Good morning, DawgNation! A day after the announcement came that Kirby Smart was expected to be the next coach at UGA, reports indicated Mark Richt would fill the empty position at Miami.
Richt gets a chance to return home and lead his alma mater back to a spot among the nation’s elite teams. And while he is leaving talent-rich Georgia, there will be even more talent in South Florida.
It’s worth noting that three of Richt’s notable players at UGA — Isaiah McKenzie, Sony Michel and Marshall Morgan — attended American Heritage before being lured to Athens. American Heritage is roughly 30 miles from Miami. If Richt was able to recruit that level of talent from another state, imagine what he could do in their backyard.
Richt’s presence will make it harder to pull players out of South Florida in the future. Smart is one of the best recruiters in the business, but UGA’s ability to recruit in South Florida just got a lot tougher. With Jimbo Fisher, Jim McElwain and now Richt spurring a college football revival in Florida, Smart may be in for a bit of a fight.
Could Eason follow Richt to Miami?
Richt and his offensive philosophy were two big factors in Eason’s decision to commit to UGA. The two have developed a close relationship since his commitment in July of 2014. That could lead the 5-star quarterback to at least take an official visit down to Miami.
Eason’s high school coach told DawgNation yesterday that UGA fans shouldn’t be too concerned about the quarterback flipping schools. But Miami was one of Eason’s top schools before committing to UGA. He’s at Florida this week on an official visit, and could be heading back to the state for another one soon.
Nation’s No. 1 OLB will give UGA a chance
Smart’s relationship with Lyndell Wilson, a 5-star outside linebacker, began when Wilson was a freshman. Now, UGA stands to benefit from that bond. Wilson told SEC Country on Wednesday that UGA has “a good chance” because of Smart.
He will take an official visit to UGA in order to learn more about Smart’s new team. Wilson was supposed to announce his commitment on Dec. 4, but he postponed that plan due to recent coaching changes. The longer he waits, the more time UGA has to climb up his list.
Texas CB now has UGA in his Top 2
UGA was nowhere near the top of junior college cornerback Antonio Kanonu’s list of schools, but that changed yesterday. After learning of Smart’s expected acceptance to become Richt’s successor, Kanonu, who was recently rated a 5-star by one database, now has UGA with TCU atop his leaderboard.
The sudden change is because of Smart, who Kanonu said “is going to change the whole UGA program and bring it back up to its winning tradition.” That means winning national championships, and it’s why Kanonu, and several other top recruits, are very interested in UGA.
4-star drops UGA after Smart news
Malcolm Askew, a 4-star prospect from McCalla, Ala., nearly committed to UGA over the summer. The nation’s No. 13 athlete for 2017 has had UGA as his leader for a while since then, but that has changed.
The initial reaction from recruits after news broke that UGA planned to hire Smart was largely positive. This is an example of how coaching changes can have a negative impact on the recruiting trail. Askew’s high school is less than 45 miles from Tuscaloosa, but the projected cornerback never appeared to be high on Alabama.
Examining Smart’s potential recruiting impact
What makes Smart such an excellent recruiter? DawgNation reached out to some of the top high school coaches in Georgia to find out what separates Smart from the pack.
He’s already a well-known figure in the state, and that should only help him once he arrives at UGA. The high school coaches talked about how comfortable he makes everyone feel around him. A Georgia high school coach even shared a big compliment that Smart gave to him and his team while visiting for a practice.
Could a former football star join the new staff?
Hines Ward is no stranger to UGA. The prolific receiver was teammates with Smart from 1995-97 and expressed excitement about the move when he was on the Paul Finebaum Show Wednesday. Ward seemed confident that Smart could take their former team to the next level, but then suggested he’d like to help him do it.
Ward told Finebaum he still had “the itch to coach.” Now in broadcasting with NBC, Ward would need to make a decision and find out if UGA would hire him first, but it’s something he said was on his mind. One former UGA letterman is coming home in Smart, could a second be close behind?
Can you imagine the thought of Ward on the recruiting trail?
What went wrong and where to go from here
When it comes to winning football games, there may be few who know more than Colquitt County coach Rush Propst. He has his team in the semifinals of the Georgia state playoffs for the seventh straight year. What went wrong under Richt? Propst gave an in-depth analysis of what led UGA to its current situation in an interview with 247Sports’ Kipp Adams.
Propst did not agree with the decision to let Richt go, telling Adams he was “a little taken aback by it.” He believed UGA did not have the talent on its roster to win as many games as it did. But he also did not agree with a few decisions Richt made, starting with the hiring of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
Propst told Adams what he believed UGA needed to do to ensure Smart — who he believes was the best choice — succeeds. Propst feels the next coach needs to have greater control over the program to have the same type of success Smart has enjoyed at Alabama.
That is something Richt lamented during his time at the school. Smart comes from a situation where Nick Saban answered to no one, it will be interesting to see if he demands the same.
William McFadden covers UGA recruiting for DawgNation and is an SEC multimedia reporter for SECCountry. Give him a follow on Twitter for news and opinions on the latest sports news.