How will UGA recruit the state of Alabama going forward? The early read looks good for at least the next two recruiting cycles. The presence of former Alabama high school coach Kevin Sherrer on the staff has been a constant throughout the coaching transition.
Toss in new coach Kirby Smart’s pristine reputation in The Yellowhammer State and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker’s year at Alabama and that combination works across both borders. The relationships they established allowed UGA to finish in the top three for Alabama five-stars Ben Davis and Lyndell Wilson in this year’s class.
UGA already has its sights on Alabama’s No. 2 overall prospect for 2017. Nico Collins, a 6-foot-5 receiver from Clay-Chalkville High in North Birmingham, took one unofficial visit to a college campus in January. That was to UGA.
“I wanted to do it because I know how coach Kirby Smart is and how he has a new coaching staff there,” Collins said. “I really loved it when I went over there. There’s just a vibe there that is different than other schools. You just feel comfortable being at Georgia and they care about you a lot as a person. … I took that trip because I needed to see what the new Georgia was like. I think coach Kirby will do well and win at Georgia basing it off what he did at Alabama when he was defensive coordinator.”
The four-star junior already rates as the nation’s No. 54 prospect for 2017 and the country’s No. 11 wide receiver. He pulled down 31 touchdowns in two seasons for a team that has reached the state finals in 2014 and 2015.
Collins, the state of Alabama’s No. 2 recruit for 2017, saw teammate T.J. Simmons enroll early at Alabama last month. Is he truly open to leaving the state? Does UGA really have a chance or is the program again playing for second place? Those who know Collins well say yes.
“I’m trying to find the best fit for me,” said Collins, who plans to study physical therapy. “If it is out of state then I’ll go there. If it is in-state, I’ll stay in Alabama.”
The 203-pound junior has made three trips to UGA in less than a year. He said receivers coach James Coley is already recruiting him hard.
“He’s texting me every day and asking me how school is going and checking up on me,” Collins said. “Like he asked me one Sunday who I had in the Super Bowl. Just conversations like that.”
Collins tried on the No. 7 jersey on the visit.
“It really felt kind of good,” he said. “It already felt like I was playing for Georgia a little bit,” he said.
Collins said UGA, Alabama, Auburn, Miami, Michigan and Ole Miss are recruiting him the hardest at the moment. He plans on taking trips to Alabama, Clemson, Miami and Ole Miss in the near future and expects to make his decision in late December. He’s also thinking about enrolling early.
He made it clear the following staples will be central to his decision: 1) Academics; 2) A pro-style offense; 3) A good fit within the program
“I can see myself at Georgia,” Collins said. “My family really likes Georgia but they tell me to pick the school that’s the best fit for me. They want me to make sure it has everything I want and the best decision. I don’t have a top group, but if I did then Georgia would definitely be in there.”
He said eating with the coaches and feeling at home on the visit stood out. He also enjoyed touring the stadium and hearing about the new indoor practice facility.
“I just like how they do stuff up there,” Collins said. “How they run their plays and everything.”
He met offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and was struck by his honesty.
“He was just like if I come up there and commit to them to come up and do my thing,” Collins said. “Because he said that next year they will try to recruit another great player to take my spot. So come up here and ball out and make it very hard for them to do that.”
He also discussed how his size would fit into the UGA offense.
“Coach Chaney said they have a lot of slot receivers and six-foot receivers in the program,” Collins said. “They don’t have guys like me with my height on the outside.”
Collins hopes to add about 10 more pounds to his frame for his senior season and retain his 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash.
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.