Sentell’s Intel: Can Georgia flip the defensive tackle it needs for 2017 from South Carolina?

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Kirby Smart has his eyes set on a South Carolina commitment at this moment at the defensive tackle spot.

There’s a story about Devonte Wyatt that will be told over and over during his promising football career. He was at his high school track meet throwing the discus, like all defensive tackles are told to do.

“I had been wanting to run, but my coaches would never let me,” Wyatt said. “I love to run. Nobody would ever let me run.”

But suddenly Mr. Wyatt got that light bulb over his head. He saw the sprinters and knew he could run with them. He had that gear.

Like all defensive tackles never do.

And yet the nation’s No. 34 defensive tackle actually did have that gear. That’s why Wyatt might now be the top target for Georgia at defensive tackle for 2017.

Wyatt asked his coaches if he could run the 100 and one of them gave him a sliver of a window. He was told to run in a heat at a meet the following day. If he fared well, then they would talk. Wyatt showed up, but never got the memo about track spikes and all that.

So he went to the line in a pair of Nike Air Force 1 basketball shoes. Towers High School coach Dr. Brian Montgomery said Wyatt even bypassed the formal track stance and avoided the starting blocks.

“I was standing up just like a receiver coming off the line,” Wyatt said. “I know all those other track guys were looking at me standing straight up at about 270 pounds and thought to themselves they’ve had an easy ‘W’ over me in that heat. They knew they had an easy win when they saw me.”

And then the 3-star prospect proceeded to win the 100 in under 11.47 seconds. Everyone started jumping on his head afterward.

“That was a great day, man,” Wyatt said. “I just love to run, man. It is in my blood to run.”

That’s the beginnings of how the South Carolina commitment is a now a very wanted man by Kirby Smart.

“Kirby Smart told me he feels the big tackle from Lee County (Aubrey Solomon) and Devonte are the two best defensive tackles in the state of Georgia this year,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery is adamant that Wyatt, now 6-foot-3 and 298-pounds, can run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.7 seconds. Yes, you read that right. Wyatt can crack 4.7 in the 40 from the 290-pound weight class. That’s probably not in a pair of Air Force 1s, but that’s what Wyatt said he ran at South Carolina.

Here’s a little visual evidence so you don’t think of Mr. Wyatt as another Loch Ness hoax that some bored writer conjured up.

Wyatt picked up an offer from Georgia at a satellite camp earlier this summer and that offer was re-confirmed at the Kirby Smart Camp last weekend. DawgNation also learned that Wyatt and his parents were at UGA on Thursday.

“Everything went great,” Wyatt said. “My mom and dad couldn’t believe they were at Georgia. They were smiling. They were happy.”

How big was that UGA offer? Montgomery called it a “dream offer” for his young defensive tackle. Wyatt even confirmed that.

Georgia should be considered a major contender for Wyatt going forward. It is not a flip alert yet, but Wyatt did tell DawgNation one very interesting statement about the current status of the race for his decision between Georgia and South Carolina.

“Can I say they are tied?” Wyatt said. “They are tied.”

He said he’s still committed to South Carolina. They only way he felt he might de-commit is if he got a lot more big-time offers. A bevy of offers would force him to step back and re-think his college decision.

That said, Wyatt stated he would eventually choose between Georgia and South Carolina. That’s the way Montgomery felt, too.

Georgia was the first big-time school to seriously start recruiting Wyatt, but the Gamecocks came through the door with the first scholarship offer. Wyatt said he’d likely be committed to Georgia right now if they had beaten South Carolina to the punch with that offer. He said UGA line coach Tracy Rocker told him they waited because they wanted to see him make a little more progress in the classroom. He’s done that now. Montgomery feels he will qualify and called him an overall good student.

What have Georgia’s coaches told Wyatt?

“They were like I could be a big factor on the team and that they see greatness in me and stuff like that,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt will return to South Carolina on Saturday. He will bring his parents with him along for the first time, too.

He did say that proximity would be a big factor in his eventual final decision.

“That’s so my momma won’t have to struggle to come to see me play,” he said.

Athens is about 90 minutes closer for her to make that road trip than Columbia. That’s something to keep in mind.

Tyler Taylor’s current recruiting plan

This has been a summer of exploration for Lanier inside linebacker Tyler Taylor. The 4-star prospect and nation’s No. 12 inside linebacker broadened his list of candidates by taking visits to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this summer. He’s also been to Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Texas and Tennessee. He’ll visit Alabama and Auburn for a second time this weekend.

Tyler Taylor hopes to make his commitment by Sept. 9. That’s the third game of his senior season. (Chris Kirschner / AJC)

He set his Top 6 earlier this month. It included Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. He’s realized that if he goes to a Big 12 school, then he will not enroll early. If he decides to play in the SEC, he will enroll early. Proximity to home would be a major factor in the latter decision.

He’s not sure when he will make his decision, but he hopes to have made a commitment no later than the third game of his senior season on Sept. 9. He’s a little weary of potentially seeing all the spots fill up at one of his favored schools. That happened to him at Tennessee. He was told the Volunteers don’t have any more room for inside linebackers and had to move on.

Could that possibly happen again?

“Georgia and Alabama, I think they are chasing at least two or three more linebackers,” Taylor said. “I think Oklahoma said they would wait for me until National Signing Day. I think Auburn is taking one or two more linebackers. Auburn needs linebackers. Oklahoma State said that I could wait until National Signing Day. They said if they get me then they won’t take any more linebackers. I would be the last linebacker they would take at Oklahoma State.”

But he’s really not sure how Georgia feels about him right now.

“Georgia is the home state,” Taylor said. “I really like Georgia but sometimes I can’t tell if they are recruiting me hard. Some weeks they are recruiting me hard but other weeks they take off. So I really don’t know how to read them right now.”

Taylor said it seems like Alabama is recruiting him harder than Georgia right now. There’s just more contact.

“Georgia is the home state school,” Taylor said. “They are always going to have that advantage. If Georgia recruited me like how the other schools have recruited me, I’d probably have committed already.”

Taylor is rated as the nation’s No. 12 inside linebacker for the Class fo 2017. (Chris Kirschner / AJC)

There are a lot of names in the mix at linebacker for Georgia. Kenney “KJ” Britt and Nate McBride are seen as definite takes at inside linebacker. Markaviest Bryant and Walter Grant are the likely first takes at outside linebacker. Brookwood standout Leonard Warner III is a definite an option at inside and outside linebacker.

Taylor still feels he could still commit to Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, LSU or any of the schools among his Top 6 at any time.

“Every school that is in my Top 6, I asked them that and had a heart-to-heart with them about it and in the conversation they all said I could have committed right then if I wanted to,” Taylor said.

Alabama, Auburn and Oklahoma have done the best jobs of selling him on how well he would fit into their systems and play fast. Auburn, Oklahoma and Georgia would be the best academic fits.

ICYMI: There have been a lot of newsy items over the last 36 hours

There’s a lot going on for a Friday before fall camp arrives, but here’s a quicker-than-quick retelling.

  • Major UGA 5-star target Jacoby Stevens will return to Alabama for their “Champions Cookout.“ That coincides with a flurry of 247Sports Crystal Ball activity in relation to Stevens and Alabama. He’s set to decide sometime in the next 10 days. Stevens is also expected to check out Auburn’s weekend recruiting event as well. It seems rather logical to conclude Stevens should definitely no longer be considered a strong lean to Georgia at this point in time. That’s a clear indication of the way Stevens has felt for the last few weeks. Georgia may still have the slightest of edges, but he won’t be in Athens this weekend.
  • Tray Bishop, the nation’s No. 3 athlete for 2017 and a major UGA target, tweeted Thursday that he will delay his decision from his previously released July 25 commitment date. He’s got a lot to think about between Auburn, Florida and Georgia. 247Sports.com’s Keith Niebuhr is also reporting that Alabama has also entered the mix.
  • UGA commit Richard LeCounte III has seen his recruiting rankings ascend after his showstopper performances at The Opening. He was recently named a 5-star prospect by 247sports.com and is now the nation’s No. 1 safety by the 247Sports Composite.
  • 3-star junior college DT Ratu Mafileo is committed to Texas A&M for the Class of 2016 but is expected to take official visits to Georgia and Lousiville over the next few days. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Hawaiian is rated as the nation’s No. 11 JUCO defensive tackle for the Class of 2016.

A rather impressive name to know for 2018

Peterson is rated as the nation’s No. 1 OLB for the Class of 2018. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

Colquitt County junior linebacker Ja’Marcus “JJ” Peterson was perhaps the most impressive prospect to show up at last weekend’s Kirby Smart Camp. He attended the final camp Sunday inside Sanford Stadium and he was definitely the highest-rated prospect at the event.

The nearly 6-foot-3 and 215-pound prospect hails from a big-time program that won the state title in Georgia’s largest classification last season. He’s rated as the nation’s No. 1 outside linebacker and No. 25 overall prospect for 2018.

That’s another example of how rich of an opportunity Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff have ahead of them for the next few years. Peterson has great athleticism and explosion and is coming off a great sophomore year for the Packers.

Peterson had 30 tackles, four tackles for losses and three sacks in 2015.

The fact that there are four other players from the state of Georgia that are ranked ahead of him in 2018 shows how big of a recruiting haul might await. The best chance for Smart and company to land the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class will be in that cycle. Not this year.

How does a program tee up a national championship run under a new coaching staff? By lining up the nation’s No. 2 and No. 1 recruiting classes in the first two full recruiting cycles in a state that’s always loaded with talent.

 

Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him 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.

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