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The second chapter of DawgNation's series on 5-star DT Maason Smith looks at both Georgia and LSU.

Maason Smith: Comparing his recent visits to check out Georgia and LSU

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? This Intel entry serves as Part II from a wide-ranging interview with 5-star DT Maason Smith. The first part detailed how his life and upbringing will shape his decision, beginning with his unique first name

Maason Smith sometimes feels like 5-star Georgia QB commit Brock Vandagriff.

That’s the example the future communications major used to describe his feeling on the LSU campus. Smith was in Baton Rouge last weekend on a recruits-led tour of the campus of the defending national champions.

“If I were to go to Georgia I would be the new kid,” Maason Smith said. “But at LSU I’m more of a Brock Vandagriff. I’ve been there a hundred million times. I’ve been there not on recruiting trips. I’ve been there just to go there. I’ve got friends that go there. I’ve been there not on a recruiting trip or not even talking to the coaches.”

“The biggest difference is when I am at Georgia, I don’t know everything about Georgia. So it makes me wonder what if I like Georgia more than the other schools that I like.”

When he thinks Death Valley, it brings an altogether different vibe.

“With LSU it is like ‘Ok, what if I don’t like other schools as much as I like LSU?’ and I know everything about LSU already. I’ve got that block done. I’m trying to fill in the blocks for all the other schools that I haven’t got to know as much as LSU.”

“Tooka” took another visit of the same sort on the last weekend in August. He was a part of a Vandagriff-hosted tour of all things UGA. Per the current NCAA dead period, those trips could not include any face-to-face interaction with the coaches.

“I honestly think Georgia and LSU are very similar recruiting wise,” Smith said. “Those are definitely like the top 3 in schools that check on your family and have a family feel. They definitely have a family feel. Georgia defensive wise hasn’t put out a defensive lineman [to the NFL] since 2012 or 2013. But at the same time, this class will be Tray Scott’s first [recruiting] class going into the draft. We’ll see what happens this year but they are known for a good defense. They are a very notable program.”

“I have family there. I have people there. If I go to Georgia, I know my Mom wants to move back to Georgia. I would have my Mom and I know I would have support from everyone around me. Just meeting the people out in Georgia the environment is definitely a very good environment. That’s some stuff that checks off.”

A tough December 16 decision awaits Maason Smith

How does he compare the two trips? That seems like a natural step in understanding his eventual decision Smith publicly has a top 8 and yet it sounds there is a smaller group of priority options beyond that. Smith emphatically said in Part I he will play college football with 5-star DE Korey Foreman.

Foreman and Smith were side-by-side on both visits. They got to know one another very well in Athens while sitting in a truck bed. Of all things.

“That is literally my best friend,” Smith said of Foreman.

They were talking more than just about Smith’s 82 tackles he racked up as a junior in 2019. Those plays included 24 stops behind the line of scrimmage. A great many of those were solo tackles, too. It shows why he’s rated as the nation’s No. 3 DT for 2021. He’s probably underrated with that.

Vandagriff shared a story from the table at Mellow Mushroom in Athens over the weekend with DawgNation. 

“Korey he looked us in the eye at dinner,” Vandagriff said. “He said and these were his exact words ‘I’ve never felt a vibe like this before’ and he said ‘This group is special right here’ and he wasn’t wrong. That group, it was awesome.”

They are part of the UGA group chat together with the rest of the program’s commitments and elite targets. What Foreman said there about a “special” vibe was not news to him.

“That’s honestly what he talks about,” Smith said. “That’s honestly all he talks about.”

 

The story behind the “legendary” truckbed pictures at UGA

Vandagriff said the truck bed picture flush right was “legendary” and even took a 20-star selfie of his own with just Foreman, 5-star OT Amarius Mims and Smith.

Maason Smith-Korey Foreman-Georgia recruiting
Check out the 32 stars of prospect rankings in this pic, including Maason Smith at far left. That’s a lot of stars in one truckbed. (Instagram)

Most of the guys in that photo had never been fishing before. Smith grew up in a fishing town in Houma in Louisiana. He knew what to do.

Few would guess that the boys spent 90 minutes hooting and hollering and learning about everyone in that truck bed. It brings a whole new dimension to the term tailgating in Athens.

That will be highly limited, if allowed at all, during the 2020 season. But what if the most impactful Georgia football tailgating took place on that last weekend in August?

“We were fishing and we got back and we were all stinky,” Smith said. “Then, just like Brock said, we were literally outside in that truck bed for like 90 minutes after we went fishing. The gnats were coming out. Mosquitos. Just talking about random stuff. Other dudes or other schools or just talk about life. Stories we all got from home.”

He will not forget something his “best friend” from California had never experienced.

“You know when it is dark the crickets like to make noise from out in the woods?” Smith said. “How you can hear it coming from the woods? Well, Korey had never heard that in his life. He said. I was like ‘Bruh, that is weird’ and yeah that was just funny. But Brock was right, we literally sat outside for about an hour and 30 minutes. Just talking.”

What does Smith need to check off with the boxes in his mind for UGA?

“I want to get to know the dudes,” Smith said. “I already know most of the LSU commits pretty well. The top targets or whatever you want to call them. I want to get to know those guys at Georgia. I’ve obviously met some of the dudes I was on the recruiting trip with but that’s not all the recruits. So I want to meet some of the other dudes to see who I would be playing with if I did end up at Georgia.”

Vandagriff’s good friend, Peyton Shedd, helped host the group on those truckbeds. He graduated from Prince Avenue a year ago and is now at nearby Truett-McConnell on a golf scholarship.

Those two have stayed in touch.

“That’s my boy,” Smith said during the flow of the interview. “That’s my ‘Dawg. I’m talking to Peyton right now as we speak. I am texting him right now.”

Brock Vandagriff-Georgia recruiting-Georgia football
Smith said he considers it a benefit to have a relationship with other 5-star recruits like Korey Foreman, Amarius Mimis and Brock Vandagriff to now talk to. They can relate to the pressures of being an elite national recruit. (Courtesy photo)

How does Maason Smith really feel about LSU? 

There were several things he brought up in regard to what he likes best about LSU.

“Obviously it is closer to home,” Smith said. “I know if I went to LSU the whole city of Houma Louisiana would be amazed. I know I would make a lot of people proud around here and I also know like I could definitely play as a freshman if I went there. I know those coaches love me to death just for the simple fact they’ve been talking to me on visits since I was, dang, now in the eighth grade.”

“I know it is true love if you know what I mean. The environment there and the players there I have grown up going to camps. Especially this 2020 class. I have grown up with most of them. It is kind of like you grow a certain type of bond. I think that is one of the biggest parts here about them.”

LSU is one of the nation’s elite programs. They are the defending champions and that staff is flush with charismatic, intelligent and highly-successful veteran recruiters.

“It is kind of hard to say no to them,” Smith said. “Just because of the simple fact that I have grown up as a football player being in LSU’s backyard and having easy access to go to LSU. But as I get older, I realized that LSU is not the only school. You know?”

Foreman has not grown up in that environment. Smith established that he 100 percent plans to play with Foreman in college. Does their connection complicate things there?

Do they both have to have the same top school? Or do they compromise? Maybe go with one person’s first choice and the close second for the other?

“To be honest, I think that we are pretty solid,” Smith said on Monday. “Like school wise. Where we really feel is best for us. Oh, it is honestly like we talk about this like every day. We didn’t talk today, though. That surprises me but he was still in Baton Rouge today.”

Foreman has released a top 7 which includes Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Howard, LSU, Oregon and USC. Smith’s top 8 from July 4 has Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Oregon and USC in common there. The other three top schools for Smith are Florida, Miami and Oklahoma.

“We always have conversations about that because obviously some schools he has in his top list like Clemson I never got offered by Clemson so that is not going to happen,” Smith said. “He’s never been offered by Oklahoma and stuff like that.”

Smith can’t play for a school that hasn’t offered him. And vice versa.

“We are very invested in playing with each other and if a school doesn’t have the interest in both of us it is kind of like ‘Goodbye’ and stuff like that,” he said. “But for the most part, our top schools are very similar. Our real top schools. You know you’ve got a top eight but at least one or two of those schools you don’t really talk to like that. For the most part, our tops are pretty much similar.”

Maason Smith clearly intends to play with fellow 5-star Korey Foreman in college. (Maason Smith/Instagram)

Player relationships will be key for Maason Smith

The well-known “visit rush” has worn off from that late August trip to UGA for Smith. What now remains in his mind about Athens?

“Just getting to know the actual players at Georgia,” he said. “Some of the stuff we did. Fishing trips. That was just for us. We did that. Nobody else. And just hanging out with the boys late at night. That’s when everything really comes out. You have those deep conversations. That’s when everything comes up that you really want to be known. Having those conversations with them about stuff that has happened in life that has happened to them. Stuff that has happened in my life.”

“Not even talking recruiting. Not even talking Georgia football. Like schools that we like that we are actually considering other than Georgia. You can’t really do that with other people. If I were to say that to somebody from a different school, I would get flack for that. I would get something from that. With them being like that, some of them are committed. But they also understand the recruiting process so they were just going through it.”

He chopped up the pressures of recruiting with his own focus group of 5-stars like Foreman, Mims and Vandagriff.

“I don’t have anybody around me like that who I can talk to like that,” he said.

Smith said his next trip would definitely be Alabama or Miami. He did grow up a fan of the Crimson Tide.

“I really do like Alabama,” Smith said. “But they recruit differently than LSU or Georgia or Miami. They all have their different styles. This doesn’t determine my decision at all. I’m not scared of competition but I know Alabama had another highly-rated defensive tackle commit to them already. When he committed, they obviously called me because they didn’t want me to think that they are not going to recruit me anymore.”

He said the Tide wants him to play the ‘5’ technique across their front.

“They already had a bigger dude taking up the ‘3’ and that is good with me because a ‘5’ tech makes more money anyway so I’m not really tripping about it,” Smith said.

Smith said over the last 10 years he realizes Alabama has been the “best program” in college football.

“There’s a different standard there,” he said.

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. 

Maason Smith: Breaking down that Georgia visit

Georgia was new. He’d never been there. That’s basically it.

“I didn’t know where to go,” Smith said. “I didn’t know anybody. I had never been to Athens before. I went and it was kind of seeing different things. I had never seen the University of Georgia before.”

He was just walking around. A young man far from his home state.

“But people still know me,” Smith said. “People were still going up to me downtown in Georgia asking me to take pictures and stuff. It was kind of like a different environment. A different everything. I think the new is always good. Seeing new things. That’s what I really took out of the visit. It was something new that I could see myself being at in half a year or whenever I go to college.”

Smith had been scheduled to see the Bulldogs three times previously. It always fell through. Even though he has some family in Georgia. They are not his immediate family, but what he described as more “down the line” relatives.

But he finally made that UGA trip.

“I’m trying to go at least one time before singing 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.”

 

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a three-part series culled from a very recent conversation with Smith. Why does a recruiting story need three chapters out of just one interview? 

This junior highlight film below will validate the 5-star ability of such a vital recruit for the 2021 class in Athens, Baton Rouge, Eugene, Los Angeles and Miami, among other programs. It is a very impressive “Tooka” tape.

SENTELL’S INTEL

(the recent reads on DawgNation.com)

 

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