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Maason Smith/Twitter
Maason Smith is a major priorty target for UGA in the class of 2021.

Maason Smith: The 5-star DT actually brought Georgia’s recruiting chance back to life

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry is the third installment from a recent chat with 5-star DT Maason Smith. We’ve explored why he has always wanted to do his own thing and his thoughts on back-to-back trips to UGA and LSU. What’s left? 

Elite 5-star players like Maason Smith don’t leave the state of Louisiana. If LSU wants a player of his caliber from the home state, then he’s going to suit up in Death Valley on Saturdays.

It is what the web pages of recruiting history have led us all to believe. But somehow blips do occur. That’s part of the unpredictable nature of young people.

It was once seen as far-fetched for a future likely repeat All-American like Arik Gilbert to leave the state of Georgia. Especially since Kirby Smart and the UGA staff had been recruiting since he was in the eighth grade. There were a few key reasons which enabled it to happen.

If there ever was a year for an unorthodox recruiting move that goes against the grain, then the pandemic-altered 2021 cycle would be it. It still doesn’t lessen the degree of difficulty of a very tough task like a Georgia or a Miami or Oregon pulling Smith away from LSU’s defensive line.

The irony here is that Georgia already though it was out of it. Its staff had waived the white flag. It had watched the confetti rain down on LSU. Everyone saw Joe Burrow and Ed Orgeron lift every trophy that mattered across the 2019-2020 season.

Combine those feats with the odds against prying a guy like Smith out of the Bayou even after a 10-3 season. Georgia was done. Goose cooked. Fini. Over.

The fat lady had sung more bars than Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle did masterfully last night on VerzuzTV.

That was the case. Until Smith reached out to Georgia line coach Tray Scott.

Maason Smith has visited both Georgia and LSU over the last month. He hopes to also get out to see both Alabama and Miami soon. (Maason Smith/Instagram)

That Maason Smith text that revived UGA in his recruiting 

“This is a funny story actually,” Smith said. “Georgia offered me really early. Pretty early. For about a month after they offered me, this was still when they couldn’t talk to me and stuff.”

It was a little while longer than that. Georgia offered Smith back on May 13, 2019. LSU offered almost three full months earlier on February 16. Per NCAA rules, that was when no school could reach out directly to Smith until Sept. 1 of his junior year.

“They never really talked to me,” Smith said. “They kind of really gave up on me. It was a little while. Like six months. Then one day I texted Coach Scott out of the blue. I think it was kind of like because we were planning on visiting Georgia like three times in that time period and it feel through. They thought I was just saying that to get their hopes up or something like that.”

The text was vanilla. Just like “What’s up Coach?”

“I said I have been thinking about ya’ll and stuff like that,” Smith said. “He was like ‘I am so happy to hear that’ and he told me he gave up on me. That was right after the [LSU] national championship. He had told me he gave up because he thought I was going to go to LSU just like everybody else.”

“I kind of told him what I was feeling and it has been good ever since.”

Smith supplied Georgia with some hope. The staff and the rest of the recruits in the 2021 class have given the program the puncher’s chance that it now has in the chase to sign Smith.

“I started it,” Smith said. “I started it back up by going back to him. He had told me he didn’t want to waste his time with me if I wasn’t even going to take them seriously.”

Maason Smith-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
Maason Smith actually resuscitated Georgia’s recruiting interest in him earlier this year after LSU won the national title. (Maason Smith/Twitter)

Maason Smith: What does he like best about UGA? 

Georgia has a shot. But those odds won’t increase without trips. Plural. That is just what Smith said he will try to make happen.

“I’m trying to go at least one time before signing day, if not hopefully about two times,” he said. “Two or three times. Especially if visits open back up because like I said I want to make the best decision for myself.”

What does Smith like the best about the Bulldogs right now?

“Probably um, no definitely the coaches,” Smith said. “Yeah, I know you are not supposed to go to a school for the coach but it is kind of hard when you talk to them every day.”

He’s been recruited hard enough by now to know the difference between quality and quantity communication.

“Honestly anybody can tell the real from the fake coaches,” Smith said of the Georgia staff. “I definitely feel that they are very real coaches.”

But he’s also done his homework beyond that.

“I’ve talked to other coaches like that,” he said. “There’s one coach and I am not going to say the school or anything but I still talk to that coach to this day. He knows I’m not going to go there to his school. He already knows this. We already talked about it. But he still tells me, you know, like the real. He tells me the real and it is an SEC coach. He tells me about the schools and the coaches and if they are really down-to-earth dudes.”

“He told me after I came back from my Georgia visit. He had known that I wanted to take that visit. He said that Coach Scott was a real down-to-earth dude and he really cared for his players.”

Maason Smith-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
LSU is the perceived team to beat for 5-star DT prospect Maason Smith. As it should be. (Maason Smith/Twitter)

Examing two big things about Georgia and LSU

Depth charts. NFL pipelines at the defensive tackle position.

Smith has been studying those topics. Some of it might be hearing feedback from other schools about the proficiency of certain programs and who puts their elite guys into the league.

Let’s tackle the pipelines first when it comes to Georgia and LSU.

NFL Draft picks since 2015 (Defensive tackles)

  • Georgia: 0
  • LSU: 2 (DT Rashard Lawrence 4th round in 2020; DT Davon Godchaux 5th round in 2017)

NFL Draft picks since 2010 (Defensive tackles)

  • Georgia: 3
  • LSU: 7

Smith has a keen understanding of the depth chart openings across the country.

“Honestly I think I am at the perfect year at my position,” Smith said. “Since like 2017 or 2018, they have not had any dominant dudes at the schools that I am looking at. Like Georgia really hasn’t had a dude at defensive tackle.”

“I mean they got No. 99 Jordan [Davis] and he’s real good. But he doesn’t play the same position as me. He will have left by the time I get there. So with Georgia, they do not necessarily need me but I am a big want for that room right now. Same thing with LSU. They lost Rashard Lawrence. They are going to lose Glenn Logan. Tyler Shelvin opted out. I personally think that out of all the schools I am looking at in their 2020 class I think I could play over some of those dudes. I think I have a good chance of playing early wherever I go at with all of the schools that I am really considering.”

But then Smith said something else that shows how he will look at things.

“Depth chart to me doesn’t really mean anything,” Smith said. “Shoot Quinnen Williams went to Alabama and played one and a half years or one year and he went first round. So I mean that means whatever time you get, you had just better ball out and that’s it.”

RELATED: Maason Smith has always been set on doing things his own way

How hard has it been to pull Louisiana 5-stars from LSU?

Georgia is a transient state. Especially in the Metro Atlanta area. The Bulldogs have actually seen 14 of the last 22 Peach State prospects to earn a 5-star recruiting rating sign elsewhere.

Is that LSU mystique all it is cracked up to be? Is that reality? Let’s look at the last 20 prospects from Louisiana who were ranked as top 100 recruits to see where they all wound up. We also did a deep scan to see which schools the highest-rated DL prospects in Louisiana from each cycle chose to sign with.

That position is traditionally what has separated the Southeastern conferences from its other Power 5 peers in college football.

The rankings used below are culled from their 247Sports Composite rankings.

2021 cycle

  • 5-star DT Maason Smith/No. 3 DT/No. 19 overall: Undecided (100% of crystal balls to LSU)
  • 5-star S Sage Ryan/No. 1 S/No. 28 overall: Undecided (100% of crystal balls to LSU)
  • 4-star WR Brian Thomas Jr./No. 8 WR/No. 62 WR: Undecided (100% of crystal balls to LSU)
  • 4-star WR Chris Hilton/No. 9 WR/No. 67 overall: Committed to LSU

2020 cycle

  • 5-star WR Kayshon Boutte/No. 2 WR/No. 24 overall: Signed with LSU
  • 4-star DT Jaquelin Roy/No. 6 DT/No. 41 overall: Signed with LSU
  • 4-star C Sedrick Van Pran-Granger/No. 1 C/No. 60 overall: Signed with UGA
  • 4-star DT Jacobian Guillory/No. 12 DT/No. 96 overall: Signed with LSU
  • State’s three highest-rated DL (all top 250 recruits): Signed with LSU, LSU and TCU

2019 cycle

  • 5-star CB Derek Stingley, Jr./No. 1 CB/No. 3 overall: Signed with LSU
  • 5-star RB John Emery, Jr. /Nation’s No. 2 RB/No. 13 overall: Signed with LSU
  • 4-star DT Ishmael Sopsher/No. 5 DT/No. 47 overall: Signed with Alabama
  • 4-star OG Kardell Thomas/No. 4 OG/No. 97 overall: Signed with LSU
  • State’s two highest-rated DL (both top 300 recruits): Signed with Alabama and Texas

2018 cycle

  • 5-star WR Terrace Marshall/No. 3 WR/No. 13 overall: Signed with LSU
  • 4-star S Kelvin Joseph/No. 5 S/No. 42 overall: Signed with LSU
  • 4-star QB Justin Rogers/No. 3 QB/No. 43 overall: Signed with TCU
  • 4-star WR Ja’Marr Chase/No. 15 WR/No. 84 overall: Signed with LSU
  • State’s two highest-rated DL (both 4-star recruits): Signed with LSU

2017 cycle

  • 4-star DT Tyler Shelvin/No. 4 DT/No. 54 overall: Signed with LSU
  • 4-star WR Devonta Smith/No. 9 WR/No. 62 overall: Signed with Alabama
  • 4-star S Todd Harris/No. 11 S/No. 86 overall: Signed with LSU
  • State’s two highest-rated DL (both top 150 recruits: Signed with LSU and Alabama

2016 cycle

  • 5-star CB Khristian Fulton/No. 3 CB/No. 22 overall: Signed with LSU
  • 5-star DT Rashard Lawrence/No. 5 DT/No. 23 overall: Signed with LSU
  • 4-star OLB Michael Divinity/No. 6 OLB/No. 64 overall: Signed with LSU
  • 4-star DT Ed Alexander/No. 8 DT/No. 68 overall: Signed with LSU
  • 4-star CB Shyheim Carter/No. 9 CB/No. 71 overall: Signed with Alabama
  • State’s four highest-rated DL (all top 250 recruits): Signed with LSU, LSU, LSU and LSU

Let’s check the track record here.

  • LSU signed all six of its in-state prospects since 2016: 100%
  • LSU also signed 16 of the 20 in-state Top 100 prospects in that span: 80 percent
  • LSU signed nine of the 13 highest-rated in-state DL prospects since 2016: 69 percent

Some of those misses for LSU might have been for fits. Maybe they liked other players out-of-state or in the region. No program recruits exclusively off what the rankings say regardless. Georgia’s Jordan Davis was a 3-star after all.

He might now very well be the best player on the team for 2020.

But this certainly could have given Georgia line coach Tray Scott a few reasons to wonder about placing that early false hope in recruiting Smith.

Did you know the weekly DawgNation.com “Before the Hedges” program is now available as an Apple podcast? Click to check it out and download it. 

What does Maason Smith still need to see about UGA? 

Smith did state that he wanted to take two or three more trips to check out Athens. He had a thought or two about what he needs to accomplish with all of that.

“Defensive wise [Georgia] hasn’t put out a defensive lineman since 2012 or 2013 but at the same time this class will be Tray Scott’s first [defensive line] class going to the draft,” Smith said. “We’ll see what happens this year but they are known for a good defense and they are a very notable program.”

What remains?

“Some other stuff that I kind of want to get to see is I want to get to know the dudes,” Smith said. “I already know most of the LSU commis pretty well or the top targets or whatever you want to call them. I’ve obviously met some of the dude [at Georgia] that I was on the recruiting trip with but I want to get to know some of the other dudes just to see who I would be playing with if I did, you know, end up at Georgia.”

SENTELL’S INTEL

(the recent reads on DawgNation.com)

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