Xavier McKinney has a lot to think with his recruiting. That’s why the 4-star safety from Roswell High School is pumping the brakes.
“I’m not thinking about much right now,” McKinney said. “I’m going through the process because there are still a bunch of teams coming after me. I’m enjoying what I got because I only have one more year before college. Not much time. I’m taking it all in.”
The nation’s No. 11 safety and No. 134 overall prospect seems undervalued. The Alabama commit can play either safety spot or corner. He’s also posted recent max lifts of a 280-pound bench press and a 300-pound power clean.
The major UGA target is aware of recent Alabama commits like Jake Fromm and Tyler Simmons flipping to the new UGA staff led by Kirby Smart.
“Another person flipping won’t have much of an effect because I always do me and think about my best fit with my decision,” McKinney said. “Those were their decisions. Not mine. I’m going to make the best decision for me. I’m not going to flip just like that, too.”
Clemson, Florida, Ohio State and Tennessee are also on his mind. He said he already knows he’ll take an official visit to Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State at this time.
What is UGA’s appeal to McKinney now? He cites two things. The first is the new staff.
“They are building something now at Georgia,” McKinney said. “They are starting it all over and from scratch from the ground up with what they are trying to do. I think that’s a good thing for them because they get to see what Georgia can really do with some new staff members. Of course, they have also got some new players and some new enrollees, too.”
The second element would be those players.
“I’m real close to Jaden Hunter so of course he is trying to get me to go over there to Georgia now,” McKinney said. “… I talk to (UGA signee) Mecole (Hardman) a bit and (Richard) LeCounte III so, of course, they want me to go over to Georgia. I will probably go up there soon with them and chill and do whatever they do.”
The junior standout said UGA’s chances improved “a lot” with the addition of Smart and defensive backs coach Mel Tucker to the staff. Tucker now serves as Smart’s defensive coordinator.
“At first, I wasn’t even thinking about Georgia too much but when they went there I paid attention to that and now they’ve been trying to get me to flip,” McKinney. “That gives them a better chance to do that because of that coaching staff that is now there.”
McKinney said his recent visit to UGA on Feb. 18 went well.
“We will be back up soon though because we still have got some questions that need to be answered,” he said.
He politely declined to specify what those were. The No. 17 player in Georgia for 2017 also has an idea when he plans to make his final decision, but also wished to keep that to himself.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder has been on a brisk visit schedule. He will be at Alabama this weekend. He took a recent visit to Florida and ranked it the “best visit” he’s taken so far.
“My thoughts on Alabama are the same as when I committed,” McKinney said. “Of course, they are still my top. My favorite. I’m going to be going up there to visit on Friday. … I’m going to go up there and take my family up there and we are just going to chill.”
This weekend’s Alabama visit is important because McKinney said his mother didn’t like the last visit too much. It was a busy visit weekend for the LSU game. The staff had a game to prepare for, but also had to place their focus on the 2016 recruits. McKinney had been committed to Alabama since last September.
“They set it up like a real busy day,” McKinney said. “She was kind of upset we didn’t get the attention we were looking for. So we’re going to go there again and see what it is like now.”
The main thing is they didn’t get the one-on-one time they were hoping for from the staff. His main recruiters are now defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and new defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley.
“They like the way I play and think I can be the next great at Alabama,” McKinney said. “They think I can play all four positions. .. Coach Ansley is a pretty cool dude from the first couple of times I’ve talked to him.”
He said when he committed to Alabama it was to the school. Not coaches. He liked the atmosphere and said it felt like home. Smart was at Alabama then. How has the relationship carried over to UGA?
“It does in some ways but in others, it does not,” McKinney said. “It is not that I committed to Bama for Kirby. I committed to a school, but that was obviously a coach I had a close relationship with. When he left it surprised me but at the same time I was like it is all a business.”
Does McKinney feel the staff at Alabama is worried about a flip?
“I don’t think they are worried too much about that with me,” McKinney said. Because there are a million other recruits out there a school like Alabama could get.”
He hopes to play free safety but feels he could play strong safety or cornerback on Saturdays. McKinney has yet to settle on a major yet plans to enroll early.
“I’ve still got to talk it out with my counselor but she is going to find the classes I have to take in the summer to do that,” he said.
Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.
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.