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Jeff Sentell/Dawgnation
IMG Academy senior Daniel Faalele just took his official visit to UGA last weekend. He ranks as the nation's No. 36 OT prospect for 2018 off the 247Sports Composite.

Georgia’s recruiting interest in 6-foot-8 Daniel Faalele seems pretty clear

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 for Wednesday calls for a recap of the official visit from 6-foot-8 1/2 Daniel Faalele of IMG Academy. 

 

Daniel Faalele moved to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., from Australia on Aug. 25, 2016. He didn’t know what an offensive tackle was, what an offensive lineman did and how many points a touchdown was worth.

Daniel Faalele-UGA recruiting
Daniel Faalele currently rates as a 3-star prospect and as the No. 36 OT prospect in America for 2018 going off his 247Sports Composite ranking. (Jeff Sentell/Dawgnation)

He does now. So much so that the 6-foot-8 1/2, 400-pound offensive tackle made an official visit to UGA last weekend.

The first question: Where does he fit into Georgia’s plans in the Class of 2018?

The Bulldogs have 3-star prospect Owen Condon committed at tackle. The 6-foot-7, 305-pound Oklahoman chose UGA in June. A season-ending injury earlier this year has brought his high school career to a close.

Georgia has a commitment from 4-star offensive guard Warren Ericson. Ericson is an impressive player who could play either guard or center at UGA.

The Bulldogs also are chasing 5-star offensive guard Jamaree Salyer. He ranks as the nation’s No. 1 offensive-line recruit this year. Salyer is the highest-rated interior offensive-live prospect since Andre Smith in 2006. The ideal class for the Bulldogs would be to sign both Salyer and 4-star Trey Hill, an in-state prospect. The Houston County senior ranks as the nation’s No. 2 offensive guard for 2018.

That adds up to four potential pieces of an expected 24-man class for 2018. Do the Bulldogs have room to add a big piece like Faalele?

It sure seems that is the case. Faalele (pronounced Fa-Ah-Ley-Ley) said the Bulldogs measured his hands somewhere between 11 and 12 inches. He also was charted with a wingspan of 86 inches. That’s basically Shaquille O’Neal from fingertip to fingertip.

The trip to Georgia was his first official visit.

“Georgia wants me to check out my other options and get a feel for the other schools,” Faalele said. “I guess they are really confident that they really put a good impression on me. They want me to check out other schools for myself and see how I really feel. They didn’t give me a date or anything or a timeline that I needed to make a decision for them by.”

https://twitter.com/DanielFaalele_/status/919721929942228994

Signs point to clear UGA interest in Daniel Faalele

Daniel Faalele-UGA recruiting
Daniel Faalele said that UGA is clearly one of his top three schools. (Jeff Sentell/Dawgnation)

The Bulldogs have good young depth at tackle.

Andrew Thomas, a freshman, has started every game and performed aptly at right tackle this fall. I firmly believe in redshirt freshman Ben Cleveland being able to contend for a starting spot at tackle in 2018. There’s also 5-star freshman Isaiah Wilson. He seems bound for a redshirt season this fall.

Georgia also signed junior college tackle D’Marcus Hayes in 2017. But he has yet to crack the two-deep in games this fall.

So they could afford to take on Faalele and not have to play him right away. But the depth there is not even a compelling background reason why I think UGA wants Faalele.

Consider the following:

  • When Kirby Smart left the field after the Missouri rout, he made sure to find Faalele in the stands. He went over to him briefly. Faalele said he “dapped” him up. “It felt good to get that recognition from Kirby Smart and to know that he really cares,” he said.
  • Faalele likely was the biggest official visitor — literally — in UGA football history. That seems clear taking into account his height, his weight and his size-18 feet. Those size-18 Jordans he wore on Saturday had to be the biggest pair of “Js” that ever has set foot inside Sanford Stadium.
  • Georgia flew three members of the Faalele family to Atlanta for his official visit. While that is common for any recruit, it meant a 23-plus hour flight from Melbourne, Australia. Faalele’s visit could have been the most expensive official visit for a prospect’s family in UGA football history, too. The big tackle called it a mini-reunion. “Georgia flew out my family,” Faalele said. “They were able to come on that visit with me. It was worth it. I got to see my family and visit a really good school. So it was a win-win.”
  • Line coach Sam Pittman seems to really want him. Faalele said he has established a stronger relationship with Pittman than he has with any other recruiter. He said only Alabama recruits him as intensely now as the Bulldogs do. He added Pittman’s interest has been consistent since IMG did a caravan tour across the Southeast in March. Georgia was one of those stops. “He keeps it real with me,” Faalele said of Pittman. “I feel like he can develop me into the best player that I can be.”

In his words: What did Daniel Faalele like about Georgia?

His favorite part? That was tough.

“I loved all of it,” Faalele said. “Especially the game. Just the fans and seeing how the offense was working and how the offensive line was working. I just liked everything overall.”

Daniel Faalele-UGA recruiting
Daniel Faalele is very likely the largest (height + weight) official visitor in UGA football history. (Jeff Sentell/Dawgnation

Faalele has planned an Alabama official visit for Nov. 18 and another official to Michigan on Nov. 25. Those clearly are his top three schools.

The Bulldogs have a big shot.

“They definitely left a really good impression on me,” Faalele said. “I loved Athens and just felt like I could see myself there for the next four or five years. I just felt like Athens, in general, was a nice comfortable place to be. It is safe so there are not too many negatives out there for UGA.”

Faalele said he plans to take two other official visits. The likely candidates for those seem to be LSU, Florida or Florida State. He will enroll early in January 2018.

Ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi is trying to reel him for the Crimson Tide. But my information leads me to believe Alabama has at least a couple of other tackles on the board ahead of Faalele.

Ruth Faalele, his mother, told her son she was really impressed by UGA.

“My mom really liked the feel there and the atmosphere,” Faalele said. “She liked how Georgia makes it really hard for you to fail in class and stuff. She said that she would be comfortable with me going there just because of how the academics set up for you and the programs set up. The dorms are nice. She’s really comfortable with coach Sam Pittman and coach [Kirby] Smart, too. They really liked it.”

Faalele said he plans to study business or finance. He does not expect to make his commitment until after he has taken all or most of his official visits.

Fascination or force? Can Daniel Faalele really play? 

The big man can move. He can elevate those pounds to dunk a basketball.

IMG is loaded with 4-star and 5-star defensive linemen and pass rushers. It is essentially like a Nike The Opening regional at every practice. Georgia 5-star junior commit Nolan Smith and other IMG standouts such as Alabama commit Stephon Wynn Jr. have told DawgNation they see constant improvement from Faalele.

“You go up against the some of the best competition each day,” Faalele said. “You can only get better from there. We go against the best every day and are always getting a good look even from the scout team. We all just make each other better.”

He’s good enough to start at right tackle for IMG Academy this year after a “redshirt” season in 2016. That’s when he began learning all the nuances and training methods of American football.

But the only way anybody gets better is when they play. Faalele has shown that. Smith told DawgNation this week that the big man from Down Under can play right tackle in the SEC.

“Nolan is really trying to win me over to Georgia,” Faalele said. “He’s just saying that Georgia is on the come-up and it is a nice school. He talks a lot about the coaching staff and how they care about their players and everything real like that.”

Photo for the day 

Trey Hill, the nation’s No. 2 offensive guard prospect for 2018, took another UGA unofficial visit last weekend. He’s already told DawgNation that the Bulldogs will also get one of his remaining official visits.

How did the U.S. Army All-American like his latest trip? I’ll just note that it seems as if he relishes the atmosphere in Athens.

I’ll let this photo take over from there.

Trey Hill-UGA recruiting
Trey Hill (right) always seems to enjoy himself in Athens. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

 

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