VIDALIA, Ga. — For most of us, the first thing that comes to mind when the word “Vidalia” comes up are those onions. Football coaches would have a different opinion.
That south Georgia town is home to the fastest linebacker in America this fall. That statement, although pretty steep, would not inspire much debate. A few track times from this spring support that and make another compelling case: Junior linebacker Nate McBride is the most unique athlete on the UGA wish list for 2017.
Demetris Robertson, who shocked the recruiting world on Sunday by choosing Cal over UGA, was timed at 10.73 seconds in the 100 meters at the Class A state sectional last week. UGA signee Mecole Hardman, who might even play faster than he sprints, ran his 100 in 10.64 seconds.
Those two guys, both seniors, are elite athletes. Yet both weigh less than 190 pounds. So how does one size up McBride then?
SEC linebackers aren’t even supposed to be able to catch the Hardmans and Robertsons of the world, but McBride (with a low 100 laser time of 10.5 seconds) has the wheels to.
There are fast linebackers and then there is Vidalia junior Nate McBride. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
McBride, who missed his junior season with wrist and hand injuries suffered in a fluke car accident, has dealt with hamstring and quadriceps pulls this spring during track. That sounds likely given all the speed and power in his legs at 228 pounds. McBride, rated as the nation’s No. 2 inside linebacker for 2017, was laser timed at 10.63 seconds in the 100 while healthy this spring. Most guys who run that fast are not pushing 230.
The Vidalia junior’s recruiting timeline began in track season. His first offers came when he was a sophomore, and the clips got out of him beating Robertson in the sprints by a few steps at meets.
McBride also just got back to his old bench press max of 405 pounds this spring. He’s woefully underrated as the nation’s No. 68 overall prospect for 2017, but that’s a nod to the fact he didn’t play last fall or camp anywhere this spring.
Ratings are subjective. The reality is that Alabama coach Nick Saban asked that McBride call him while he was at the NFL Draft. The two discussed where the Tide players were going to get picked. When the subject of McBride’s tweaked hamstring came up, the Alabama coach told him about the new hamstring machine the Tide has purchased for its weight room.
Saban also came to see McBride the Wednesday after Alabama won its national championship. Former UGA inside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, who was his lead recruiter, always called McBride “Big Nate” and always introduced him as the fastest linebacker in America to others when he was on campus.
McBride has decided to play in the U.S. Army All-American Game in Texas next January. That’s also when he is expected to announce his decision.
“I kind of like the Army All-American game to decide, but I might do it before,” McBride said. “I don’t want to do it too late.”
It also appears to be a four-team race for McBride. He likes UGA, Alabama and Auburn as his top schools. Oregon is also just off that lead pack. Notre Dame and Stanford are also candidates for official visits.
He does not claim any leaders, but the in-state school is appealing to him.
“I liked both the old Georgia and now the new Georgia,” McBride said. “You go to a practice and all the coaches are new. But they have already become fast friends. The coaches battle it out with the offense and defense in the practices. The practices are a lot more intense than the previous practices. They’ve got something good with Coach (Kirby) Smart being there.”
McBride noted it is different going to visit Smart on campus now that he’s a head coach.
McBride’s lowest laser time in the 100 meters was at 10.5 seconds. He will be running back and linebacker again this fall. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
“In the past I could go and hang out with him all day,” McBride said. “You don’t see him as much. I can speak to him a lot and he’ll find some time for me but he also has to meet with 10 different other prospects. Its different in that way, but once I get to talking to him he’s still the same guy.”
He was impressed by G-Day and that spectacle. So how does all of that add up to how he feels about UGA?
“I like Georgia a lot, but still don’t have a leader, though,” McBride said. “I’m still trying to decide.”
McBride sounds like a recruit who will likely never name a leader before his commitment. That just seems to be the way he wants to go about it.
He’s also good friends with UGA quarterback commit Jake Fromm. Those two have a close enough relationship that Fromm told McBride he was going to flip from Alabama to UGA in advance of that decision.
McBride discussed his up-and-down junior year with DawgNation in the video interview above, plus all the latest on his schools. Check out the video for these answers to the following questions:
- He’s dealt with injuries across his junior year — How has that affected him?
- What does he think about the new UGA?
- When does he plan on making his college decision?
- What is the lure from Alabama?
- Auburn has made a big push. How does he feel about the Tigers?
- What did he appreciate about Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s approach?
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. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.