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BREAKING: Kirby Smart, UGA offer 18 players from Florida powerhouse IMG Academy

The IMG Academy locker room leaves an impression. (Special / IMG Academy)

UGA fans should already be well aware of IMG Academy in Florida. If not, they will surely be after Tuesday.

IMG Academy coach Kevin Wright got a text message this morning that shared UGA’s extreme interest in 18 of the 60 current players on his varsity team. UGA offered 18 of his guys in one fell swoop via a text message.

There were seven players among those 18 who held previous offers, but the list Wright got on Tuesday morning verified that 18 members of his team had offers from UGA. Wright said UGA coach Kirby Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker led the charge behind the offers.

“I think their message was they want to be a presence at IMG,” Wright said. “They are going to go after the top players in the country and wherever they are at they are going to find them. They see themselves as an elite program and they feel like they can win national championships. Winning those championships start for them by having great players.”

IMG Academy has a 10,000 square foot weight room. (IMG Academy/ Special)

Wright said these were not blanket offers extended to all of IMG’s top recruits. No matter what 18 offers to one school on the same day looks like. He made it clear every one of those offers came after an in-depth evaluation by the UGA staff. That was the first step. Then came specific discussions with their coaches at IMG.

“This is different here to me,” Wright said. “They have vetted the process. This is not a splash move by Georgia for headlines. They went through the process to find specific guys they feel can help them win championships. That message comes across strong when I talk to the coaches there.”

The latest wave isn’t unprecedented, as Tennessee recently offered 20 players from IMG at one time. Ohio State and Buffalo University (of all places) have also mass offered chunks of the IMG team at one time.

It is an example of new-wave recruiting, but also a reflection of the talent that’s trained at a pristine campus with a 10,000-square foot weight room and a locker room that belongs on the college level. Well, everything basically belongs on the college level. That now includes the roster.

IMG has players on its roster from 24 different states and six different countries. Wright said the intent is not for the boarding school to be a farm system for a specific program, but maybe more all of college football. IMG houses elite athletes in eight prep sports. IMG Academy’s roots came in training tennis and golf prodigies.

“I would personally love for me on signing day to see IMG guys sign with all five Power 5 conferences and you see IMG guys spread all over the country,” Wright said. “They really come here from all over the country in a lot of ways.”

Metro Atlanta native Isaac Nauta signed with UGA in January after playing his senior year at IMG. (IMG Academy/ Special)

Could one program like a UGA or a Tennessee sign six or seven IMG players in one class? Is that what a mass offer like this leads to? That would be highly unlikely. But Wright has another vision in mind.

“The ultimate source of pride for us is when you turn on the TV on Saturday afternoon and you keep flipping the channels and no matter what you keep seeing IMG guys,” he said. “Whether it is the Pac-12 or the Big Ten or the SEC, I think that would probably be the big thing for us as an institution.”

He also cited examples of IMG signing guys off to play at Army and at Brown in the Ivy League, all the way to the NAIA. There were 140 college coaches at IMG’s spring practice last year. The staff expects to see that number swell to 180 in 2016.

UGA already has inroads at IMG. Five-star freshman tight end Isaac Nauta spent his senior season there after three state title seasons at Buford High School in Metro Atlanta.

“I think that presence with UGA here starts with that relationship they have there with Isaac,” Wright said.

Nauta eventually signed with UGA out of the nationally known football boarding school that challenges for the mythical national football championship every fall. Will Ignont, a four-star linebacker in the Class of 2017, is also now at IMG. Ignont recently named UGA as his top school.

Wright said he planned to tell all 18 of his players about their UGA offers on a one-on-one basis. He will pull them all aside and let them know.

“Whenever an offer is given to anybody on our team I think it is always better when it is personalized,” he said. “When somebody is offering to pay for your college that is a pretty big deal for the whole family.”

UGA confirmed the offers for these 18 IMG players on Tuesday

  • 2017 QB Kellen Mond (Baylor commit)
  • 2017 DE Joshua Kaindoh
  • 2017 LB Will Ignont
  • 2017 DE/TE Tre McKitty
  • 2017 LB Dylan Moses
  • 2017 C Cesar Ruiz
  • 2017 OL Robert Hainsey
  • 2017 S Isaiah Pryor (Ohio State commit)
  • 2017 LB/RB Jordan Anthony
  • 2017 WR Jhamon Ausbon
  • 2017 OL Broc Bando
  • 2017 TE/DE Jack Camper (Michigan State commit)
  • 2017 WR Emmanuel Greene
  • 2018 WR Brian Hightower
  • 2018 DT Taron Vincent
  • 2018 DT TK Chimedza
  • 2018 RB Asa Martin
  • 2018 OL Curtis Dunlap

G-Day, Georgia’s annual spring football scrimmage, is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, at Sanford Stadium. Check back here daily for DawgNation’s G-Day coverage brought to you by Georgia United Credit Union.

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.

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