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Walker Little, a 5-star offensive tackle from Texas, is set to take his official visit to UGA this weekend.
Here’s what I know from speaking to Little earlier this year: He likes Athens. He recognizes UGA has a fine program and is a great place to play. He also appreciates what UGA offensive line coach Sam Pittman can do for offensive linemen.
That said, I’ve always felt the 6-foot-8 prospect was more likely to go to Alabama or Ole Miss in the SEC. That’s not counting the rest of the country.
But Little is aware of Pittman’s resume. The NFL has drafted eight of his guys since 2013. That includes a pair of first-round picks. His Arkansas lines were regarded as the biggest in college football. The Razorbacks even put their O-line on the cover of the media guide in 2015.
Georgia has clear needs at offensive tackle. Here’s a good question: Name Georgia’s starting left and right tackles for the opener against Appalachian State next season?
Ask that question around tailgates or even the beat writers in the press box on Saturday. There would be a wide berth of answers because there are no clear-cut bonafide options there.
The best answer would seemingly be a guy like Little. That’s someone who is not even on campus yet. He fits the bill. The 303-pounder is rated as the nation’s No. 4 offensive tackle for 2017 and as the No. 19 overall prospect.
The U.S. Army All-American also has a lot of football in his DNA. His grandfather played for Rice and was drafted by the New York Giants years ago. His uncle also played for Texas A&M and was drafted by the Baltimore Colts after his college days.
Little also visited UGA last year for the Alabama game.
“I wanted to check out Georgia and see what they had and it was awesome,” Little said earlier this year. “They had a great atmosphere and the fans were crazy and die-hards. They still stayed crazy even though they were down to Alabama. It was a fun game to watch even though it didn’t end up the way that Georgia wanted.”
What I’m thinking
I’m not sure how stoked everyone should be about Georgia’s chance here.
This could very well be an exercise in a high-profile recruit making sure he checks off all five of his official visits. He has other clear contenders like Stanford and Texas in mind and this trip will have to go great for Georgia to get in the conversation with those programs, much less surpass those choices. Little’s immediate family is also used to the scene at Ole Miss. His siblings have gone to school there.
There’s no denying Little could step in immediately and contend for a starting spot start at UGA. That’s what Pittman will preach this weekend. But I’m thinking it would take the greatest bit of salesmanship since America brokered the Louisiana Purchase to see him in red and black.
This will be his second official visit. He’s already been to FSU and plans subsequent trips to Texas, Ole Miss and finally Stanford in that order. Little preps at one of the finest private schools in Metro Houston (Episcopal High) that I’ve ever visited.
The trustees at that school sit on similar boards at Texas and Texas A&M. Think Pace Academy in Atlanta. Only bigger. Much bigger. The campus sprawls across 34 acres.
Georgia has a dire situation at offensive tackle, but at least that’s helped by two incoming commitments. According to the new roster outlook feature on his 247Sports profile page, there are five offensive tackles on the roster. That compares to only six tackles at Stanford.
Yet the Cardinal does not have any commitments yet at offensive tackle for its 2017 class. That point there is as big as Little in my mind.
Texas was his first offer, but Stanford seems like the best fit all around. That’s for the education, environment and playing time. He’s also already been to Stanford once this season. That was when future QB Davis Mills of Greater Atlanta Christian also made the trip.
— Davis Mills (@Millsions) September 18, 2016
Those are some of the reasons why the popular Crystal Ball Feature from 247Sports points 69 percent toward Stanford. Yet that shouldn’t take the shine of a visit that UGA needs to keep hosting if it wishes to attract the top offensive line prospects in the nation each year.
Little definitely fits that standard and share two clips that will allow everyone to form their own opinion about that.
The first is what he did against one of the nation’s finest defensive linemen at the Opening in Oregon. The second is how he’s mauling guys this season.
They show what all the fuss is about regarding Little. Clearly.
— MaxPreps (@MaxPreps) July 12, 2016
— J.Hamilton (@JoeHamilton247) October 8, 2016
Is this a thing now?
Remember autographs? Those things where kids went up to athletes and they signed ballcaps, T-shirts, jerseys, photographs or even magazine covers?
Well, I saw a new thing last week while attending the U.S. Army All-American jersey presentation ceremony for UGA 4-star QB commit Jake Fromm. Fromm was signing autographs at the event. But that’s not the uncommon thing here. He’s been doing that for awhile around Houston County.
This was a scene where two young girls asked Fromm for an autograph and he politely obliged. Fromm took the Sharpie they provided and he casually signed the back of what looked like to be an iPhone.
Geez. Never in my day did I think that’s the new thing to do. Maybe someone should just establish an app for that and let the player sign with his finger?
Possible flips for 2017?
Kirby Smart and his staff quickly established themselves last January as a program that doesn’t mind taking its cuts at a few flips when it comes to players they need.
David Marshall flipped from Auburn to UGA on Signing Day. Yet the groundwork for that effort was made possible by a strong grind in January. Marshall was a 3-star target then, but the way he’s played so far leads one to believe his signing essentially balanced out losing 5-star Derrick Brown to Auburn.
Freshman receiver Tyler Simmons also flipped from Alabama to UGA on National Signing Day. He even snared the first catch of his UGA career last week on the road at Kentucky.
That’s the track record. That’s a good entry point to chart a few way-too-early names to consider as UGA’s best flip candidates for 2017. Let me preface these thoughts by saying I don’t feel the odds are extremely high for any flips at this time, but these are the guys I see where there is a strong recruiting relationship in place that might allow for such a thing.
Here are the most likely candidates I have in mind. I’ll also present them in order of what the odds look like for these guys at this time:
— 4-star CB Jamyest Williams (Grayson High/ Loganville, Ga. — Williams is seemingly very solidly committed to South Carolina at this time. But the Athens native has been to Athens at least one time since he committed. Georgia has also continued to recruit him hard, too. The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder recently told me that Smart and Tucker have really shown him how much they need him in Athens.
— 4-star ATH Tray Bishop (Terrell County/ Dawson, Ga. ) — Bishop has committed to Auburn but he took back-to-back visits to UGA for games this season. The Bulldogs have also continued to recruit him to fit multiple needs at receiver and safety.
— (Insert currently undecided LB here) — There are still a bevy of prospects left on the board who will fill up to 6-7 linebacker spots for Georgia’s 2017 signing class. Kenney “KJ” Britt just committed to Auburn. The Bulldogs also landed a commitment from 4-star OLB Walter Grant last week.
That leaves guys like 3-star ILB Monty Rice, 4-star ILB Tyler Taylor and 4-star OLB Leonard Warner III in play. Markaviest “Big Cat” Bryant is a major 4-star target that is currently rated as a defensive end. I feel that he will be a linebacker if he opts to sign with UGA.
Georgia probably won’t land an initial commitment from every one of those guys. If one of these prospects commits elsewhere, the ties that UGA has built will immediately make them a legit “flip watch” candidate going forward. In fact, I think the most likely flips for this year’s class will be at the LB spot.
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Follow Jeff Sentell 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.