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Jeff Sentell / AJC
Lee County's Aubrey Solomon is rated as the nation's No. 5 DT prospect in the Class of 2017.

Sentell’s Intel: Georgia sounds like the team to beat for 4-star DT Aubrey Solomon

Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way this 4-star or that 5-star might be leaning and sprinkle in a dab of perspective to help folks figure out what it all means.

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LEESBURG, Ga. — This undoubtedly will come across as a lot of positive things in regard to Georgia’s chances to sign 4-star DT Aubrey Solomon.

That’s because Georgia has done a lot of things well so far in recruiting Solomon.

UGA definitely has built the home-state walls around the nation’s No. 5 DT prospect for 2017. He’s rated as the nation’s No. 77 overall prospect, but that rating should improve after he completes his senior season and shows out in January at the U.S. Army All-American events in Texas.

Solomon is one of the few elite defensive tackles in the Southeast this cycle. (Michael Carvell / AJC)
Solomon is one of the few elite defensive tackles in the Southeast this cycle. (Michael Carvell / AJC)

He once was committed to Michigan, and it is also important to note he’s going to go well past National Signing Day to make his decision. The Bulldogs are in good shape with Solomon, but it amounts to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter of a big game.

Maybe even a game against the Tennessee Volunteers this year. There are many miles ahead in the chase for Solomon.

Solomon could take until May to make his decision. He also said his mother, Sabrina Caldwell, will have a tremendous influence and even the final say on where he signs. He said his mother would “100 percent” have her hands on the wheel of his decision.

“It is not really like I don’t have (a say) in the decision because I do,” Solomon said. “I know what’s best for me, but at the end of the day, my mom knows what’s best for me. She birthed me. She knows what’s best for me, so we are going to talk it out. Whatever she feels is the best (school) I’m going to go with it.”

But Georgia is in great shape, according to the following:

  • Caldwell said Georgia “by far” was doing the best job of recruiting her son now. When asked to reinforce that point, the 4-star DT said Alabama and Georgia have recruited him the best so far.
  • Solomon said Georgia player personnel director Jonas Jennings and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker were major factors in his recruitment. When asked if any other schools have a relationship that compares to the one he has with those two, he said they have no peers. Solomon replied it was “not even close” and then repeated that phrase to emphasize his point.
  • He speaks often with Alabama coach Nick Saban but made it clear he’s on the phone with Georgia’s Kirby Smart more than any other coach. He speaks with Smart about once per week and described the sessions as “very funny.”  “He’s a funny dude,” Solomon said. “Very serious. He gets me. He gets me very well.”
  • Smart played high school ball at Bainbridge. That South Georgia program is about 75 miles from Leesburg. Solomon said Smart stresses common Georgia geography in his best pitch to Solomon. They share the same roots, but Georgia also has offensive guard Chris Barnes (Lee County), defensive tackle Tyler Clark (Americus-Sumter) and defensive tackle Trent Thompson (Westover) who hail from the same part of the state. “Southwest Georgia boys have got to stick together,” Solomon said while describing that pitch. “That’s his saying. Trent. Clark. Chris. Him. That’s Southwest Georgia.”
  • Solomon said he connected with the players at Georgia more than any other program right before he committed to Michigan. He backed off that pledge to join the Wolverines but still feels he has the best relationships with the players at Georgia. “Overall, I know way more people at Georgia,” Solomon said. “I’ve played with them. Played against them. Seen them play. The interactions are different with those Georgia players.” He said he doesn’t have “that heart-to-heart” with any players at Alabama like he has at Georgia.
  • It sounds like he’s got his five official visits in mind. Those will be to Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Michigan. He can only currently picture himself playing at Alabama, Clemson or Georgia. His interest has been piqued by the Tigers. “I really really want to take a look at Clemson,” Solomon said. He singled out the defenses at Alabama and Clemson for their track records of sending guys like a “pipeline” to the NFL.
  • He also has some of the timing in mind for those officials. “Either I’m going to Michigan first and Clemson last or Clemson first and Michigan last,” he said.
  • Alabama needs to show it cares more about his family and not just adding his skills to the roster as a player. He said the Crimson Tide have done that so far “in a way” and yet “not how Georgia does.” So what is Georgia doing well? “They put my family first, and then they come to me. That’s what I like. My family comes first and then me.”

He plans to take his decision well past National Signing Day. At least for now.

“I’m not really worried about recruiting until my senior season is done,” Solomon said. “Once my senior season is done, then I will be happy to do all of that recruiting, but until then I am going to focus on this team. I’m trying to win state.”

Just how good is Solomon? 

I spoke to a couple of well-placed college scouts about Solomon during the last week. He’s a 4-star in every right and one of the few highly rated uncommitted prospects at defensive tackle in the Deep South.

But this year’s defensive tackles crop pales in comparison to the haul of 2016. Georgia got three highly rated 4-star defensive tackles and would’ve liked to add at least two more that Auburn signed.

There was far more quality in last year’s class, but the dominating opinion on Solomon so far is he’s every bit as good as the elite trench players from last season. He’d have been among the nation’s top 10 DTs if he was in that graduating year, too.

The reason is an answer that even the tough-minded Rocker would love.

“Aubrey is just mean when he gets on the field,” one scout said. “You’re not going to disrespect or punk him on the field and get away with it.”

The scout thinks Solomon literally would tear an opponent’s head off if he tried that stuff with him. That switch really flips on for him when it is time to play.

Solomon had a few dominating stretches in the Houston County game, but he wasn’t at his best. He said he played that night against the Bears with a virus that sapped some of his energy and strength.

Fromm “got got” by Solomon

Solomon’s Lee County team faced Georgia QB commit Jake Fromm last Friday night. It wasn’t pretty as the Trojans mauled Fromm’s previously unbeaten team 55-29. In case you haven’t seen it, please be sure to commit to memory the play Solomon made while forcing a Fromm fumble on a rush and then recovering that loose ball on the way to a 20-yard touchdown return.

I’ve never seen a defensive player make a play like that before, much less a lineman. Bonus points should be granted for making the following play on a big-time QB like Fromm.

Solomon said it was an example of the passion he plays with every snap. He wanted to sack Fromm but saw his arm was cocked in a way for another opportunity.

“That’s when I thought about something we’ve been learning all week in practice,” Solomon said after the game. “That’s to pack the ball down. I had to ‘pack it down,’ and I was like there was nobody near the ball. I had to do it. I wanted to stop. I was tired — but after the Bainbridge game — they wouldn’t let me stop. I had to score, or I would’ve been the laughingstock of Lee County.”

That was the first touchdown of Solomon’s football career. At any level. When Fromm sought Solomon out afterward, he told him “Go Dawgs” but also had a question for him.

“He wanted to know how that play really happened,” Solomon said. “If I was going for the strip or the sack. I told him — to be honest — I was going for the sack, but it just happened and played my way. I just had to take it from him.”

Solomon is rated as the nation's No. 77 overall prospet for 2017. (Joshua L. Jones / Special)
Solomon is rated as the nation’s No. 77 overall prospect in 2017. (Joshua L. Jones / Special)

There was also a brief chat about Georgia.

“We talked about Georgia and him being a Georgia commit, so I told him it was a possibility,” Solomon said.

Fromm said he was looking forward to seeing Solomon again soon. He told DawgNation he really wants to see Solomon on his football team in college.

“That was an incredible play,” Fromm said. “I asked him if he was going for the ball the whole time, and he said he was going for the sack. I’ve done that move a thousand times, but I got got by arguably the best defensive player I’ve ever played against.”

Fromm said he “got got” on that play. It won’t fly past an editor’s or an English teacher’s desk, but that’s pretty much the best way to describe it.

Respect paid to Fromm

Solomon’s younger brother also came up with a huge game. Kermit Solomon, a junior safety, intercepted Fromm 2 times. That was part of an up-and-down night that saw Fromm complete 49 percent of his passes for 358 yards.

He had 4 TD passes and 4 interceptions and also gave up that fumble to Solomon. He spent most of the night throwing under duress. The home team didn’t give him much time to operate and knocked him around on several occasions.

Lee County defensive back Otis Reese still thought enough of Fromm’s effort to acknowledge it with a tweet after the blowout 26-point victory.

Game within the game 

Houston County came into the Friday night contest against third-ranked Lee County as the top team in Georgia’s Class 6A. The Bears left humbled after taking a 22-21 lead early in the second quarter.

The biggest individual matchup came with Houston County’s 4-star junior OL Trey Hill lined up against Solomon. The 6-foot-4, 320-pounder normally plays tackle, and he’ll be at guard on Saturdays.

Houston County junior Trey Hill is rated as the nation's No. 3 guard for the Class of 2018. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Houston County junior Trey Hill is rated as the nation’s No. 3 guard in the Class of 2018. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

Injuries forced Hill to play center against Lee County. It meant he was matched up against Solomon for most of the first half.

The tight quarters of the interior line plus Hill’s massive frame proved to be a chore for Solomon early. Hill did a good job of neutralizing Solomon in the first half with Georgia coach Kirby Smart looking on.

“He was very tough,” Solomon said. “Very, very tough. I’m not going to lie; he got me (for a little bit), but with good talent like that, I’m going to be seeing that in the future. That was an SEC-type battle right there. It was a good test of my ability and a good test of his ability. We both just got after it and had a good game.”

When DawgNation wrote that Smart came to see two Georgia targets on Friday night, that number should have been three. Hill was definitely another player on the field who should be seen as a multi-year starter in the SEC or anywhere else in big-time college football.

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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.

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