Good morning, DawgNation! There were a couple de-commitments yesterday, but those occurrences, to quote Mr. Levenstein from American Pie, are “perfectly natural.”
When a school decides to make a change to its coaching staff, recruiting is impacted. The departures of Mark Richt and Jeremy Pruitt, two prominent recruiters, have caused many prospects to take a step back and re-evaluate. While Kirby Smart is a top-notch recruiter, he may not have the same relationship with these players. In fact, many of them may have had UGA ahead of Alabama despite Smart’s presence at the latter. Smart might also assess a recruit’s skills in a different light than the previous staff did.
But while some prospects or commits may have second thoughts, Smart’s presence has opened the door with many other top recruits, including this recent 5-star commit. The players Smart does have good relationships with are willing to give UGA a look, which may not have been the case before.
So, yes, there have been de-commitments and there might be a few more. But there are also new doors opened and opportunities available for the program. UGA was poised to pull in one of the top recruiting classes in the country and, because of Smart, there is a chance that still happens.
Jacob Eason‘s decision of whether to stick with UGA or flip to Florida will go a long way towards deciding the future of this class. The nation’s No. 1 quarterback will announce his choice today, and it’s only going to get crazier from there.
Decision Day for Jacob Eason
The wait for the 5-star quarterback’s announcement is almost over. Eason has long been committed to UGA, and it would be a surprise if wavered on that at the last minute. But Florida has become an enticing destination for the Lake Stevens (Wash.) prospect since Richt was dismissed.
In preparation of Eason’s announcement, catch up on the latest news surrounding the quarterback’s recruitment. In an exclusive interview with DawgNation, Eason shared some final thoughts on Smart and UGA. The 5-star’s coach is pretty confident he knows which school will receive the good news, and his quarterback coach backed up those beliefs. Ben Cleveland, a 4-star offensive line commit and Eason’s good friend, gave a breakdown of Smart’s first recruiting event over the weekend.
Smart optimistic about Eason’s visit
In addition to running a program for the first time in his career, Smart was also charged with securing one of the highest-rated prospects in recent memory for UGA. That’s not an enviable situation, but Smart feels good about his recent visits with Eason.
The new coach may be looking at the scenario through rose-colored glasses, but Smart knew Eason from his time with Alabama, and certainly knew what he needed to do. Be assured, Smart did his homework and spared no resources in his effort to seal the deal.
De-commit Day for a pair of players
UGA lost a pair of commitments on Monday. The first de-commitment was the first player who committed for 2017. Bailey Hockman, a 4-star quarterback from McEachern High School, tweeted his recruitment would re-open. Don’t think Hockman’s decision is an omen for Eason’s announcement. The junior quarterback was not worried about the prospect of competing with the nation’s No. 1 passer. UNC is the school to watch for Hockman now. He took a visit recently, and his teammate Tyler Smith is already committed there.
The second player to back out of his commitment was 3-star wide receiver, Darion Anderson. The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder committed back in March, but much has changed since then. Anderson’s decision now leaves UGA with only three receiver prospects and 15 commitments total for 2016. An emphasis was placed on wide receiver for this class, and the move could put UGA in desperation mode.
Top prospect recaps final visit with Smart
Antwuan Jackson, an elite 4-star defensive tackle, had a last minute visit with the new UGA coach on the final night before the recruiting dead period. Jackson plans to enroll in January at whichever school he chooses, making the visit a crucial chance to get a final word in.
The defender already has a relationship with Smart from his days at Alabama, where he served as the Jackson’s lead recruiter. Jackson is expected to decide between Auburn, Ohio State, Florida and UGA on Thursday. Auburn appears to be the team to beat, but Jackson says every school still has a shot.
Uncertainty surrounds one commit
Jaleel Laguins, a 4-star linebacker, is committed to UGA, but that pledge is far from solid. The Oconee County High School star told DawgNation on Monday he is “uncertain” and “confused” right now. Part of that confusion stems from a lack of communication with Smart. Laguins said he’s only heard from the new coach twice, for a total of 10 minutes.
Smart has had to pick his spots and maximize his time since he was hired. With such a short amount of time between taking the job and the dead period, Smart has told other elite recruits that much of the emphasis before the dead period was placed on the early enrollees. The National Signing Day prospects would be getting the full attention afterward once the entire coaching staff is in place.
That sounds like a good strategy when there isn’t much time to work with. There are some big early enrollees the staff needs to lock down before shifting their focus to the other commits and prospects. Smart and his fellow recruiters may not want to wait too long, though; Laguins isn’t likely to be the only one who is confused.
There’s also another, even better, reason not to wait: He’s now been targeted by four other SEC schools.
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.