UGA’s No. 1 target at running back for next year, Anthony McFarland, Jr., couldn’t help it.
The 5-star junior from Maryland’s DeMatha Catholic High School kept imagining himself in a red-and-black jersey running Between the Hedges on Saturdays while he was on UGA’s campus this past weekend for the South Carolina game.
McFarland told the AJC’s DawgNation.com that he could see himself committing to UGA.
“I definitely had some times where I was envisioning myself being on that field and making plays in front of 95,000 people inside Sanford Stadium,” McFarland said. “It was definitely cool to just look around and go ‘wow, man.’ The atmosphere was so amazing. I just kept visualizing myself making plays and being a part of the Bulldogs one day.”
The 5-foot-9, 181-pounder doesn’t have an official leader right now, but if he were to put out a top five today, UGA would be No. 1.
“I still want to wait to name an official leader because I want to give other colleges a chance to see what they have to offer me,” he said. “But if I had a top school, Georgia would be it.”
He explained why UGA would on the top of his list: “When I went down there the first time, I just fell in love with how much of a family environment it actually was. I wasn’t even thinking about football.”
Ever since he was offered by UGA, McFarland has developed “a pretty good” relationship with coach Mark Richt. The first conversation between he and the UGA coach is especially memorable because it’s something no other recruiter has done, he says: Richt didn’t mention a word about football.
“I still remember that first time I talked with coach Mark Richt,” he said. “I was on the phone with him and he was just asking me all about my family and asked how they were doing. We talked about family the entire time. We were on the phone for a good 30 minutes. He didn’t ask me a single question about football. That was amazing to me. Georgia is family first over everything, and I love it.”
Family is important to the nation’s No. 2 all-purpose back in the 2017 class. It’s the main reason why UGA holds an advantage over every other school he’s considering.
He brought his dad along with him to enjoy their first UGA game. The pair go on almost every college visit together.
At the end of the 52-20 UGA win over South Carolina, McFarland, Jr. looked at Anthony McFarland, Sr. and both just shook their heads as they smiled at each other.
“My dad pretty much has the same feelings as I do,” the junior running back said. “We always talk about schools as soon as when I leave a visit and he thinks (UGA) is a special place. I know we are still early in the recruitment process, but he just thinks it’s a special place and said there’s no other place like Georgia so far. We’re still looking around right now, but he has just fallen in love with Georgia. That’s a good thing.”
The McFarlands were not the only ones to think UGA is a special place. McFarland, Jr. brought his DeMatha Catholic teammate with him on the trip, 2017 4-star defensive lineman Chase Young. Young, who picked up an offer from UGA two weeks ago, got upset when the game finished.
He and McFarland didn’t want to leave Athens.
“Chase said he loved it,” McFarland said. “He was just looking around – he did like a whole 360-degree circle and he just said this is a special place. I told him we needed to keep going there. He definitely loved it. He said he thinks there’s no place like it. When we had to leave after the game, we were pretty upset that we had to go back home.”
Home for McFarland is Hyattsville, Md. His high school is 604 miles away from Sanford Stadium. So how does a kid from a suburb of Washington, D.C. fall in love with Athens, Ga.? It’s the complete opposite of the metro area, and McFarland likes that.
“Just being down South and around that atmosphere – I just like it. It’s really cool down there. It’s country down there. It’s quiet and that’s what gets my attention. When I retire one day, that’s where I want to be. I want to live in Georgia.”
The state of Maryland’s No. 1 prospect wanted to go back to UGA for the Alabama game, but he has a high school game that day. He and his dad are likely to return to campus for the Missouri game on Oct. 17.
McFarland has visited numerous schools, including Alabama, Penn State, Maryland and Virginia Tech, among others. He says UGA has been the best visit. He’s been to UGA three times now, and he says the Bulldogs are now the standard for when he and his dad compare other schools.
“My dad told me that any time we get a chance to go down to Georgia, we need to go there because of how special of a place it is. We’re still early in the recruitment, but colleges are really going to have to come hard to top Georgia. So when I visit schools like Alabama or Ohio State, I’m now expecting them to be the same or even better. It can’t be anything less than Georgia.”
On last week’s UGA visit, he did get a chance to speak with Bulldogs running backs coach Thomas Brown and Richt before the game. The junior had a chance to ask them how confident they were heading into the game and asked about the game plan.
McFarland has a game plan, too, when it comes to picking a college. He isn’t going to worry about how many other running backs are on the roster. He’s committing to a school that is the best fit for him, no matter who may be ahead of him on the depth chart.
UGA already has a running back commit in this year’s recruiting class in Elijah Holyfield. The Bulldogs could possibly add another one in Devwah Whaley, a 4-star from Texas. Whaley, who also visited UGA this past weekend, rated his visit a perfect ’10.’
Would the possibility of two running backs in this class hurt UGA’s chances to add the 5-star in 2017? Not at all. In fact, it may strengthen its chances with McFarland.
“You have to look at it like this, the top players in the country are going to go wherever they want,” McFarland said. “You can’t look at who is going there or who is going to this school because you know what? It doesn’t matter. If you think the school is good for you, you should not say you won’t go to that school just because someone is at your position and you may have to fight for playing time. Football is a competitive sport. With all of these colleges, there are going to be like 20 players as good as me or even better than me. It’s all about who is going to work harder than the next person. That’s how you separate yourself. I love to compete, so I’m going to a school where the best players are.”
McFarland didn’t get a chance to speak with UGA running backs Nick Chubb or Sony Michel while he was on his visit, but he paid special attention to how they played on Saturday.
Chubb and Michel combined for 242 yards on 32 touches and the duo scored five touchdowns. Richt’s ability to utilize two stars is one of the reasons why McFarland thinks he is a coaching legend and why he’s No. 1 in his eyes.
“I think he is one of the greatest college football coaches to ever live,” McFarland said. “I have gotten to talk to a lot of coaches throughout this process. Mark Richt, (Alabama’s) Nick Saban, (Penn State’s) James Franklin and (Maryland’s) Randy Edsall. I mean, I talked to coach Saban and he‘s one hell of a coach, too. He’ll go down as one of the best in college football. But I have been to Alabama once and Georgia three times now. Since I have been to Georgia more times and have a pretty good relationship with coach Mark Richt, I would definitely say he’s No. 1 on my list.”
McFarland won’t release a top five until the end of his junior season, but UGA fans can guarantee that the Bulldogs will be on his list when that time comes.
— Mac (@AnttMacc_) September 15, 2015