UGA welcomed a four-star visitor from California on Thursday who holds offers from Arizona, Florida, Nebraska, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee and UCLA, among others.
Brendan Radley-Hiles is rated by 247sports as the nation’s No. 8 cornerback and No. 80 overall prospect for 2018. He does not have an offer from UGA. Yet.
He expected to make a phone call to reach UGA coach Kirby Smart Thursday evening. What would a UGA offer mean to a guy who already has a handful of big-boy ones?
“Georgia would immediately move into my top three,” said Radley-Hiles, who plans to enroll early. “I don’t have a top group, but I know the University of Georgia would immediately be in my Top 3 when I do plan to narrow my options down. No doubt.”
Yet that didn’t quite cover it.
“If (Coach Smart) offered me from Georgia, I would really be speechless,” Radley-Hiles said. “I literally wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I’d probably just hug my mom and tell her how much I love her and appreciate all she’s done and her sacrifices and all we’ve pulled through. It would be very emotional. She knows how much I love the SEC already and the thought of playing in the South. Every time I get an offer from a school in the South, that’s a meaningful and a real moment for our family. … A Georgia offer would be another big step. You know what? That would really be priceless.”
If that sounds like a prospect who would be deeply interested despite playing three time zones away, it should. Radley-Hiles has family that lives near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and a sister who lives 30 minutes from Athens. She’s lived in Georgia since 2007.
“I love the state of Georgia because of all the family I have out here,” he said. “I love how everybody here is nothing but cool and humble people. That’s my lifestyle. I base myself off being humble and also love the facilities Georgia is building. Those new facilities are crazy. Lots of new stuff that will be ready for my class. If I did go to Georgia, my class would probably be one of the first full classes to fully experience it. The visit (Thursday) went just great. It feels like home at Georgia already. My sister is less than 25 minutes away. It looks like an all-around great fit. If Georgia was to offer me a scholarship it would just make a major huge impact in my recruitment.”
The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder saw enough to throw out another big statement: If UGA offered, he’d make the school one of his official visits. No doubt about it.
His highlight came when he sat in on a defensive backs meeting with UGA defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. He walked into the room, filled a chair and saw UGA coach Kirby Smart taking notes two seats away from him.
When he got over the feeling of sitting in that room, Radley-Hiles was also clearly impressed by the way UGA runs its nickel package.
“That was a welcome-to-the-SEC moment for me,” Radley-Hiles said. “I watched film today with the best guys in the country breaking down their team. There’s coach Tucker. There’s coach Smart sitting right by me. I’ve always dreamed of being in a meeting room like that in the SEC. There’s Coach Smart, literally two seats over. He’s taking notes and I’m taking mental notes on the same things. I’m answering questions with the guys about coverages and techniques. It was a real humbling experience.”
When he knew what routes to expect out of a certain formation or what hand he should jam with with the defense playing in Cover 2, it got Tucker’s attention. When Radley-Hiles knew his fits in a certain defense, the staff noticed.
“It was crazy when I actually got one of the questions right, he gave me one of those, ‘My man’ when I got them right,” Radley-Hiles said. “He’s a really ecstatic coach. When I got those right he wanted to chest bump you. He’s a very animated guy. When he sees something on film, he will walk up there and demonstrate what he wants to see and when he wants to see it at the pace he wants to see it.”
Radley-Hiles said he’s already been clocked at 4.45 seconds in the 40. He had played at national champion Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.), which has now won back-to-back mythical prep national championships.
He made the move back to California to attend Calabasas High School for his junior season.
“I already plan on coming back to Georgia again in the summertime,” he said.
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.