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Jeff Sentell/DawgNation
Luke Ford moved UGA into a three-way tie for his top school with Alabama and Michigan.

Nation’s No. 2 TE Luke Ford moves UGA into a 3-way tie as his top school

Jeff Sentell

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. The budget for Tuesday calls for a chat with Luke Ford about the recent development with 5-star QB Justin Fields choosing Georgia. 

What does that mean for Ford? Read on. 

 

Luke Ford is one of the best interviews in the 2018 class. That’s because he means what he says. 

The 6-foot-5.5, 250-pound tight end has earned a few Rob Gronkowski comparisons, and I can see that with him both on and off the field.

Luke Ford-UGA recruiting
Luke Ford ranks as the nation’s No. 2 tight end in the 247Sports composite rankings and also as the No. 47 player overall. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

This Ford came off the assembly line with all the size, toughness and ability he could ask for in his DNA.

The factory left out all the doubletalk other recruits use which sometimes can filter out how they actually feel.

If Ford (Carterville HS/Carterville, Ill.) wanted to run for office, he would compel folks to listen. Would they always agree with his views? Probably not. But every potential backer would know that he wasn’t just saying something because a focus group told him to lean only so slightly in a certain direction.

It wasn’t long after Justin Fields committed to UGA that Ford and I had a conversation about this story. That’s the one where Ford made it clear he would most likely follow Fields to Alabama or Georgia. 

When he said that, he already really liked both of those schools. He also played with Fields on the team that won Nike’s “The Opening” 7-on-7 tournament with ease. They became fast friends.

“You can still say that Justin and I are BFFs,” Ford said among many, many laughs during our chat.

Ford, the No. 1 player in Illinois in the Class of 2018, views Fields as a difference maker at quarterback.

“To play with a guy who I feel should be the No. 1 player in the nation at quarterback and then see the No. 1 RB in the nation going to Georgia?” Ford said in July. “If that running back goes to Georgia and then they get Justin, I mean, yeah, how can that not influence me? That’s like a check and a check there. That would be Georgia crossing off everything I need. I already liked that Georgia visit, too.”

How does Ford feel now about what he said in July? He said he’s received numerous screenshots of his thoughts about that since Fields committed on Friday.

“I think Alabama, Georgia and Michigan and are all tied,” Ford said. “I think Arkansas, Auburn and Texas are below it.”

Teenagers are known for changing their minds, but this seems different. His older brother, Noah, somehow also always seems to have a Georgia hat on.

What Justin Fields to UGA means for Luke Ford

Here are a few things I know about Luke Ford:

  • He committed rashly the first time to Arkansas. Ford didn’t research all his options properly and will not make a hasty decision the second time.
  • It was a grown-up moment for him to de-commit from Arkansas and immediately find himself very interested in both Alabama and Georgia. He visited Georgia the day after he de-committed from Arkansas.
  • When he didn’t make any new commitments over the summer, that showed just how serious he was about taking things much slower with his next commitment.

There were a lot of reports about Ford this summer which stated that Alabama was the leader. Those raised an eyebrow. I thought that Georgia, plus at least one other team, would eventually loom very large when it came to his final decision.

His family is very comfortable with any decision he makes, but they have expressed that the Bulldogs were strongly in the mix. Ford said at The Opening that Alabama was his leader but that the Bulldogs were in a small pack that was maybe a tenth of a second behind.

Tim Ford, his father, shared his opinion on that subject.

“I don’t know if you should pay that much attention to what Luke is saying about that,” Tim Ford said in July. “I think it is a lot more Georgia than it is Alabama and don’t have any problem with saying that. We hear the other talk. We hear the dinner-table talk.”

Luke Ford-UGA recruiting
Luke Ford says he plans to go slow with his college decision and could take until January or February to announce his choice. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

What will Ford need to see to break that three-way tie?

“I am going to have to see all of those schools for official visits and unofficial visits but I am also going to have to see Georgia light up Isaac Nauta in this Vanderbilt game,” Ford said.

That’s interesting. Ford told DawgNation that he records and watches all the games his major contenders play.

He’ll watch them live and go back and re-watch them. That’s very much like fans do.

But fans don’t have the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect texting them. Ford does.

“He’s been talking to me for a couple of weeks now,” Ford said about Fields. “He’s been like, ‘Hey, I want to play college football with you’ and ‘I want you to come with me’ and stuff, so he’s been in my ear. I mean Fields is an awesome guy and an amazing quarterback, and I love Fields.

“Who knows? I may have to go join him and Zeus [Zamir White] there. I mean, there’s Zeus to Athens and then there is also the Fields to Athens stuff.”

What’s the timeline for his next decision?

“I think that I am going to wait it out until February,” Ford said. “Or until the Army All-American game.”

Ford played with what eventually was diagnosed as a broken collarbone in the first few games of his senior season. He tried to battle it but had to stop playing. He is healing rapidly, however, and could return for the final two games of the high school season and then the state playoffs.

The 4-star recruit said he could take an unofficial visit to Georgia for a game this season and then an official visit in December or January.

Luke Ford also really likes Alabama and Michigan

There’s a balance which also must be brought up here. Ford also sounds keenly aware of all the many things that Alabama does well. He loves new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Daboll used to coach Rob Gronkowski.

“I love Alabama,” Ford said. “Brian Daboll used to coach for the Patriots and they used tons of tight ends. … You know they are going to win national championships and are a great team.”

Daboll used to coach Rob Gronkowski. But Ford also knows that Michigan gets the ball to its tight ends more this year than either Alabama or Georgia. Those two SEC teams have thrown it to their tight ends at just about the same rate, but both trail Michigan in that category.

“I love coach (Jim) Harbaugh,” Ford said. “They use the tight ends like crazy. I have seen their three tight end sets on the field at multiple times. I love all the coaches there as well. Michigan is also a really great school and who doesn’t love “The Big House” and their 115,000 fans?”

How close is Luke Ford’s connection with Justin Fields? 

Ford knew it was coming, but he was still happy to see Fields find his college fit last Friday.

Luke Ford-UGA recruiting
Luke Ford said he hears from Georgia’s coaching staff at least twice per day. He usually receives texts from offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and tight ends coach Shane Beamer. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

“The first thing I thought of when I saw he committed was ‘Man, I’ve got to go to….,'” Ford said.

He was kidding there. I think. Ford likes to have fun.

“Nah,” Ford said. “What I really said was that was a good spot for him. I was really happy for him. He and I are really good friends. … I think he made the right decision.”

That said, Justin Fields is not the only one doing the tugging to bring Ford to Athens.

“I love all of their coaches,” Ford said. “I love coach [Jim] Chaney. He’s awesome and I love coach [Shane] Beamer so much and coach Kirby [Smart] and I just love all the coaches at Georgia really. They are all really good guys. … I liked the tight end usage last year, but this year Isaac Nauta has been keyed on so he hasn’t gotten as many balls.”

Ford also predicted that Georgia would beat Vanderbilt by a 41-10 margin (actual score was 45-14) last week. That’s a pretty good indicator that he really was watching all those games each and every week.

He likes to cut up and laugh, but he also pays very close attention to what he sees.