Stop by Hapeville Charter Academy and ask a few questions about William Poole III. Several eye-opening topics pop up about the priority target on UGA’s board.
Poole was thrown at only 15 times all last season. The nation’s No. 9 cornerback didn’t allow a single completion and came away with two interceptions. The 6-foot, 180-pounder can bench press 225 pounds a whopping 15 times.
This particular four-star sprouted up like the overgrown clovers on his school’s makeshift practice field. Those grounds are close to a Marta bus stop and a busy highway. They are nowhere close to where elite players are usually found. That field, complete with a makeshift goal post made up of PVC pipe, has somehow produced five players who netted SEC offers in the charter school’s four-year history.
These impressive elements all get lost in the dominating “Georgia or Florida” narrative regarding Poole. Another important element of his story came up on Wednesday: He’s set to make his decision. Poole told DawgNation on Wednesday he’s made up his mind and plans to commit soon.
“I’m close,” Poole said. “I’ll tell you. What month is this? April? Close as in before May.”
Poole’s final choice has been made. He will also be at G-Day this weekend. That will be his second consecutive Saturday in Athens.
What would lead him to choose Georgia?
“The things that matter to me about Georgia would be my family,” Poole said. “They would be there every Saturday watching.”
The opportunity to hit the field faster in a featured role in the secondary would lead him to pick Florida. He feels he would see the field as a freshman as at least a part of the nickel defense at either school, but he does think the opportunity to shine might come faster at Florida.
“It would be coach Gray,” Poole said. “The things he has done at Virginia Tech he is now going to bring that to Florida in the SEC. He’s definitely going to get those (defensive backs) to where they need to be there.”
Poole sounds set in his decision. He will still take visits to both Florida and Georgia, but plans to go see at least Auburn and Southern Cal on his other officials. What sped him up?
“I just know what is really best for me and where I want to be and where I will have the best fit for my family and support from,” he said.
He even had that heart-to-heart with his mother.
“She said my choice is whatever I want it to be,” Poole said. “She said down with me the other day and she said ‘you know I love Georgia’ but if you go to Florida, then I will have to move to Florida. You’ll just be a freshman and you will need me there to support you.”
The nation’s No. 100 overall prospect said that feeling came to him on Monday. He sat down with his family and they all just figured it out.
The defensive back coaches at Florida and Georgia will loom large in his decision. Poole said he wouldn’t be so smitten with Florida if not for new defensive backs coach Torrian Gray. He’s also formed a pretty high opinion of UGA defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Mel Tucker.
“He’s a great defensive backs coach and he definitely came from the league,” Poole said. “I’ve seen what he can do in his first year in college at Alabama. He definitely knows what to do in the secondary and he’s a real cool guy out of football.”
Why does he play the game?
“In the long run, it is just to make sure my family is well,” said Poole, who’s leaning toward majoring in communications. “I think far ahead and start thinking of how I can do the best I can through football to give myself a chance to take care of my family.”
UGA was actually his first offer as a freshman. Bryan McClendon told his coach Winston Gordon about that, but they didn’t let Poole know until the second semester of his sophomore year. The relationship between McClendon and Poole was strong. His decision would likely have already had been made if the former Georgia star was still the receivers coach in Athens.
The nothing-but-press man coverage specialist once wore No. 8 but switched to No. 1 because that number takes on a huge leadership role for his Hornets. Florida quarterback commit Jake Allen is recruiting him the hardest to the Gators. UGA commitment Jaden Hunter fills that role for his home-state school.
“He’s told me that he wants me to roll with him at G-Day and stuff,” Poole said. “Then he tells me to quit playing with his emotions with all this stuff about Florida. He’s a funny guy with personality.”
Somehow, Poole didn’t even play defensive back until his sophomore year at Hapeville. Look where he is now. College coaches salivate about all that length and his 77-inch wingspan.
“He’s the best football player I’ve ever coached,” Hapeville Charter coach Winston Gordon said. “He has all the skills and footwork and speed, but he’s the best because he has taken the time to learn the game. He studies every aspect of football so he can be the very best he can be. That’s why he’s the best player I haver ever coached.”
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.