Buckle up. Bring the popcorn.
Today marks another stretch run in a flurry of recruiting news for the UGA football program. It is within the realm of possibility to even expect a commitment to go up on the board today.
There are five days left before another dead period kicks in and shuts face-to-face contact down between recruits and coaches in the Class of 2016. There are now just nine more shopping days until National Signing Day.
What went down this weekend? Perhaps you were too busy shoveling snow by that three-inches-at-a-time method? Here’s a quick rundown of everything that went down in UGA football recruiting over the last 72 hours. There was more than just a good official visit by 5-star defensive tackle Derrick Brown to pay attention to.
The weekend’s BIG recruiting stories
5-star changes direction because of the weather
Mecole Hardman, Jr. was supposed to take a visit to Alabama this weekend. That’s the school he has announced as his leader and the relationship he has built with former UGA defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is strong. Pruitt now holds that same post at Alabama.
Hardman, who is rated as the No. 1 athlete in America for the Class of 2016, did not make the trip because of the weather. But he did make another trip. That was to Athens for the weekend to hang out with the staff and the incoming recruits on their official visits.
Hardman does change direction and reverse his field better than any recruit in years. This was another example of that.
A smart theory is to watch the actions of a recruit and not just their words. The moves Hardman made showed he was able to make it to Athens this weekend. That’s big. Alabama’s best chance to reel him in had to include getting him on campus to hang with a mess of 5-star peers in Tuscaloosa over the weekend.
It would be a shock to see Hardman get pulled out of state at this point. He also leaves for the International Bowl in Texas on Tuesday so Kirby Smart’s visit last Thursday should be his last in-home meeting with a head coach.
UGA adds a massive mauler for new-look OL
Size matters in football. Always has always will.
That’s one reason why Smart felt an immediate need for the program was to get bigger on both sides of the ball. UGA did that this weekend with the commitment of Florida offensive lineman Solomon Kindley (Jacksonville, Fla.) to its 2016 class.
Hardman’s decision was huge, but Kindley’s news is the same as everything about the guy: Big.
He’s about 6-foot-5 and probably now weighs at least 340 pounds after all the helpings of steak and shrimp he could fork from his Saturday night dinner at Sanford Stadium. He’s a big man, but he also plays down low for his high school basketball team. Kindley is adept enough in that sport to average 10 points per game over his last few contests for Raines High.
Road graders that can move. Kindley is just a 3-star recruit, but he fits the template for what new UGA offensive line coach Sam Pittman is looking for going forward. Big guys. Lots of them.
5-star: Alabama has moved ahead of UGA
Ben Davis (Gordo, Ala.) is rated as the nation’s top prospect at inside linebacker. He said UGA was his leader after Kirby Smart was hired, but that status changed after his official visit to Alabama this weekend.
This should not come as a surprise. He’s an in-state recruit and his father is the all-time leading tackler at Alabama.
How has UGA handled his recruitment of late? Now, that’s pretty interesting. It appears the staff has made the decision to invest its time into recruits they feel have a better chance of signing with UGA.
Auburn commit enjoys UGA official so much he plans another trip
David Marshall is committed to Auburn, but he told DawgNation that UGA gained ground on their SEC West rivals this weekend. Marshall took his official to UGA and now sounds like he will probably bypass a planned official visit to Ole Miss to return to UGA this weekend.
He wants to get another look and hang out with UGA commitment Tyler Clark on another visit weekend. Those two are warming to the thought of playing together in Athens.
Marshall said he was still committed to Auburn and won’t have a final decision until National Signing Day. A few things to pay attention to from his visit recap would be that he feels strongly about a UGA degree and also said his family has signed off on the thought of him in Athens if that becomes his final decision. He also had a glowing review of his potential line coach.
Rock stars enter Stegeman Coliseum
UGA has added another weapon into its January official visit weekend bag of tricks. UGA’s big recruits entered Stegeman Coliseum on Saturday night from the bowels of the arena and were draped in applause from a home crowd who was very happy to see them.
That’s another Smart move. The decisions of impressionable 18-year-old boys sway on “gut feelings” and “chill-bump moments” and that tactic is sure to inspire a few of those.
Smart also addressed the crowd and challenged the fans to fill Sanford Stadium with 93,000 patrons for the spring game this year.
Everything about the program under Smart seems to be about doing it bigger and better. Why should we not try to fill our stadium for the spring game? Alabama has done it. Auburn has also packed them in for a spring game. Why not Georgia?
Smart has told several recruits he wants to build a dynasty in Athens. No limit UGA? That sounds like what Smart wants.
Who will be the kicker this fall?
Marshall Morgan has exhausted his eligibility. So who will kick those extra points and field goals next fall?
Metro Atlanta kicker Mitchell Wasson filled in some details on that situation yesterday. He was also at UGA on his official visit even though he has not been offered a scholarship. He’s wanted as a preferred walk-on who will have to earn the job and then a scholarship by performing well during the season.
He discussed his options and also what he thinks of a similar opportunity at Alabama. He’s planning an unofficial visit there next week.
The staff wasted no time getting back on the recruiting trail
It seemed like the coaching staff barely had time to eat a Moon-Pie after those official visits before getting back on the trail. Smart and company were quickly in Alabama on Sunday night at the home of Florida commitment Jeawon Taylor . Check out the pictures that were tweeted out by Taylor and his family.
— J-Sav ✈️ (@__kok___) January 25, 2016
UGA needs a big physical safety in this recruiting class. Taylor is also a key to having a chance with 5-star OLB Lyndell “Mack” Wilson. Wilson still favors Florida and those two are close.
— Jeanetta Taylor (@Softballqn80) January 25, 2016
Look at new assistant coach Glenn Schumann going after the hot sauce. Good for him. Jeanetta Taylor, his mother, apparently feels at home around the UGA staff. She took a couple of “selfies” with Schumann and new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker during her son’s official visit to UGA this month.
Pittman was in South Georgia last night meeting with another priority in Chris Barnes. Barnes is committed to UGA, but this was a good visit for his future line coach to take early in the week.
Great visit with coach Pittman! Go dawgz ??? pic.twitter.com/BVHM0b3XzZ
— Chris Barnes (@bigman6178) January 25, 2016
Smart and Pittman were already back at it on Monday morning to use his visit this week with E.J. Price at Archer High School. Price told DawgNation.com on Friday that he had already grown close to Pittman in just a short time. This was Smart’s only face-to-face meeting off campus with Price this month, but the 6-foot-6 Under Armour All-American is expected to take his official visit to UGA this week.
— Ej Price (@Ej_Price77) January 25, 2016
Remember that part about watching the actions? Well, it works both ways. The actions of the coaching staff during this last flurry of recruiting activity reveals what they really want and need for the program, too. They won’t invest precious time in lost causes.
Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.