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E.J. Price was once committed to Georgia. Could he possibly return after leaving USC?

Sentell’s Intel: DawgNation went to bed last night wondering about EJ Price

EJ Price was a bitter recruiting loss for Georgia football early in the Kirby Smart era. The Archer High graduate was a prototype left or right tackle. The results so far in 2016 indicate those are in short supply around Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall at the moment.

When news broke early Tuesday evening that Price would be transferring from USC, things got crazy among the Georgia faithful. The rumor mill started up at a pace that brings to mind the play of Isaiah McKenize.

Price was rated as the nation's No. 8 offensive tackle for the Class of 2016. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
E.J. Price was rated as the nation’s No. 8 offensive tackle for the Class of 2016. (Jeff Sentell/AJC)

The NCAA by-laws regarding a situation like this are pretty clear. The general rule is that Price will need to spend one academic year in residence at his new school as a full-time student before he would be eligible to compete.

That’s two semesters. Summer school would not count toward that academic year in residence.

The first two moving parts to consider in the Price story going forward are: 1) He will require written permission from USC to contact his next school. That would also involve a free release granted to him by the Trojans. The results of those discussions will determine whether or not he will be able to go on scholarship, practice with his new team and receive financial aid while he sits out that one academic year. 2) The earliest he would be able to play at his next Division I destination would be the fall of 2018. That’s concrete.

His NCAA eligibility clock has not changed. His last season of competition will be the fall of 2020. The 2016 and 2017 seasons will no longer be available to him.

Will Price be recruited by Georgia? Yes.

That’s a no-brainer given his talent, the location factor, the relationships already in place plus Georgia’s needs on the offensive line. That will certainly be the case if he’s coming free and clear of any conduct issues during his time with the USC football program. There were reports otherwise, but those now seem like pure speculation.

USC coach Clay Helton refuted the most popular rumor when he met with the press on Tuesday, so we won’t even get into that here.

When I think about that, I can only remember how the teachers at Archer High regarded Price and also some very special relationships he established while he was there. He’s a great kid with a huge heart and I’ll vouch for him in a public setting until I see and hear otherwise. I’d be stunned if that was ever the case.

Price could be placed on scholarship and practice, but he’d have to satisfy that one year in residence before he would become eligible to play. He also needs to leave USC in good academic standing.

There are exceptions granted via one-time transfer rules, but none of the NCAA’s policies for those apply to Division I football players.

The former Archer standout was once committed to Georgia but backed off that stance while Mark Richt still was the coach. When Smart was hired, he quickly developed strong feelings for Georgia line coach Sam Pittman. (That’s why I feel Georgia will be a major contender for Price.)

Price still decided to sign with USC back on National Signing Day back in February. When he did, the following rumors started flying:

  • Price had his scholarship red flagged by UGA for off-the-field issues
  • He didn’t have the academic requirements to immediately enroll at Georgia

The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder sat down with DawgNation on National Signing Day and put most of those to rest. He said he had an offer to UGA on the table and produced tweets from UGA head coach Kirby Smart that seemed to support that claim.

Price shared direct messages from what appeared to be Kirby Smart's Twitter account back on National Signing Day. (EJ Price / Twitter)
E.J. Price shared direct messages from what appeared to be Kirby Smart’s Twitter account back on National Signing Day. (EJ Price/Twitter).

Price also said that USC was just the better academic fit for him. He told me that if the decision was strictly about football, then he would’ve gone to Georgia. He also said that he would’ve signed with Georgia if Richt would have still been the head coach.

That was no knock on Smart, but more a reflection of the amount of respect he’d built up for Richt while being recruited by the Bulldogs.

I’d also expect South Carolina to be a contender for Price. Jamyest Williams, his very close friend, is committed to play there for 2017. Those two were teammates at Archer and they have a very special bond.

Checking in on a de-commit 

Breon Dixon shed some light on his Georgia de-commitment last month with SEC Country’s Chris Kirschner last week.

What it sounds like is the dreaded “slow play” was at work with this situation.

The nation’s No. 11 ILB has landed on his feet after parting ways with Georgia. He told Kirschner that Urban Meyer reached out to him shortly after he backed off his pledge to the Bulldogs. Dixon is planning to take official visits to Ohio State and Michigan. He’s also highly interested in TCU.

Dixon is rated as the nation's No. 11 ILB for the Class of 2017. (Joshua L. Jones / Special)
Breon Dixon is rated as the nation’s No. 11 ILB for the Class of 2017. (Joshua L. Jones/Special)

He said those three programs will get official visits. He’s not sure about the other two.

“Just trying to find a place that fits me best,” Dixon said.

Dixon told Kirschner his current situation was brought on by a communication lapse with Georgia.

“They had stopped hitting me up when I was committed like that,” Dixon said. “That’s what really made the decision to really say it out loud first, but that’s what it really came down to. A lack of interest.”

He said that Georgia still has a chance, but he won’t take an official visit to Georgia. Arizona State, Florida Miami, LSU, Southern California, Texas and Texas A&M are also on his radar, too.

The Ohio State interest seems real. Dixon said he has a connection to the Buckeyes through former Peachtree Ridge teammate Connor Heyward. His older brother, Cameron Heyward, was a major contributor on the defensive line for the Buckeyes prior to his NFL career. Dixon told Meyer that he knows that family very well and they discussed what he planned to study in college.

“There’s a lot of Ohio State influence on me there,” he said.

Dixon still plans to enroll early. He aims to pursue a business degree with a minor in computer science. He sees the likelihood of turning a profit in the future in the app market with Apple regarding smartphones and tablets.

 

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.

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