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Chris Kirschner/SEC Country
Does Grayson High School really have any beef with UGA?

UGA recruiting: Does Grayson High School steer its players from Athens?

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. The play sheet today calls for an examination as to whether there is any anti-UGA bias regarding Grayson High School. 

We have a “Question of the Day” feature on DawgNation. But the recruiting side of that feature runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It seems like an exception is necessary on this night.

I will aim to spark a real discussion regarding a topic that seems to be on everyone’s mind last night after the Owen Pappoe commitment to Auburn. 

This will not be more on why he shared the news he silently committed to Auburn assistant Travis Williams approximately two months ago.

Numerous DawgNation.com readers — via email, forum and Twitter responses — and probably some fella who may or may not be Brandon Adams, all had a bigger-picture topic in mind.

We shall summarize with this: Grayson High School and UGA. Is there something going on behind the scenes? Is there something not going on there behind the scenes? 

I can see how all of this looks on the surface. Grayson had four high-profile commits announce Tuesday night on TV and across several lives stream at Sports and Social near SunTrust Park in Atlanta.

  • Kevin Harris chose Alabama over Miami
  • Wanya Morris chose Tennessee over Auburn
  • Owen Pappoe chose Auburn over Georgia
  • Kenyatta Watson II chose Texas over Notre Dame

The Bulldogs, as some might suggest, went 0 for 4 with Grayson High this week.

I believe that would be wrong. Each of those guys held an offer from Georgia at one point. And then they did not. That is a matter regarding the complicated world of committable offers here. That’s very different from an offer in the world of college football recruiting.

Harris hoped to commit to Georgia early last season, but for whatever reason, it was not accepted. Morris was once a UGA priority before the Bulldogs suddenly stopped recruiting him at the same level they had been previously.

Stuff like that happens. Recruiting is a business. Watson didn’t have an offer from Georgia until late in his process.

Pappoe was really the only target for the Bulldogs. That real batting line was closer to 0 for 1.

Does Grayson have an agenda when it comes to UGA? That’s when or where the name Kenyatta Watson Sr. often comes up. He’s been an assistant-slash-volunteer coach with the program for the last several years and his duties often align with the role of recruiting coordinator with the program.

His son just committed to Texas. What most people do not realize is that none of those Grayson players or their families are from Georgia. None of those prospects were born in Georgia.

But the fact they now live less than 50 miles away from Athens alters the way some view their decisions as bypassing the home-state school.

How Grayson High really perceives UGA recruiting

Watson Sr. is one of the most-connected behind-the-scenes guys in the recruiting world. Especially in the Peach State.

He played at Boston College and has rare insight into how college recruiting actually works. Watson has also known some of the nation’s top 2019 prospects since they were in middle school. Before all those Power 5 offers.

He has been advising Grayson’s players and their families about the ins-and-outs of college recruiting.

“School rosters dictate how these programs recruit,” Watson Sr. said. “That’s why I tell these kids and their families to not take any of this stuff personally.”

If you ask a lot of Gwinnett County coaches about him, they will have some interesting opinions. Polarizing opinions.

But we’re writing about college football recruiting here. When it comes to steering young players to colleges, he has benefited many in the last four years.

I asked Watson how many players he has helped navigate through their college options over the years. He stated that the number was at least 2,000.

Let’s start by stacking up some counterpoints to the theory Grayson is anti-UGA.

  • Christian Hunnicutt, the second-year head coach at Grayson, is a UGA graduate. He has a fantastic relationship with Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman.
  • Grayson’s athletes typically visit Georgia more than any other school.
  • The Rams sent Deangelo Gibbs to UGA in the Class of 2017. They also sent reserve DE Justin Young to Georgia in the Class of 2014. Watson contends that the Rams might have had maybe three or four prospects that were good enough to sign with UGA over the last four cycles.
  • When Watson organized the “True 19” all-star game between Georgia and Texas in January of 2017, he took those prospects to UGA. They went on a 50-man campus tour. He said the initial plan was to go to Alabama. That choice did not go unnoticed by rival schools. They wanted that 50-man visit.
  • There was a miscommunication between Georgia and a 5-star pledge that nearly led to a de-commitment. When that happened, it was Watson who counseled the prospect not to overreact. He wanted that player to forgive an honest mistake, which he did. That pending de-commitment never happened.
  • The Rams could have as many as 18 Power 5 signees for this cycle. Pappoe seems to be the only one who had a legit “take” offer from the Bulldogs.
  • Mike Reed, Watson’s college roommate, is the defensive backs coach at Clemson. Mickey Conn, the former head coach at Grayson, is also a Clemson assistant. Yet there are no players in the loaded 2019 class at Grayson that are on their way to play for Dabo Swinney.
  • Watson stated back in January of 2017 that he felt the 2019 class in the state of Georgia would be the one that delivers the Bulldogs and Kirby Smart that long-awaited national championship. He still feels that way.
  • He also has a very interesting prediction about where he thinks Pappoe will eventually sign.

Did anything external cause Pappoe to look away from the Bulldogs in the end? DawgNation asked Pappoe on Tuesday night what the Bulldogs could have done to win the head-to-head with Auburn.

“They were fine,” Pappoe said. “Georgia didn’t do anything wrong.”

Kenyatta Watson Sr. on Grayson and UGA

Does Grayson have any beef or bias against UGA? Watson laughed when he was asked that question.

“I think it is crazy,” Watson said. “Our head coach is a Georgia grad. People don’t know that. That’s number one. The number two is that I have a great relationship with Kirby, Mel [Tucker] and Dell McGee and [assistant coach James] Coley. Tray Scott. I talk to all of these guys like weekly.”

When he did that Freshman 50 visit, he brought the kids to Georgia. The first college tour for the Grayson 2019 kids was in Athens.

DeAngelo Gibbs was an Under Armour All-American in 2017. He signed with UGA as one of the nation’s elite prospects that year out of Grayson High School. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

“Let’s just be honest here with Georgia in the class at Grayson this year,” Watson Sr. said. “The only kid they really wanted was Owen. The thing that people don’t understand that was really detrimental with Owen is what really happened with the Kevin [Harris] situation. It wasn’t a miscommunication.”

“It was the simple fact they told the kid he could commit. When the kid went to commit, they said no. That really kind of bothered Owen. People don’t understand the relationship that these kids have. That really bothered Owen.”

Watson Sr. remembers the advice he gave Pappoe about that matter. Pappoe and his son Kenyatta are life-long friends. They grew up playing on Watson’s Gwinnett Chargers team. Pappoe has probably spent as many nights under Watson’s roof as his own some weeks.

“I told him specifically to talk to Kirby and to talk to Mel and talk to those guys about the whole Kevin thing,” Watson Sr. said. “It really upset [5-star 2019 Bulldogs commit] Nolan [Smith], too. Because Nolan and Kevin are really good friends.”

Watson estimated that the 2020 Grayson class will have another five players with the ability to play anywhere, including Georgia. The 2021 class should have between seven and nine elite prospects, too.

Grayson has 13 prospects committed right now, 12 to Power 5 schools. There should be 18 Power 5 signees in 2019. The Rams should sign 40 players to college scholarships this cycle.

“My biggest thing is getting all these kids a free education,” Watson Sr. said. “But not everybody can go to a Georgia or an Alabama or a Clemson.”

There are a lot of polarizing opinions about Watson. The one thing that seems to be static across almost all the sources I come across would be that one. Folks can hold their own opinions about Watson, but he has helped a lot of young people on their way to the next level.

An inner circle prediction about 5-star Owen Pappoe

Watson Sr. has his view on why Pappoe chose the Tigers.

Owen Pappoe-UGA recruiting-Georgia recruiting-UGA football recruiting
Owen Pappoe is the first 5-star commitment for Auburn in the Class of 2019. (Chris Kirschner/DawgNation)

“The biggest thing with Owen was an opportunity to play early,” Watson Sr. said.

He also said he spoke with Smart on Tuesday about Pappoe.

“There were no hard feelings or anything like that,” Watson Sr. said. “Of course, they are still going to recruit him hard and do everything like that. But at the same point in time, his question to me was ‘How can we fix this?’ and like I told him I said ‘I don’t know’ and I told him I don’t control where these kids go to school like people think I do.”

The newest rumor is that Watson steered Pappoe to Auburn because he recently accepted a position with Under Armour. Auburn is an Under Armour school. So is Notre Dame. That was his son’s second choice.

“If I sent Owen to an Under Armour school, then why didn’t I send my son to Notre Dame?” Watson Sr. asked. “Notre Dame is the biggest Under Armour school.”

That feeling he has about the upside of Georgia football has not wavered. He still feels the 2019 class will be the final talent infusion that propels the Bulldogs to a national title under Smart.

“He’s doing a phenomenal job recruiting,” Watson Sr. said. “He’s stacking the deck against a lot of schools by the classes he is putting together.”

We shall tread carefully with the following hypothetical: Watson believes if Georgia had accepted the commitment from Harris last fall, then they would have also landed Pappoe, too.

“I’ve never said a negative thing to any kid about Georgia,” Watson Sr. said. “I honest to God thought that was where Owen was going to go.”

His gut feeling, instincts and intuition lead him to believe Pappoe will eventually play for Georgia.

“Who knows?” Watson Sr. said. “We are seven months away from signing day. Who knows what Owen will do? Who knows?”

Watson has been cast as the guy who is supposed to steer guys away from Georgia. And yet he still believes the 5-star he considers to be another son will wind up at Georgia.

“He did what was the best for him based on the roster,” Watson Sr. said. “That’s what he chose. He chose Auburn. Now I’ll say this and this is just my opinion. I could be wrong. You can print it. You can not print it. Whatever. I still feel like Owen Pappoe ends up at Georgia. That’s my opinion. I could be wrong. I could really be wrong. It is something inside of me. This is me. Nobody told me this. I still think he is fifty-fifty. I just think right now he chose Auburn and I could be wrong. He could be 1,000 percent committed to Auburn and he ends up signing with them in December. That’s my opinion.”

Miss any Intel? The DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to speed just as fast as former Georgia All-American LB Roquan Smith found the ball after the snap.

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