Nation’s No. 1 guard Keiondre Jones feels Kirby Smart recruits him like a commit
Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way this 4-star or 5-star like Keiondre Jones might lean plus add some perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.
Keiondre Jones has a recruiting story that will require a box set.
That’s because the 2019 prospect has been on the scene for years. But there are still years to go before arrives on campus.
Alabama was his first offer in the spring of 2015. Auburn and Georgia followed a few months later. Those early offers hit the mark.
Jones now rates as the nation’s top guard and the No. 21 overall prospect for 2019. Where does the 6-foot-4, 313-pound prospect currently stand?
“I don’t know my school right now,” Jones said. “I’m probably going to make my decision early in my junior season and hope I have it figured out by then.”
Why the rush?
“I talk to a lot of my teammates and the people in my class and this last class,” Jones said. “They tell me how offers can get pulled and the slots for scholarships at certain schools get filled up. That shows me the need to commit earlier rather than later.”
The 4-star recruit was offered by Georgia in June of 2015. He wasn’t quite a month out of middle school.
He was awed by the process at that time. Naturally. The big in-state offer at such a physical position was a reflection of how the staff expected him to develop and mature.
His recruitment could be summed up in data points or journal entries.
March 13, 2016: Keiondre Jones has a Top 3
The Bulldogs were solidly in his Top 3 with Alabama and Tennessee. But the Crimson Tide had his full attention. Jones had five offers at that time. It meant an instant Top 5 with Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Louisville and Tennessee.
Jones said then UGA coach Kirby Smart was already recruiting him as if he was an in-state commitment. It still feels like that to this day.
Smart wanted Jones to help him work on his distant cousin. That was 5-star QB Emory Jones in the class of 2018. Jones would later commit to Ohio State.
At the time, the Callaway mauler felt he’d commit at some point of his junior year. It remains interesting how he hasn’t wavered from that feeling.
Jones was already describing his relationship with Smart as strong. With good reason.
If he eventually signs with UGA, then Smart will have known him for seven years by the time he sees his name above a locker in Athens.
“Kirby and I have always had a strong relationship ever since my first visit to Alabama for a camp back in the sixth grade,” Jones said then. “I feel by now that we can talk about anything.”
Smart extended his first offer. Jones had always been a huge Alabama fan. He grew up mostly an Alabama and a Georgia fan.
But the Crimson Tide took a late edge in middle school. He cited a personal relationship with Alabama LB Reuben Foster as an influence on his process.
Would he be a Saturday tackle? A defensive end? Maybe left guard? Coaches were all over the place at this time last year.
“I just love playing football,” Jones said. “As long as I am on the field doing something, I’m fine with that.”
Georgia was recruiting him harder than any other school. That would change.
He had a good word of advice for recruiters: Be sure to respect his Mom in the recruiting process. Jones carried a 3.25 grade-point average in the classroom then.
It already sounded like mother Antrenise Broughton had raised him up right.
“This is still so early,” Jones said. “I just try to treat every day like I still don’t have the first offer yet. That’s the best way I know how to handle all of this.”
December 27, 2016: Clemson is in the race
Jones had a new team on his mind. That was Clemson. He posted pictures wearing Clemson gear on Christmas Day across his social networks. He wore their purple and orange to the Elite Sophomores Classic check-in at McEachern High School.
Subtle message? Yeah.
“A lot of people think I’m all Georgia,” Jones said. “I do really like Georgia, but I just wanted to let people know I’m looking at other schools as well.”
He already had a Sam Pittman story.
“He calls all his guys ‘Freak’ or ‘Big Freak’ and I remember one time it was me and (2017 UGA signee) Justin (Shaffer) just laughing and talking about all things. We cut up like we had all known each other for years.”
Jones still felt Smart was the recruiter he knew the best. He said they had been close since his seventh-grade year.
“I know for a fact Clemson, Georgia and Alabama are going to be in the race for me, in the end, no matter what,” Jones said in December. “Those are the schools I’ve always been a big fan of. Those schools will be in it for me no matter who the coaches are there when it is my time to sign.”
He made the comment that the Georgia program was changing. Recruits talk. Jones saw that a lot of players who had silently told him they were going to Georgia were following through with those feelings.
“Georgia has got a big recruiting class in 2017 here,” Jones said. “But I also feel they will have a big haul in my class, too. There are a lot of guys in my class who already feel like they are going to Georgia.”
He said the Bulldogs would have a “wow class” if they could clean up in 2019.
Jones said Georgia felt right, but noted he only had strong ties to Pittman and Smart. He knew the staff at Clemson much better as a whole.
“My mom’s top school is probably Clemson,” Jones said in December. “She felt that pull to Clemson from the first time we went up there.”
He’d only played tackle for Callaway, but recruiters had started to project him to be an elite guard.
Clemson was his 14th offer. Yet Jones said the Tigers might have done the best job out of all the schools in extending their scholarship opportunity. But his mother also liked Georgia back in December, too.
“It is an overwhelming and an unbelievable joy to know Keiondre has his college education taken care of,” Broughton said. “It is a true blessing”
The Nolan Smith factor with Keiondre Jones
Nolan Smith — as you might have read around these parts — is committed to UGA. He’s a passionate ambassador for the program in the Class of 2019.
Smith and Jones go back. Pretty much like Smart and Jones. Smith first paired up with Jones at a prospect camp. They were very young, but they could clearly tell that they were the best on the field that day and remarkably advanced for their age.
Smith first paired up with Jones at a prospect camp. They were young, but they could clearly tell they were the best guys on the field that day.
The two became quick friends but also used one another as measuring sticks for skill development. Smith already lobbies Jones about Georgia. Hard.
“Nolan will Facetime me sometimes and ask ‘What are you waiting on?’ with everything,” Jones said. “He is a character man. I am real cool with him. That’s my boy.”
Jones made the trip to see UGA with the “True 19” class in January. He plans to be at G-Day with Smith on April 22.
“I feel I’m one of their top recruits right now,” Jones said of UGA.
The 4-star prospect teased Smith and others with his gear at the Atlanta Nike Opening regional. Jones had on two pieces of Clemson gear and a Tennessee item. His shorts carried the signature Georgia “G” on the leg.
Jones matched that with a pair of Georgia gloves.
“It just happened like that,” Jones said. “I told Nolan I was going to surprise him today so this is what I did. When he sees all this, he is going to go crazy. He will call me as soon as I leave out of here.”
April 2017: Clemson continues to stand out
Clemson seems to have true staying power.
Jones feels the Tigers still recruit him the hardest. The national champions send him about “five pieces of mail” every day. He said it feels like Clemson recruits him strategically at times but then follows that up with volume.
The Bulldogs also fall under that description. Those efforts come fast and furious for a time. But then it seems like quality replaces quantity. Jones is not sure how big Georgia’s O-line class will be for 2019, but he used a familiar phrase.
“It is going to be a ‘Wow’ class for Georgia in 2019 on the offensive line,” Jones said. “It may not be big in numbers, but I know Georgia will sign a lot of talent. How can they not with all the offensive linemen in the state for 2019?”
The nation’s No. 1 guard for 2019 said Alabama, Clemson and Georgia still look to be in it until the end.
Ohio State is a contender. Jones brought up the relationships he has with that program, but also noted his cousin (5-star QB Emory Jones) will be there by then.
Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman said something recently which seems to have really caught his ear.
“It was powerful,” Jones said. “Pittman said that we don’t need you at Georgia right now, but we really really want you regardless.”
That’s an interesting statement. The Bulldogs look to be overflowing with riches at guard by 2019.
UGA signed stalwarts Netori Johnson and Justin Shaffer in 2017 and look like the team to beat to beat for the nation’s top two guards for this cycle.
“He’s being real about it,” Jones said. “Especially considering the guys they are bringing in. He said that Georgia is going to now bring in the top guys to play the line. He told me they don’t need a player like me to come in and start, but they still really want me there on that team.”
Tennessee’s smoke gray jersey was his favorite uniform. Clemson ranks as his best recruiting trip. That took place last summer at a camp. It started out free flowing with very little organization, but it made a big impact.
Smart still ranks as the head coach he talks to the most.
His timeline affords the ability to track the evolution of an elite recruit in the modern era.
There will be 20 more months before he enrolls early in January of 2019. That’s hard to fathom.
Those size-18 battleship cleats have had themselves planted on the elite prospect stage for quite some time.