Fast-rising prospect with NFL family ties puts UGA in Top 3 after visit

Kirby Smart and UGA hosted a receiver with blistering speed and fantastic grades over the weekend.

UGA welcomed a visitor from the Carolinas this weekend with a lethal scouting combination.

There are very few athletes out there with 4.30 speed in the 40 and a 4.3 grade-point average, but South Carolina prospect Austin Connor is among that lot.

Connor doesn’t have a star rating and has only emerged as a name recruit over the last month, but that speed and transcript will turn heads on its own. So does an NFL vet in his family. Manny Lawson, his cousin, was a first-round NFL draft pick in 2006 out of North Carolina State. Lawson, now with the Buffalo Bills, has 10 seasons of pro ball under his belt.

Connor picked up an offer from UGA on March 29 and said at the time it was one he’d long sought. He took an unofficial visit to Athens on Saturday and it helped UGA “a lot.”

“They moved up into the Top 3,” Connor said, who opted to keep the other teams in that group private.

South Carolina receiver Austin Connor has been timed at 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash and has scored a 24 on his ACT. ( Austin Connor / Special )

His mother and one of his best friends also made the trip.

“They loved it,” Connor said. “They loved it just as much as I did and that was their first time being at UGA also.”

Duke is recruiting him the hardest. That’s accomplished through direct messages on Twitter and multiple coaches reaching him through social media. The Blue Devils are on him basically every day. He also holds offers from South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia Tech.

“I want the best of both worlds,” Connor said, making it clear he wants a top education and to play for a top program.

He did say he’s already seen enough to give UGA an official visit this fall. Why?

“Because it is beautiful and I love it down there,” Connor said. “I want to come back and see everything and get to stay the night and spend more time with the team. … I feel like I could be very productive there with the environment and how the coaches are.”

He stressed that last point because he loves competition.

“The coaches there (at UGA) are going to make sure you get right,” said Connor, who aims to wear No. 6 in college. “Regardless if you want to or not. So I feel like I’d be very productive there.”

The 6-foot, 180-pounder is in the process of narrowing down his schools because the market conditions at his position deem it necessary.

“So many people from my class are already committing,” Connor said. “Spots are being taken.”

He knows UGA has one commitment at receiver. Connor said he’s been told by UGA the program plans to sign “three to four” receivers. That will influence his process.  

“Yeah because it is going to have to make me decide quicker and I have to figure out the best fit for me and see which (school) I will fit in at best and get the best degree and be productive in life outside of football,” he said.

The rising senior noticed the body types at receiver in Saturday’s scrimmage and  knows the Class of 2017 needs to help the program get bigger and faster at his position.

“They literally told me they have tall guys that are slow and short guys that are quick so they told me they need guys that are my size but fast,” Connor said.

The Dutch Fork High School (Irmo, S.C.) standout had great conversations with UGA coach Kirby Smart and assistant Shane Beamer. The connection with Beamer goes back to his days at Virginia Tech. The Hokies were his first offer.

Connor studied the quarterbacks and the receivers he’d be competing with. He also noted the balance UGA showed in running and throwing the ball. Then there’s the part about Jacob Eason. Connor picked out a quarterback he felt he could make a lot of plays with for at least two years.

“The quarterback they just got,” Connor said. “That’s that No. 10. You can tell he is going to do some great things in the future. The deep balls he threw were pretty accurate. The check-downs he threw were pretty accurate.”

That said, he made a point to note the best quarterbacks he saw in the scrimmage were the older guys. He also felt recent South Carolina commit Jake Bentley (who is actually the same age as Eason) delivers the ball with similar velocity.

UGA’s pitch stressed academics and that made the biggest dent.

“I have a 4.3 (G.P.A.) so when they showed me their academic stats and how they stack up against every other school in the SEC it really caught my eye,” Connor said. “Because everyone knows Georgia football. They are going to play well and win games on the field as a big-time program.”

He plans to be an engineer and the degree fit at UGA would be in civil architectural engineering.

Connor has a prior commitment so he won’t be at G-Day. He would’ve gone if he’d known ahead of time, but he’s been planning another trip to Virginia Tech for more than a month. That’s the school he’s visited the most.

He’s less than three hours from Athens, but only 20 minutes from South Carolina. Connor sounds like he will wind up in the “SEC or ACC region” when he makes his decision. Smart told Connor he knows South Carolina coach Will Muschamp well from their days growing up playing together along their high school and college careers.

“He knows South Carolina is going to work hard as hard as possible to keep me here in Columbia,” Connor said. “But he was going to try to recruit me as hard as (Muschamp) to get me to Athens.”

Connor also noted Beamer has begun to reach out with greater frequency. That will be important to draw a couple more visits. He said UGA was a school “he has always loved.”

“I look at committing honestly and I am not a long ways off,” he said. “I can tell you that. I am already starting to narrow my choices down, but I can’t just go to a college the first time or the second time and just commit right then and there.”

He did say that his first trip to UGA already ranks as one of his best so far. Early enrollment is also something he can do and he’s already started to consider that possibility.

“I love to compete and getting on campus in the spring is the best way to get a chance to play early,” he said.  

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.

Follow @JeffSentell_

 

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