New UGA head coach Kirby Smart promised a fast and furious approach on the recruiting trail, and his staff has lived up to it so far.
Smart and company were all over the place on Thursday, the first day after the dead period lifted, and Friday meant more of the same. What does it all mean heading into the first official visit weekend of 2016?
This will be an important weekend as UGA hosts the nation’s No. 1 OLB along with another player who could also make a couple of All-SEC teams at defensive end or outside linebacker over the next four years. The staff could also cement relationships that wind up reeling in a pair of receivers that can seriously stretch SEC defenses for years to come.
Here’s the road map for what’s going on in UGA recruiting:
Official visitors include some heavy hitters
There are seven official visitors set for this weekend.
- 5-star DE/OLB Brian Burns (undecided)
- 4-star RB Elijah Holyfield (UGA commit)
- 4-star WR Tre’ Nixon (undecided)
- 3-star WR Tyler Simmons (Alabama commit)
- 4-star DB Jeawon Taylor (Florida commit)
- 5-star OLB Lyndell “Mack” Wilson (undecided)
- 4-star TE/WR Charlie Woerner (UGA commit)
The group can be divided into three categories:
Commits: That’s Holyfield and Charlie Woerner. Both players are using this weekend for their officials even though they are stone-cold, lead-pipe locks to UGA. New UGA running backs coach Dell McGee visited Holyfield on Thursday. New tight ends and special teams coach Shane Beamer visited Woerner, too. The opinion here is that Woerner will be among the most important recruits in this class when everyone has had their time in Athens. Holyfield will also be very productive, too.
Offensive firepower: The offense needs a talent spike at the receiver spot. That’s where Nixon and Simmons, both blurs on the field, come in. They would give the team more of that “fear factor” Smart felt the program was missing on the outside when he game planned against UGA at Alabama last season.
New receivers coach James Coley and McGee visited Simmons on Thursday, and he’s coming back for his official this weekend.
Mr. Pipeline: Burns hails from the same high school as UGA team members Isaiah McKenzie, Sony Michel and Marshall Morgan. He also appeared very chummy with all the UGA commits last week at the U.S. Army Bowl in San Antonio. He says his decision is even between UGA, Florida and Florida State. He’s another Leonard Floyd type who can excel on the inside or outside of the defense and wreaks some serious pass-rush havoc coming off the edge.
Potential package deal: That’s Wilson and Taylor. The Montgomery, Ala., natives are in town on a dual official visit this week. Taylor is committed to Florida, but he has to be disappointed by the recent departure of secondary coach Kirk Callahan. He tweeted out “Welp, bad move” on Friday at right about the same time the news broke.
Wilson’s never been to UGA before, but a great visit for the both of them could really make UGA a serious contender with both. Wilson placed UGA in his Top 3 seemingly out of nowhere after Smart was named the head coach. Those two are very close. UGA, Alabama and Florida are his finalists.
The poise and loyalty of Jaleel Laguins
Is Laguins still wanted by UGA? That’s hard to say at this time. Yet the 4-star inside linebacker is wanted by a lot of the other power brokers in the SEC. Alabama, Florida, LSU and Tennessee have made no bones about the fact they’d love to have the UGA commit in their program.
Nick Saban came through Oconee County on Thursday to have an in-home visit. That’s saying something. UGA might still want him, but it is clear the new staff hasn’t made him as much of a priority as other targets.
That hasn’t stopped the U.S. Army All-American from showing nothing but a true commitment to UGA. Is he wavering? Probably. Especially with Saban in his home. Yet through it all, he’s waiting until he has a chance to sit down face-to-face with Smart and figure out where he stands with UGA.
He continues to impress with that attitude. It seems pretty clear he really wants to play for UGA and remain a part of this class. Those are the type of players you win big December games with. Give me 20 recruits every year like Laguins and those guys will have a lot of bling on their fingers when they graduate.
He’s on his official visit to Florida this week.
Shopping for QB depth
New offensive coordinator Jim Chaney visited Houston County 4-star junior QB prospect Jake Fromm on Thursday. He’s committed to Alabama, but UGA is going to make him prove that. Mark Richt’s staff preferred Bailey Hockman over Fromm, but it is a new day now.
Hockman de-committed and UGA will try to work Fromm very hard over the next six months for a flip. The Brett Favre comparison gets thrown around a lot with Fromm and it does hit pretty close to the mark.
— HOCO FOOTBALL (@BearDownHOCO) January 15, 2016
That wasn’t the only big-time QB visit. Smart made a personal visit on Friday to Cartersville to check in on 5-star sophomore Trevor Lawrence. The 6-foot-5 standout looked awfully polished last summer at UGA’s Dawg Night in a throwing group with Hockman and early enrollee Jacob Eason.
Lawrence is already rated as the No. 1 prospect in the nation for 2018.
— Joey King (@CoachJoeyKing) January 15, 2016
UGA sent out two new offers on Thursday
The first of those went to South Florida defensive end/linebacker Jaquwan Nelson. The Fort Lauderdale resident is a Miami commit, but it is uncertain how much he is wanted by Mark Richt’s new staff. The 3-star prospect has already taken an official visit to Kentucky and has scheduled trips to Purdue and Syracuse.
James Coley saw Hinds Community College receiver Stephen Guidry this week when he was on a visit to see current UGA commit Javon Wims. He liked what he saw and extended the offer to the Class of 2017 wideout. Guidry wasn’t even at Hinds last season. The 6-foot-4, 185-pounder comes over from McNeese State. He redshirted at that program last season.
Unless otherwise indicated, all 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.