Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way this 4-star or 5-star might lean and add a dab of perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.
GARY, Ind. — I thought about that headline for at least three minutes this morning.
I had other ideas. There was a more attractive thought or three, but I just decided to leave it at that.
The Bulldogs have the third highest-rated recruiting class in the country right now. Critics could point to the season and check off all the ills but there had been nothing but good times on the recruiting trail up to this point. Big wins left and right.
The big picture is this: Kirby Smart and Georgia are still killing it on the recruiting trail.
Yet this week’s results are definitely a counter to all of that. Like a little too close to the feeling after those Nicholls State and Vanderbilt games.
The Georgia hat stayed on the table again yesterday. That was the second time this week that a potential member of the Class of 2017 opted to sign at another school.
Monty Rice was the miss on Monday. He had been a silent commitment to UGA for months. His sudden turn over the last week was strange, but there will never be much shame in losing an out-of-state kid to LSU.
Lonnie Johnson to Kentucky yesterday is a different story.
Johnson preferring both Kentucky and Memphis to Georgia should require a stiff drink to calm down any plugged-in DawgNation recruiting fan.
He said the difference between Kentucky and Georgia was family. The family feel in Lexington over a potential business decision to sign with Georgia.
Johnson called Georgia a “powerhouse” but chose the Wildcats.
“I didn’t want to be just another number,” Johnson said. “I needed to go somewhere I knew that I could lean on the coaches if I ever needed something.”
Breaking down Johnson’s decision
Let’s observe the proper balance here. Lexington is closer to Johnson’s home in Indiana than Athens. The playing time opportunity will likely be greater in Kentucky. The Wildcats gave the nation’s No. 4 junior college safety an in-home visit. Georgia didn’t do that.
Those are all very good reasons why Kentucky got his verbal commitment.
But that’s not what I find interesting here. The major talking point is it is a much bigger story why the 3-star JUCO recruit didn’t choose Georgia rather than whatever might have been the reason why he did.
(Yes. We’re dabbling into that unstable realm of expectations on the recruiting trail. Georgia is higher up on the college football food chain than Kentucky and Memphis. A story like this is generally viewed as an aberration.)
Kentucky hadn’t been working Johnson much longer than Georgia. The Wildcats offered him on Dec. 28 and hosted him on his official visit on Dec. 2. That was just a week’s jump on Georgia.
Nora Johnson, his mother, told me yesterday she felt Johnson had already made up his mind to go to Kentucky after he took that official visit there. The trip to Athens was largely a chance to see if the Bulldogs could turn his head away from Big Blue Nation.
That did not happen. And then there’s that moment when Johnson said the Bulldogs actually finished third behind Memphis.
Kentucky and Memphis beating out UGA would make a lot more sense if we were discussing the decision of the nation’s No. 4 power forward.
(This is the point where that leaned in recruiting fan reminds themselves that UGA picked up a likely starting OT in D’Marcus Hayes this week. Then they breathe.)
Georgia trails only Alabama and Ohio State nationally in its collection of committed talent for the Class of 2017. The program’s prowess on the recruiting trail is the main reason why folks should be stoked about the future of Georgia football. Yet that class is built mostly on in-state prospects.
But there is still a way to go in the way the program is viewed nationally. Even in recruiting.
Does anyone out there see Alabama or Ohio State finishing third to Kentucky and Memphis in any prospect’s decision?
There are other sides to this. Georgia has pulled higher-rated players out of Pennsylvania and Texas this year than Johnson. That’s why the result from Indiana seems so very much out of place.
“Georgia kind of came into the picture too late,” Johnson said. “(My mother) didn’t really like that. She felt like it was really a last option thing for them to come to me that late.”
He said that he definitely had a scholarship offer to Georgia. Nothing was pulled at the last minute.
“There wasn’t that big of a difference to me between Memphis and Georgia,” Johnson said. “But Kentucky stood out to me the most. They only came into the picture about a week before Georgia, but they won over my Mom. Once you win over my Mom, then you win me.”
He also said that the coaches at Kentucky had been recruiting him since his high school days. That was before he had to take the junior college route.
That added to the comfort level he had in choosing the Wildcats. He said that there wasn’t enough time for Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to play catch-up with his decision.
“We weren’t able to build a tough enough relationship but I remembered the Kentucky coaches coming out of high school,” he said.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder was equal parts brash and humble on Tuesday. He spoke at his ceremony about the many twists in his recruiting story.
He was committed to Ohio State. Then Western Michigan. Then a community college in California where he walked 45 minutes to get everywhere. He signed with Iowa State last February but didn’t make the grades.
Johnson then reclassified to the Class of 2017 and it was another recruiting season for him. Again.
He spoke about losing a dear friend and then redshirting this past season to focus on his academics.
Johnson gave thanks to his father in the crowd. He expressed how he was raised the right way. The 21-year-old then told his father he was now all grown up. It felt like a moment of passage to those in the room.
The 3-star safety also recognized his mother in the room. He told her it would only be a short time before he would be able to give her everything she would need or want.
That’s a nod to his professional dreams. He thinks Kentucky will be a greater showcase for his skills than Georgia.
But then he pointed to a particular date on the calendar for next season. That’s Nov. 18. That’s when Kentucky will come to Athens to face Georgia.
He seemed very confident in the outcome of how that one was going to go.
“I’ll see them again on November 18th,” he said.
Bishop back on the block
Trey Bishop de-committed from Auburn yesterday. That was something that a lot of those in the industry saw coming at least a month ago. The nation’s No. 4 athlete re-opened his recruiting and I see only Florida and Georgia as the contenders for his services in the end.
Bishop told DawgNation last night that no school currently holds an edge in his recruiting. It is like he hit the recruiting reset button.
He will take his official visit to Georgia on Jan. 14, then he will go back to Auburn on the following weekend. The 6-foot-3, 193-pound prospect will take his last official to Florida on Jan. 28.
SEC Country’s Benjamin Wolk has a through walk-through of where Bishop stands today with his decision.
Look for the 4-star athlete to be a monster safety at the next level in the SEC.
I asked Bishop last night if he will consider making a decision before he takes all of those visits. He said there was a 90 percent chance that he will need all three visits before he’s able to finally make up his mind.
Bishop told Wolk exactly how Georgia appeals to him.
“Looking at UGA. I know they’re losing a lot of people defensively. And I like the atmosphere. I like everything that is going on there. I like what coach Smart is doing,” Bishop said. “With Georgia, that’s my state school. It’s kinda a blessing to be highly recruited by them. I just feel like the atmosphere of the school, if I go there, I’ll enjoy that.”
If you’re looking for further perspective on this one, I projected Bishop to be in Georgia’s class several weeks ago.
In case you missed it …
Georgia defensive tackle target Rosheem Collins committed to Middle Tennessee State yesterday. He grew up in Waycross but had been in the junior college ranks at East Central Community College in Mississippi.
The former Ware County standout gave UGA his last official visit over the weekend and told me that he’d very likely commit to the Bulldogs if a scholarship was ever offered.
The decision that Collins made yesterday is a pretty clear tell that he was given the assurance that the offer just wasn’t going to be there. Or it wasn’t going to be there in the timeline that Collins had to work around.
The 6-foot-1, 295-pounder had made great strides in the classroom and was able to qualify just before taking that official visit to UGA.
— Rosheem Collins (@RosheemC) December 13, 2016
Also of note
I continually see a lot of questions about former UGA target E.J. Price through email or comments left below certain stories.
Price took an official visit to Ole Miss over the weekend. That would be a very interesting fit in Oxford.
Hugh Freeze picked up a cornerstone 5-star tackle in Greg Little last season. Putting Price at right tackle would be something serious. That’s even though the former Archer standout wouldn’t become eligible to play until 2018.
Shea Patterson at the wheels of the Ole Miss offense and Little and Price at tackle sounds like the foundation of a very effective offense.
Georgia should not be viewed as a contender for Price going forward. The Bulldogs have set their eyes on other prospects.