Jeff Sentell/DawgNation
Five-star linebacker Owen Pappoe rates on the 247Sports composite as the nation's No. 1 outside linebacker for 2019.

Nation’s No. 1 junior LB Owen Pappoe is UGA’s top undecided target in his class

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 play sheet for Tuesday calls for a chat with 5-star junior linebacker Owen Pappoe. Pappoe ranks on the 247Sports composite as the nation’s No. 1 OLB and No. 5 overall prospect for 2019. 

Owen Pappoe watched the National Championship Game between Georgia and Alabama with more than a casual interest.

Was it really just a week ago? He said during the Under Armour Future 50 event earlier this month that the game would make somewhat of an impact on his college decision.

What did he think coming out of that game?

“Both teams played their hearts out,” Pappoe said. “I’m sure UGA is gonna use that as motivation to make another playoff run this [2018] season.”

The Under Armour Future 50 session offered another chance to chat with Pappoe. It seems like we’ve been covering his recruiting since Donald Trump was just a reality TV star.

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Five-star junior LB Owen Pappoe is a priority target for the Bulldogs in 2019. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Pappoe wore a Nebraska hat with an Ohio State sweatshirt. Those were the visual cues. He also had a red UGA backpack on. He later admitted that he “might” have had a pair of Bulldogs socks on, too.

The key word was might. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound prospect said it was just a look.

“It went with the outfit,” Pappoe said.

UGA fans would be pleased to hear that Pappoe doesn’t hear only from the coaches at UGA. He said 5-star junior DE/OLB commit Nolan Smith is always in his ear.

But there’s an even better football player than that who has worn the red and black who has become someone he can talk to about the way things would be at Georgia.

That’s All-American Roquan Smith.

“Roquan talks to me all the time,” Pappoe said, who noted he also hears from UGA freshmen Jaden Hunter and Malik Herring. “He’s [been] telling me for years to come, that their defense is just going to get better and better. He says he can see me [being] a part of it, too. Making a lot of plays. He said that one day I can be in the NFL.”

Pappoe shared that with a deep sense of admiration for Smith.

“He is just fast, physical and relentless,” Pappoe said. “He never lets up. If you saw that first half against Oklahoma, he didn’t have the best game. He came out the second half and started making the plays. He came up with that big stop and that big hit in the overtime period, too.”

The January change-up from 5-star Owen Pappoe 

The nation’s No. 1 junior outside linebacker, who comes from Grayson High School in Loganville, Ga., said he still plans to enroll early. But there was a time where he was going to commit in early January. He was even thinking about becoming the first elite junior to commit at that Future 50 event.

“I was going to commit today,” Pappoe said on Jan. 3. “Like out of a 100 percent, I was probably 95.”

Grayson HS 5-star Owen Pappoe (right) and 4-star Upson-Lee DT Travon Walker (left) are two of Georgia’s biggest needs for 2019. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

So why the pause button?

“I am going to think it over a little bit more before I make a decision,” he said.

Pappoe joined seemingly half the two-deep at Grayson this past weekend for an unofficial visit to Tennessee. If one thing can be counted on, it will be that Tennessee recruiting under new coach Jeremy Pruitt will operate with a trail of Red Bull cans in its wake.

The successes might not pile up yet, but the Volunteers should recruit with the intensity all the national powers do.

He shared his recap of the Tennessee visit.

“It went well,” Pappoe said. “He let me know what his plan was to help bring success back to the program.”

It wasn’t rocket science.

“He’s going to apply a more physical brand of football, and as far as the recruiting goes, he’s attacking the 2019 class hard,” Pappoe said.

Look for Grayson’s 5-star to take three official visits during the spring. He’ll save his final two for the season ― or at least that’s his current plan. The top two contenders for Pappoe are clearly Clemson and Georgia, but Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee could jump into the mix.

Those very likely seem like his five official-visit contenders.

Why Owen Pappoe took a pause from his decision 

Pappoe has a longtime stated top-2 of Clemson and Georgia. Did the delay mean he wanted to explore those two further? Or did it mean another elite pack of schools had caught up with the lead group?

Owen Pappoe-Dawgnation
Owen Pappoe told DawgNation that he plans to enroll early in 2019. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

The answer was actually none of the above.

“It was like all the coaching changes,” Pappoe said. “You know with Pruitt going to Tennessee and all, I just wanted to see what he had to offer over there. Auburn is also coming back into the picture for me, too.”

Pappoe has a very strong relationship with Auburn linebackers coach Travis Williams. It seems as if Williams does with everyone he recruits. That guy has a way with linebackers.

What if that coaching carousel did not spin round and round and round across the SEC last month? Pappoe said it was a safe bet that he would have committed earlier this month.

That leads one to make the natural conclusion that Pappoe was set on either Clemson or Georgia.

Strength vs. strength: Clemson vs. Georgia for Owen Pappoe

How does Pappoe compare the two? What goes through his mind when he considers what he likes the best about Clemson and compares that to the home-state fit in Athens?

“Clemson is a real family environment,” Pappoe said. “Everybody knows everybody. They are going to make sure you are straight over there, and they are going to give you what you need to succeed. Georgia is right in my backyard. Anytime I want to go to my family, I can drive right down whenever I want. All my friends will be close. I know a lot of people in Athens, too. I am really very comfortable at both places.”

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Owen Pappoe said he always has liked the vibe he gets from the coaches at Georgia. That goes back to a different staff when he was in middle school. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

The Tigers see him as a hybrid safety. He would pop up all over their schemes like the queen on a chess board. He’s certainly got the athletic ability to cover all that ground. Dorian O’Daniel had that role last fall.

“It is kind of like a linebacker but they flex him out a lot to on slot receiver to cover,” Pappoe said. “They drop him back deep to cover guys at times, too.”

The Georgia staff views the nation’s No. 1 OLB prospect for 2019 as an inside linebacker.

It will probably forever be referred to as the “Roquan” position.

He said he could not distinguish which school between the two has been recruiting him harder. Pappoe also could not determine whether he likes the position fit at Clemson or Georgia more.

“I just want to make plays,” Pappoe said. “It really doesn’t matter that much to me.”

Does one school hold an edge over the other? In any area? It would take some time to sort it all, but there’s one area which might have a glimmer of that.

That’s his academics. He wants to major in business.

“I want to go into business,” Pappoe said. “Georgia’s business program is really good. I would say that Georgia is about a foot ahead of Clemson on that.”

He did acknowledge he has had an internal leader, but has never revealed publicly. The nation’s No. 5 overall junior prospect said he’s had that feeling for a couple of months about a certain school.

It has evolved into a contest of whether  any school can knock that team from his private No. 1 spot.

“I try to see what the other schools have that they do not have,” Pappoe said.

Pappoe on UGA: ‘The coaches always just tell me how it is’

The connection for Pappoe and UGA goes back to his middle school days. That’s when he was offered by the previous staff in the summer between middle school and varsity ball.

“The coaches always just tell me how it is,” he said. “They never get so caught up in the recruiting, telling me lies and stuff.”

There was a prospect who made his commitment to UGA earlier this month. It was not widely reported because it wasn’t certain he had a legitimate offer. It is clear that both Pappoe and Trezman Marshall of Clinch County High School (Homerville, Ga.) have committable offers to join the Class of 2019 at the inside linebacker spot.

The Bulldogs are expected to take three of those for that cycle. JD Bertrand, a 4-star gem, already chose to commit to UGA last July.

Pappoe said UGA coach Kirby Smart simply asks him to stay home. Smart is a major factor in his recruiting, and he also has a relationship with inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann that has been strong and remains that way.

“His big thing that he pushes is the hometown heroes,” Pappoe said. “He says, ‘We have to keep the best players in the state,’ so that’s the main message from him.”

What else could UGA do at the moment to make sure that comes true?

“Right now what they are doing is fine,” Pappoe said. “They don’t have to change a thing.”

Recruiting fans will have to like the internal motivation of this young man. He’s the sort who found that hotel weight room even while he was on a recruiting showcase event. Other guys might be clowning, but he found his Grayson teammate Wanya Morris and put in some work during the Future 50.

Miss any Intel? The DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to speed just as fast as former Georgia All-America LB Roquan Smith can find the football after the snap.