BRADENTON, Fla. — IMG Academy’s media day marked the one-month anniversary of Robert Beal’s decision to commit to Georgia.
The big thing Wednesday was listening to the 5-star defender express how he feels about Georgia. When that subject came up, he flashed a big smile and his excitement could not be camouflaged by his deep voice.
He is clearly over the moon about that decision.
“I’m locked in, man,” Beal said. “Really locked in. Go Dawgs!”
The conversation might lead someone to wonder why the nation’s No. 2 defensive end waited so long to commit.
- Will he take any other official visits? That doesn’t sound likely. “I’m not even thinking of any official visits right now except my one to Georgia.”
- He’s thought about that one, though. He has the Tennessee game in mind. (Sharpie that one as the likely black jersey game and the one with the biggest parade of commits, future commits and prospects in town.)
- Beal said other schools like Alabama and Florida State still reach out, but he has this reaction: “I’m done.”
- He was silently committed to Georgia for about two weeks before he shared that news in a well-produced Bleacher Report commitment video July 3.
- He does now plan to enroll early at Georgia.
- Beal is already hitting up the top-tier recruits at IMG about joining him at Georgia.
- He said it “just feels right” because his older sister will also be at Georgia with him. She will be on the track team, but she is also a splendid student. “All of that just feels right,” Beal said. “We made those decisions independently, but it all just happened to work out together.”
- Georgia plans to use him as a pass rusher at first: “They talk about me coming off the edge and getting to the quarterback. They see that as my specialty.”
Check out his Twitter header. It is a UGA banner. Its another example of how the No. 26 prospect in America feels about being committed to Georgia.
His best story might be when he told UGA outside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer why he didn’t have to recruit him so hard anymore. The tireless Sherrer is a Bulldog on the trail, but he basically didn’t know what to do when a priority target like Beal says that.
Sherrer was the first Georgia coach he told and he shared that pledge over the phone. It was simple: ‘Coach I’m coming here,” Beal said. “Because this is home.’
He recounted Sherrer’s interesting reply.
“He was like ‘whoa whoa now slow down now I’m about to pass out in this heat’ when I started to tell him what I wanted to say,” Beal said.
Sherrer wanted him to repeat those words.
“He was like ‘Man, that’s great but I don’t know how I’ll keep it a secret’ when I told him,” Beal said. “He said the hardest part was figuring out how to keep it quiet he was so happy.”
He also told Coach Smart.
“He was excited and told me he couldn’t wait until I came out and made it public,” Beal said.
He let about two weeks pass before that video showed the world his choice.
Beal said his recruitment ended after a mid-March weekend he spent at Georgia. He hung with UGA freshman tight end Isaac Nauta, played some video games and got cozy with the program. He wore a red UGA shirt to the Atlanta regional camp for Nike’s “The Opening” the next day.
He said it crystallized in his mind that weekend that he would fit in best at Georgia.
“That was when it went down,” Beal said. “That’s when I knew it was home for me.”
The biggest reason why he chose Georgia didn’t have anything to do with the coaching staff.
“It wasn’t really the coaches first and foremost, but I just finally realized that when I was coming down to IMG it would be nice to play college football back close to home,
Beal said. “My family will be able to see me play every week.”
Beal also expressed remorse for missing out on his senior year with the football family he grew to know at Norcross. He said he’ll miss the relationships he built there. He made that clear.
“But the ultimate play behind this move (to IMG) was to make me better for Saturdays,” Beal said. “Norcross is a great place but the talent is a lot better down here. That’s going to make me better every day in practice.”
How will he fit in? Beal sounds like he won’t need to be de-recruited when it comes to his lofty ranking.
“In all honesty, no disrespect or doubts to those rankings but those don’t matter to me anymore,” Beal said. “I’m down here to get better and play great football great down and get to Georgia.”
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him 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.