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This will be TK Chimedza’s 12th month at IMG Academy. He will return for his senior season. The Georgia native rates as the nation’s No. 15 defensive tackle and No. 150 overall prospect.
Georgia defensive line coach Tray Scott already has gotten in touch. Scott has been hitting the phone hard since he arrived in Athens, and that big board for interior disruptors definitely would include Chimedza.
“I’ve heard from him,” Chimedza said. “He’s a real cool guy. He wants to get to know everything about his players.”
Scott will be pleased to find out Chimedza trained his body at an early age with the rigors of swimming. He was more than an aircraft carrier in his meets, too.
He’s now at 6 feet, 3 inches and 290 pounds. Chimedza added that he is still on track to graduate early and enroll in January.
“I can honestly say that UGA is one of my top schools, but I would say it has pretty leveled out between them, FSU and Duke,” Chimedza said. “Duke has really made its way up there for awhile now.”
The Blue Devils are a new entry. They have surged into the picture. He sees that degree as one of those true 40-year decisions that come with signing a college scholarship.
“Duke is still a good football program with good coaches that know what they are talking about that care about their players,” he said. “You know they have players there from Duke that still make it into the league.”
Chimedza on Georgia
Georgia actually has ratcheted up its pursuit of Chimedza over the last six weeks. The Bulldogs have great needs at defensive tackle in this cycle, and 4-star Devonte Wyatt was their only 2017 signee at that position.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has had a role in Chimedza’s recruitment.
“Georgia has actually been talking to me twice as much here lately,” Chimedza said. “It used to be once a week to maybe two or three times a week now. They ask me how things are going or maybe sharing motivational texts or just asking me how school is going.”
He felt that Duke and Florida State were both coming at him very hard and almost right at the level that the Bulldogs are pursuing him.
Chimedza offered up a unique reply when asked what he likes best about Georgia.
“Just basically how they handle everything,” Chimedza said. “I’m just not trying to go to a school that is just used to winning. When they lose it is just crazy and everyone shuts down and shuts the team out. I was at the Georgia Tech game and saw how they reacted to that loss. Georgia was calm and collected. Their motto is you have 24 hours to celebrate or 24 hours to mourn. Not many teams can do that. I was impressed by that.”
When Georgia rising sophomore TE Isaac Nauta was at IMG, he said those months away increased his desire to come back home to play college football.
Does Chimedza feel the same way?
“If you would have asked me that after my first couple of months here then I would have said yes to that,” he said. “Absolutely. But having been away from home I am starting to feel like I am growing on my own. So now for me — that playing at home stuff — I no longer see that as a factor.”
When asked about FSU, he used the term “professionalism” to describe their pitch.
“They handle their business and make you feel like you are family,” he said.
Seminoles defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins was on campus recently and sat Chimedza down. He clearly laid out his value to FSU’s 2018 class. Haggins brought up the local connection. South Gwinnett DT Robert Cooper is already committed to the Noles.
“He wanted me to play by Coop,” Chimedza said. “I feel like I’m not even wanted over there, but needed over there. So that is a good feeling.”
Chimedza felt comfortable with preparing for a summer decision to make his college commitment.
An honest read into the IMG experience
The IMG Academy experience is always in the headlines. The program makes no bones about its quest to find the nation’s top out-of-state players and invite them to join their roster.
Nolan Smith, a recent UGA commitment for 2019, made that move to IMG Academy last month. Smith was one of many top prospects to take that leap from Georgia this year.
Chimedza shared an honest take about the realities of that life. The player needs to get ready for a grind. It will feel somewhat like college football. There will be a lot of specialized training, and time management will be key.
Other players get to see pretty girls in the hallways every day. That’s not going to be the norm at IMG Academy.
“The way I see it is if you decided to come here, then you already knew you were giving up a big part of your social life,” Chimedza said. “I didn’t come here to talk to girls or see what kind of parties I can go to. I came here to get better and to make sure I make it to the next level and that I will be prepared to play at that next level.”
His advice to an IMG noob like Smith would be to maintain a positive outlook.
“I wouldn’t look at it as ‘Aw, man I have to go to weights again and after that I have to go to tutoring and all that’ but I would look at it as we are all doing this to be better prepared for college. I’m doing this to get better. We are not doing this for ourselves for nothing, plus this also benefits us because we get to graduate early and this puts you ahead of everyone else in your signing class that will go to the same school as you do.”
He said the outside perspective isn’t quite like what he has experienced so far. This isn’t quite like a “boot camp” for football.
“It is definitely not as bad as everyone thinks,” he said. “It is just like any other public school except we live here. That’s really how we look at it. This is not all football. At the end of the day, we are student-athletes like everyone else.”
He said there is still the possibility to go out on weekends. There is a fun activity almost every Friday like Laser Tag.
“They try to treat us like regular teenagers,” Chimedza said.
He said that everything he might have given up back in the normal high school life in Gwinnett County has been worth it. His fundamental techniques of using his hands to shed blocks have increased exponentially.
“Definitely,” he said. “I have zero regrets coming here. Zero. This has made me a lot better and really prepared me.”
His game was shaped by going against the nation’s No. 1 center prospect, Cesar Ruiz, last season.
The feedback he has gained from IMG graduates is that there is still a gap between the grind at IMG and then a major SEC program.
“The perception that people think that you come here and this is basically like your freshman year of college football is totally wrong,” he said. “From what I have heard from people who went here and are now in college is that this place has nothing on college and college football. College is a whole different ballgame, but what they do say is this campus does prepare you far more to excel in college far more than any other regular high school program would.”
A neat little thing to know
But one aspect that lacked detail was the fact that he has a good feeling that he’ll bring several “Dogs” with him to whichever school he attends.
Johnson, naturally, will keep a lot of those details to himself. But he did drop the following three hints about that situation.
- There will be a quarterback, a receiver and other defensive backs in that group.
- He said there were about “five or six” prospects he felt all wanted to play together.
- Johnson did say that Thomson 4-star CB and longtime UGA target Christian Tutt would be one of those guys in that scenario.
Staying on the ‘package deal’ topic
If that comes to fruition, Johnson’s vision would be a package deal unlike any other. That 5-pack or 6-pack of prospects would be unprecedented. Especially one that seems like it has been in the works for years.
But that’s not the only one to keep in mind.
There’s another separate potential scenario connected to the decision of Dutchtown 4-star safety Trey Dean, who was the topic of another recruiting update this week. His recent UGA offer was a big one in terms of helping to shape his final decision.
Dean also brought up the tandem commitment discussion he had with Crisp County 4-star OLB Quay Walker.
Walker, once a heavy UGA lean, is now very much up in the air after his teammate and close friend Markaviest “Big Cat” Bryant signed with Auburn. There was also the widespread talk that Crisp County coach Shelton Felton was also on his way to Auburn in an off-the-field analyst role.
Dean shared something that adds to the intrigue around that decision.
“There’s one guy by the name of Quay Walker I know from Crisp County that doesn’t even play ‘DB’ or wide receiver,” Dean said. “We got a little deal going on.”
Do those two plan to play together in college?
“Most definitely,” Dean said.
They got to know one another well at the Rising Seniors game in December. Dean and Walker were two clear standouts at that event and also the practices that week.
Dean said something which seems to run counter to that Walker-to-Auburn narrative.
“But you know Auburn hasn’t offered me and he said that he is going to go wherever I’m going so that is going to put Auburn out of business right there.”
Dean has 30-plus offers but hasn’t gotten one from Auburn. Yet.
He also said that he likely would not consider any school which has not offered him at this point. He told DawgNation to expect a May decision.
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Follow Jeff Sentell on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.