Justin Mascoll was a rising sophomore last summer. He was already highly-touted, but so far removed from his signing day that college visits seemed like advance work. It was real early.
He found out he really liked Clemson. Georgia? The Bulldogs were in it and already on the four-star defensive end, but there wasn’t any real momentum to it.
Much has changed. That was prior to, during and after G-Day. Mascoll is now the nation’s top weak-side defensive end and No. 6 overall prospect for his signing class by 247sports.
He called last Saturday’s #93KDay “amazing” and “unbelievable,” and said it now ranks as his best visit. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder from South Gwinnett High School in Metro Atlanta told DawgNation that UGA is now right there with Clemson.
“I’m just going to come out and say it,” Mascoll said. (Georgia) is right there with Clemson. I have good vibes about Clemson and Georgia. I don’t really know what I’m going to do with that yet.”
Mascoll had a busy week on the UGA recruiting front. He visited practice on Thursday. UGA receivers coach James Coley came by his school on Friday. That was the first day college coaches could visit high schools in the spring evaluation period.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is his primary recruiter, but Coley’s territory now covers Gwinnett County. Mascoll took a lot away from that trip to see the Bulldogs practice.
“I felt good about Georgia,” Mascoll said. “I loved the way the coaches coach and everything. I loved their energy at practice. I loved everything about that Georgia practice.”
UGA sees Mascoll in the Lorenzo Carter and Leonard Floyd role as an athletic outside linebacker with ample athleticism and speed to make plays. He likes that.
Which school has been recruiting him the hardest of late?
“I’d probably have to say UGA,” Mascoll said. “They are showing me the most attention right now.”
He’s already talking with his counselors about early graduation so he can be on campus next spring.
“I was already liking Georgia but it was just that feeling from the fans,” Mascoll said. “It was the excitement there. I really liked the excitement there. It really played a big role for me on that visit.”
Sophomore offensive tackle Max Wray is Georgia’s only commitment for the Class of 2018 so far. He’s already busy working the phones for the program just like he promised to after he made his commitment.
The 6-foot-6, 275-pound offensive tackle spoke to Mascoll last week.
“He called me the other day and said we really needed to go to UGA together and that we could make each other better,” Mascoll said. “That’s a big deal. That’s somebody I can always go to when I have questions about the university. He can tell me all the positives and negatives about it.”
Mascoll was asked what he felt the UGA football program would look like in 2018 under the momentum established so far by the current coaching staff.
“I feel like great things are on their way and who knows, I would really like to be a part of something big,” he said.
Add it all up. Georgia is suddenly in a very good spot with him.
“Everything is just feeling good,” Mascoll said “I am pretty sold on Georgia, but everything is kind of early. … They are definitely competing with Clemson right now.”
He agreed with the recent talk among top recruits that UGA right now is good, but can be great under new coach Kirby Smart, who delivered on getting 93,000 fans to attend G-Day.
“I just like the new staff there from watching them coach their players,” Mascoll said. “They coach them hard. I like to be coached hard. Because right now (at South Gwinnett) with coach (John) Small he coaches us hard. That’s what I need. I love to be coached hard. It seems coaching their guys hard is the new way at Georgia.
“I just love the new direction they are going in at Georgia. It is a new feel to me. It feels like everything has changed.”
He said that the program’s current pitch is “really working with him” so far. Smart also made sure to talk to him at G-Day.
“Coach Smart has just told me they are really recruiting you hard and telling me good things about Georgia and being real with me,” Mascoll said.
How does his interest in UGA compare to Clemson right now?
“I still really like Clemson,” Mascoll said. “But Georgia just has a lot of good things I am liking. Some plus signs. Not just football, but in academics, too.”
That’s one of those positive signs he mentioned. He plans to be a business major.
“Georgia has one of the best business programs in the country,” he said. “So why not look real hard at that?”
Mascoll will also take a hard look at Tennessee. He sounds well-versed in the football program, but still needs to learn more about the academic side of that scholarship opportunity. Florida and Ole Miss are two other programs which intrigue him, he said.
North Carolina was the only other school he visited this spring other than UGA. He felt North Carolina was also a “good school that has a lot offer,” but doesn’t really know a lot about that program yet.
If you see a trend, that’s the one to spot. Mascoll wants to play in the South.
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.