil Carter’s brother and legal guardian. Byron Carter told DawgNation in no uncertain terms that his little brother fully intended to come to Georgia, but the Bulldogs withdrew their scholarship offer Sunday night because of “a numbers issue.”
“They were not able to accept him as a midyear,” Bryon Carter said in a telephone interview Monday. “The four returners messed up the scholarship numbers I guess, especially the two running backs. They didn’t expect them back, but we were under the impression it didn’t make a difference if Sony and Chubb came back or not. Then the fact they were trying to offer the kicker, the walk-on guy that was making all the field goals this last season, they were trying to offer him a scholarship. I don’t know if that’s what it comes down to, but from what I gather from (running backs coach) Dell (McGee) that’s part of it.”
DawgNation’s Seth Emerson dug into Georgia’s numbers on Monday and determined that the Bulldogs currently have 64 players slated to be on scholarship next season. With commitments from 19 prospects for next season, that leaves them at 83 players on scholarship next season without signing any other players in the 2017 class. The NCAA maximum is 85, and UGA has numerous scholarship offers outstanding.
The Carter family is somewhat understanding of all this. They certainly landed on their feet. Toneil Carter, the all-time leading rusher and scorer in Langham Creek (Houston, Texas) High history, accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Texas later in the day Monday. He also was holding immediate offers from Baylor and Florida State after Georgia bailed.
But Byron Carter made it clear his brother still wanted to come to UGA. And they’re not happy with the way Kirby Smart handled the whole situation.
“We understand that Nick and Sony wanted to come back and play their senior season for whatever reason; we’re not mad at them,” Byron Carter said. “We told them Toneil was willing to come there and just be there as a midyear and learn their style and learn their playbook and everything. He wasn’t even concerned about starting anymore. But these guys were like, ‘we don’t have the numbers for him to come in anymore.’ So that is what it is at the end of the day. That’s it. We were done with Georgia.”
What irked the Carters was that they didn’t get to hear directly from Smart. After all, Smart had just flown to Houston earlier this month to meet with them after Texas came back into the picture. They re-pledged their loyalty to the Bulldogs and thought that was that.
Then, when Georgia decided to withdraw its offer, they had to hear it from McGee, who told them they would not be hearing from Smart.
“That was kind of a slap in the face,” Byron Carter said. “(Smart) could at least have come to me to tell me those last final words. First of all you’re going to tell me we ain’t got a spot, then I’m not going to hear from Smart? That’s not cool. That kind of ticked me off because, honestly, he was one of the big reasons we decided to come to UGA. He was a big factor in that decision. For us to not hear from him is discouraging.”
But Byron Carter said while they’re not happy with the situation, they’re not going to brood over it.
“At the end of the day all I can do is respect it,” he said. “It’s a business and you have to run your business the way you see fit.”
The Bulldogs have four tailbacks returning now in Chubb and Michel and rising sophomores Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield. They have one other commitment from 4-star running back D’Andre Swift of Philadelphia, who will sign in February and report in June.