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Jeff Sentell/DawgNation
5-star freshman Nakobe Dean (center) posed with his mother Neketta (left) and his father, Byron, at the Touchdown Club of Atlanta awards banquet on Thursday night.

Georgia freshman Nakobe Dean wins “National Lineman of the Year” honor

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA recruiting info? The play sheet today calls for a recap of the Touchdown Club of Atlanta’s annual banquet. Georgia freshman Nakobe Dean picked up a very big trophy. The event has featured headliners like Jacob Eason, Leonard Fournette, Rashan Gary, Trevor Lawrence, Peyton Manning and Trey Smith. 

Travon Walker walked around Thursday night in an understated grey-and-purple ensemble at the annual season-ending Touchdown Club of Atlanta awards banquet.

He had the shoes to match and a bow tie with just the right flecks of orange. It would inspire any Clemson fan. Yet that didn’t matter one bit anymore.

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5-star UGA signee Travon Walker of Upson-Lee High School was named to the 2018 Touchdown Club of Atlanta All-Star Football team on Thursday night. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Times have changed dramatically over the last few years due to the early signing period.

As recently as two cycles ago, that would’ve inspired a few tweets along the lines of: 5-star DT recruit shows up at awards banquet prior to National Signing day in Clemson colors. 

These days, it is nothing more than what it should be.

Walker just really liked the look.

It meant nothing to do with where he was going to play college football.

That’s because Walker signed with UGA back on Dec. 19 on the first day of the early signing period and that was that.

It makes January a lot less crazy on the recruiting beat. Walker is part of a trend which saw 87 of the nation’s top 100 recruits on the final 247Sports Composite ratings sign back in December.

The big news event of the day was the selection of Georgia freshman Nakobe Dean by the club as the “Bobby Dodd Lineman of the Year” for 2018. Dean is already at Georgia and looks to contend for a role at least on special teams, to begin with, if not more than that.

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Nakobe Dean was presented with The Touchdown Club of Atlanta’s Bobby Dodd “National Lineman of the Year Award” for the 2018 season on Thursday. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

A lot of folks raised their eyes at the wording of handing out a “Lineman of the Year” award to a linebacker, but that is not all that unusual.

The Dodd honor can typically go to the best in-the-box player. Dean, as a 5-star ILB signee, certainly qualifies for that.

His comments were limited to just what he said on the dais when he was presented his award, but the sentiment he expressed sums up the player that DawgNation has started to get to know.

He was asked what it was like to give up the rest of his senior year to enroll early at UGA.

“So far it has been great,” Dean said. “I just wanted to get on campus and just learn the playbook early and hope to come this fall to be a big contributor to my team,” Dean said. “That’s it.”

This has not been his only time on a national awards stage. Dean has already received the national Butkus Award for his play as a senior, too.

Another Fromm is seen as a standout person and player

The club also presents an annual “Mr. Georgia Football” honor every year to the young man who epitomizes what high school football in the state of Georgia should be about.

For the second time in three years, it went to a member of the Fromm family.

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Dylan Fromm was named “Mr. Georgia Football” by the Touchdown Club of Atlanta on Thursday night. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Dylan Fromm, now a freshman at Mercer, received the same award his brother Jake won in 2017.

Fromm, who’s about two inches shorter than the Georgia starter, threw for 4,600 yards and 46 touchdowns this year for Warner Robins.

I do not deem this happenstance to be mere coincidence.

Fromm showed as much when asked about the honor he received on Thursday night.

The topic of the query centered on his accomplishments and what he will take from them as he begins his college career.

“Without being too philosophical on everybody right now the biggest takeaway I can take [with me] going on into college is knowing how to lead a group of guys to do great things and be the best they can be,” Fromm said. “It is tough especially when you have to meet a whole new group of people so I guess being a leader, it is an acquired that. You have got to learn how to do it.”

The best part of the banquet was just the “give a darn” shown by Fromm at his table while of summation of the thrilling overtime state championship game between Bainbridge and Warner Robins was brought up on stage.

Warner Robins did not win that game.

His eyes were welling up. It was something that still mattered to him. Even in the middle of an awards banquet at that.

The “Mr. Georgia Football” honor should always go to players like that. That family has produced two of them.

That’s a credit to Emerson and Lee Fromm. Those two have now raised three sons that epitomize what the best of high school football in Georgia is all about.

Dylan is at Mercer. Tyler, another enrollee, signed with Auburn to play tight end. The oldest might just hang around to leave his name all over the record books and trophy cases in Athens.

A few other things of note from the TD Club event 

The UGA contingent, which included Dean and Jake Fromm, was not available to the media at the event. But my DawgNation colleague Chip Towers is always a big fan of the “Overheard” and Observations” topics that can be picked up on at an event like that one.

So I thought I’d offer up a few:

  • Dean finished his senior semester at Horn Lakes High with a 4.7 grade-point average. That’s with some weighted courses. I was told that he finished high school with an overall 4.4 GPA. 
  • Looking for a number for Dean? It sure sounds like he will wear No. 17 in college at Georgia. 
  • There were a lot of twists and turns in that recruitment. There was a time when UGA was the dead last hat on the table but the Bulldogs leapfrogged everyone, including home state Ole Miss. The reason? Academics. We’ll cover more of that in his upcoming “Next Generation” story on DawgNation. 
  • See that trophy in all those tweets? It was heading back to Mississippi. Not Athens. That sure could’ve been used around his East Campus Village home. It was a full-bronze statue and weighs around 30-35 pounds. 
  • Dean is rooming with fellow 5-star Nolan Smith and 4-star ILB Trezmen Marshall. Travon Walker, the only 5-star who will be in that flat, will report shortly after graduation on May 25. 
  • Walker still plans to finish out his senior year of basketball and throw the shot put at Upson-Lee. He wore a clean purple shirt with bow tie and matching size-15 purple loafers.
  • 247Sports recently elevated him to the nation’s No. 1 DT spot for the 2019 class. That will be his final 247Sports ranking. 
  • What role will the Bulldogs look for with Walker initially? Walker told me on Thursday that it would be a “Tyler Clark” role initially along the defensive line. His versatility and athleticism for a young man who will carry 285 pounds around early in Athens like a cup of Powerade will stand out. 247Sports event theorized that Walker might project to an overall NFL No. 1 draft pick once his time at UGA is up. 
  • Dominick Blaylock, the 5-star signee out of Walton High, was also honored at the event. He was named to the TCA’s 2018 All-Star Team which recognized the All-Classification “Super Team” of elite Georgia prospects. I’d look for Blaylock to play a lot early in Athens given the attrition at the WR spot and he’s also the type of talent that will get a hard look on special teams as a punt and kick returner. 

Speaking of rankings 

I’m not quite sure how it happens, but Blaylock lost his fifth star in the final 247Sports Composite rankings for the 2019 class. He was set to become the first 5-star signee for the Bulldogs at the wide receiver spot since Marlon Brown in 2009. (Disclaimer: Terry Godwin was rated as an athlete coming out of high school in 2015.)

A lot of attention has been placed on other 5-stars that the Bulldogs could have signed or can sign for this class, but that’s where the consistently excellent Blaylock doesn’t get his full due at times.

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That was quite the trophy that Nakobe Dean picked up on Thursday from the Touchdown Club of Atlanta. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

He had a fantastic senior year and finished off the 2019 All-American Bowl with a showcase day out in Texas. He caught two touchdown passes and ran for another.

Somehow that led to Blaylock falling down to a final rank as the nation’s No. 5 receiver and the No. 36 overall prospect. The 247Sports rankings do serve to mirror the NFL draft with their final assessments and that’s why they award 32 final 5-star rankings to align with the 32 picks for the first round.

Blaylock lost his fifth star, but another one was picked up by CB signee Tyrique Stevenson. That’s just one of a few moves we will summarize here:

  • 5-star Nolan Smith finished as the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect. He becomes the first Bulldog to finish with an overall No. 1 ranking on the 247Sports Composite final ratings since Trenton Thompson did so in 2015.
  • Dean fell slightly from his longtime spot as the nation’s No. 1 ILB to No. 2 at that position. He still kept his 5-star rating and wound up No. 19 nationally for the class of 2019.
  • Walker checks in with a final rating of No. 22 overall and slots as the nation’s No. 3 DT. As stated earlier, the pure evaluation from 247Sports gave him the status as the nation’s top DT prospect for 2019.
  • Clay Webb also kept his fifth star despite not taking part in any All-American events. He was already at Georgia and wanted to begin bettering himself in that way. He remained the nation’s No. 1 center prospect for 2019 but plans to start out at guard in Athens. Webb wound up at No. 26 nationally for the cycle and checks in as the fourth 5-star prospect from the composite in the class.
  • Tyrique Stevenson, another early enrollee, picked up his fifth star from 247Sports in the final assessments but wound up as the nation’s No. 37 overall prospect on the composite. He finished as the nation’s No. 3 CB prospect for 2019 off that list.

Here’s an interesting final tidbit on the rankings front. The new early signing period continues to reshape the way college recruiting and that calendar is structured for the most part. There are only 13 recruits out of the nation’s top 100 who have yet to sign, including just two of the nation’s top 25.

There are only seven of those guys who have yet to make a commitment, including a priority UGA target Kaiir Elam and recent official visitor Mark-Antony Richards.

Photos from the Touchdown Club of Atlanta’s annual awards

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UGA freshman LB Dean and Mercer freshman QB Dylan Fromm were two of the bigger award winners of the night. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Taulia Tagovailoa-Alabama football
Alabama freshman Taulia Tagovailoa was named the 2018 Bobby Dodd “Back of the Year” by the Touchdown Club of Atlanta. He has already joined his older brother, Tua, at Alabama. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
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Travon Walker (left) and Nakobe Dean (right) should form up a stout midsection of the UGA defense for years to come. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
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Dean was also joined at the event by his high school coach. Brad Boyette of Horn Lakes High School led his team to a state title and a 15-0 mark in 2018. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
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Dean posed with the “Lineman of the Year” award with his family on Thursday night. That trophy went back to Mississippi. He went back to Athens to continue his first month on campus. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Georgia signee Dominick Blaylock was also honored as a part of the 2018 TCA “All-Star Team” after his superlative senior season. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Blaylock was joined onstage by his future QB in Athens. That was the 2017 “Mr. Georgia Football” award winner. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
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Dean was joined at the event by mother Neketta and his father Bryon in Atlanta. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Lifelong friends JD Bertrand (left), Blaylock and Kyle Hamilton (right) are all off to play major college football. Bertrand and Hamilton signed to play for Notre Dame in the class of 2019. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

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.