Keldrick Carper has a whole new slew of thoughts about UGA football.
The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder visited UGA last summer for Dawg Night and he didn’t get reps. Too crowded. Long lines. He didn’t get to talk to the assistants he hoped to and didn’t get to chat with former coach Mark Richt. He was sold on the campus, the degree benefits and all the facilities.
He just felt a disconnect with the football team. Every bit of that has now changed.
Carper (Plain Dealing High School/ Plain Dealing, La.) told DawgNation he felt UGA was sixth in his pecking order prior to the trip. When he left that visit for a 10-hour drive back to Louisiana, he had UGA tied with Texas A&M as his leader. The four-star prospect and nation’s No. 17 overall athlete can really see himself playing out of state and he also hopes to play for another SEC team so he can “play LSU and beat them.”
The nation’s No. 257 overall prospect not only can see himself playing at UGA, but thought about it at length on the way home. He’s also secure enough in what he saw in Athens to “for sure” note that UGA will become one of his five official visits.
His highlight? It was probably a good 15-minute chat with new coach Kirby Smart. When he entered Smart’s office and Smart called Carper by his first name, that brought about “goosebumps.”
The second was how easy it was for him to talk to the man. Especially with how the coach found out about his preferred position. UGA originally offered him at receiver.
“The first thing that Coach Smart asked me when we sat down in his office he was like ‘OK, Keldrick, receiver or DB? No, none of that I don’t care or whatever or none of that I don’t know. Receiver? Or DB?’ I told him defensive back and he was like, ‘That’s fine.’”
Smart’s next question wasn’t safety or cornerback. Carper’s answer was a pretty clear tell about the future of the secondary at UGA.
“He said he just wants guys who are athletic and long cornerbacks,” Smart said. “What they do is what they did at Bama. He told me they used nothing but cornerbacks and they used no real true safeties. They put corners at safety because they need 4-5 people on the field who can cover. He said he wasn’t that particular on a position. As long as I can cover and come down and hit and catch interceptions then he told me that I would love playing in their defense.”
He feels a need to learn as much as he can about Arkansas, Miami, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Tennessee. Those schools are the ones he wants to give a chance, but his thoughts right now have UGA and Texas A&M at the top.
Smart also gave him a definite answer of his worth.
“He was asking me about what I did in track and everything, and he said that I don’t recruit guys and guys don’t play for me in that secondary who don’t do triple jump and long jump or run the 200 meters in high school,” Carper said. “I do the triple jump and long jump and everything and he said that I was a heck of an athlete, a great person and a great student and a great football player and he said that I would be a perfect fit into the program on either side of the ball. I think that let me know I have the offer for sure.“
What’s next? Carper said he wants to see all the schools he is deeply interested in at least twice.
“A&M and Georgia are probably tied for number one in my mind right now,” said Carper, who used his trip to make a circuit between UGA, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
He plans to return to UGA this summer for a camp and spend a day to hang out with the coaches and the players to create relationships and bond with those guys. He said that “for sure” and “no question” that UGA would get an official visit.
Carper’s answer seems to indicate a shift in his recruiting will take place within the program. UGA receivers coach James Coley had been recruiting him, but now it seems like the point man for him with the program will become defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. Or it may be as a tandem effort between Coley and Tucker.
The big question? UGA vs. Texas A&M? Both schools have now given him those “goosebumps” on his visits. The 4.0 student listed one advantage that UGA had over Texas A&M and one that the Aggies had over their SEC East contender for his signature.
He said that all the football questions have been answered for him by that program, but he has a concern about the demographics. He plans to major in African Studies but also wants to live near a big city. Houston is close enough to College Station to him for that.
Texas A&M over UGA: “They are closer to me and then them bringing in a great recruiting class led by Tate Martell,” Carper said. He has a special relationship with his mother. That’s something to pay a lot of attention to.
UGA over Texas A&M: “The on-campus demographics and as far as coaching staff there, the coaching staff is more experienced. I’m talking about guys like Coach Smart and Coach Tucker. They’re experienced in college football with getting it done and winning championships and they know how to get the job done.”
For Texas A&M, being in coach Kevin Sumlin’s office clearly wowed him. College Station is also only about four hours away. That’s a plus. The Aggies also view him as a defensive back. Tate Martell, the five-star quarterback, is a draw with Carper. He wants to play early for the Aggies with him.
The previously mentioned frustration he feels with LSU stems from being to a couple of camps in Baton Rouge as an in-state kid but not garnering an offer.
Carper said that UGA has been on his tail pretty hard but he knows that after he showed he had real interest by taking the visit that he feels the program “will come after me a little harder now for sure.”
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.
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.