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Rob Saye / Special
Malik Herring is a 4-star prospect but his jacket and bowtie ensemble captured here definitely deserve all five stars for a ranking.

Sentell’s Intel: Has 4-star defender Malik Herring gotten any closer to a decision?

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 5-star might lean and add a dab of perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.

Malik Herring is a funny dude. Charming at that.

The 4-star defensive end wears his heart on his sleeve for Georgia at times but then presents an entirely different picture on social media and during photo opportunities. We’ll put it simply: The outgoing young man has a personality and is enjoying his recruiting process. That much is clear for the nation’s No. 102 overall prospect for 2017.

Herring had hoped to share his decision during the nationally televised broadcast of an all-star game like the U.S. Army All-American Game or the Under Armour All-American game but he’s yet to receive an invite to one of those events.

That means he’ll likely come up with another plan. His high school will hold its annual “Senior Night” next week. That’s an option but that doesn’t seem like he’ll have everything in place by then.

4-star DE prospect Malik Herring competed at Nike's "The Opening" event in Oregon this summer. (Student Sports)
4-star DE prospect Malik Herring competed at Nike’s “The Opening” event in Oregon this summer. (Student Sports)

He’s told DawgNation before that his recruiting decision could have been made a couple of times already. The nation’s No. 5 prospect at strong-side defensive end has been that close to a decision.

We’ve felt he seems to be the most committed undecided prospect in America. Herring has said his mother has asked him to hold off on making a commitment because she wants him to be sure and to take his official visits first.

Herring likes the process but at the same time wants to make sure his Momma is happy. We should all aspire to that character trait.

Herring said that the college coaches have also contributed to the delay.

“Every time I talk to a school about setting up an official visit they all want me to take my visits after the season,” Herring said.

The Mary Persons standout (Forsyth, Ga.) does not designate a public leader regarding his decision at this time.

Herring told DawgNation he plans to take officials to Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Southern California (USC) leading up to National Signing Day. LSU and Tennessee appear to be vying for his final official visit.

He said the Volunteers have picked up the intensity in their recruiting pitch after he took an unofficial visit to Knoxville for the Florida game. Florida has also picked up the pace. Herring said that he gets a text message from head coach Jim McElwain every week.

He has a few paraments in place but nothing is tied to a specific date. A lot of his discussions regarding his officials have the term “probably” laced throughout the conversation.

The 6-foot-3 senior wants to take the USC official visit with his good friend (and UGA commit) Jaden Hunter. The UGA official will be on the same weekend that Georgia early enrollee Robert Beal will take his.

Clemson is expected to receive an unofficial visit from Herring next weekend for the Syracuse game. He also has the Auburn-Georgia and Alabama-Auburn games on his radar. The interest in Alabama appears to be legitimate.

“I talk to coach (Tosh) Lupoi from Alabama usually every week,” Herring said.

Herring said Georgia's coaches have told him that he has the chance to play very early. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Herring said Georgia’s coaches have told him that he has the chance to play very early. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

Herring said Georgia defensive line coach Tracy Rocker projects him to be a “6” technique. That’s outside the tackle and head up on the tight end on the strong side. He said that’s the role Davin Bellamy now has for the Bulldogs.

“They really want me to come in right away and be a pass rusher,” Herring said.

He will not enroll early, but he has devised a plan to mirror that.

“Whichever school I commit to I will go up on the weekends and work out, get a good look at the playbook and schemes and be around the team as much as I can,” Herring said. “It will sorta be like I am enrolled early, but I really will not be. That’s what I am thinking.”

He’s dropped some weight recently due to a recent illness. Herring said he dipped into the 240s at one time but that he is now back up over 250. He also does double duty as a tight end for his high school team and had a nice highlight last week.

Watch out, Isaac Nauta. Check out Herring’s stiff arm as he separates from the defense.

Best line yet about the Tennessee loss

Herring also had an opinion about how he felt in the pressure-packed final minute of the Tennessee game. He had a pretty telling description of where his heart was that day.

“It was like I was listening on TV as they read off all the winning lottery numbers,” Herring said. “They called them all out and I had won the lottery for about three million dollars. I’m going crazy and jumping up and down but then all of a sudden the come back on to say the got the last number wrong. When they called out that last five, it was actually supposed to be a four. I had that five on my lottery ticket and thought I won but then just like that I wasn’t winning the lottery anymore. That’s what that moment felt like to me, man. I was sick. Just sick. I’ve never had a mood swing like that before at a football game.”

Herring seemed quite at home around UGA defensive tackle Trenton Thompson at the Kirby Smart Camp over the summer. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Herring seemed quite at home around UGA defensive tackle Trenton Thompson at the Kirby Smart Camp over the summer. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

That as good of a take as we could ever hope to get from any athlete anywhere at any age on that topic.

Herring was also rather candid about Georgia’s struggles this year.

“It has definitely not been like I expected,” Herring said. “Losing to Vanderbilt man? Come on now. Nicholls State man? Come on, man. I’m really shocked at the whole season.”

Yet that hasn’t caused him to degrade how he feels about UGA.

“No, not at all,” Herring said. “If those players there are looking like that and playing bad against Vanderbilt and Nicholls then that gives me a better chance at coming in and playing early.”

Steady rankings climb for Walter Grant

Cairo 4-star senior OLB Walter Grant has the skill set to line up at inside linebacker, outside linebacker or at defensive end. He is versatile enough to be an effective player for a contending SEC defense at each of those positions.

You hear that about skilled linebackers from time to time, but Grant projects to actually be able to do it. That’s what he has heard all along from Georgia’s coaching staff and his primary recruiter.

Yet his recruiting rankings were rather pedestrian a year ago. Grant, a 6-foot-4, 235-pounder, also didn’t make the recruiting showcase circuit and his South Georgia location isn’t what most would call a convenient stop for recruiting analysts.

Cairo senior OLB Walter Grant is one of UGA's most important recruiting targets for 2017. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Cairo senior OLB Walter Grant is one of UGA’s most important recruiting targets for 2017. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

Grant then took part in the Elite Juniors Classic last December and showed out. He had a double-digit showing in tackles and was named the Defensive MVP for that game.

Yet his skills did garner the attention of big-time college football. Grant has hands that stretch more than 10 inches wide plus an 81-inch wingspan at that size. He’s been deemed by DawgNation  as one of the most for this year’s class for quite some time.

Grant was undervalued when we saw him this spring and in live action during scrimmages. He was rated as a 3-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite at that time. That matrix also had him ranked as the nation’s No. 22 OLB and No. 322 overall prospect as recently as three months ago.

That’s rather low for a player with a Top 2 of Alabama and Georgia but his rankings have been on a steady climb ever since. He’s now rated as the nation’s No. 15 prospect OLB and at No. 232 overall.

Scout.com rates him as the nation’s No. 7 OLB and as the No. 92 player overall. That sounds about right. That service also pegged him as the No. 5 OLB in the South.

Taking the temperature on a trend

It seems logical to presume that most UGA fans take a wide scan across college football on a weekly basis to see what works. Mighty Alabama continues to dominate and that proud program is once again doing so with a dual-threat quarterback at the helm of its offense.

Would DawgNation rather see more guys like DJ Shockley on the roster at QB? (AP)
Would DawgNation rather see more guys like DJ Shockley on the roster at QB? (AP)

That fits with the Run-Pass Option (RPO) era of college football. Alabama freshman Jalen Hurts is garnering Heisman consideration His peers Lamar Jackson and DeShaun Watson also have likely already earned their trips to the Downtown Athletic Club in December.

That said, UGA has consistently started pocket passers over the years. The irony there is that UGA’s last SEC title came in 2005. That’s also the last time the Bulldogs had a dual-threat quarterback under center.

Coincidence? I can listen to that rhetoric for awhile but I think DJ Shockley’s year had as much to do with his heady status of being a fifth-year senior as his legs.

Georgia has obviously been able to recruit the quarterback position well with five-star freshman Jacob Eason under center and another top-tier talent set to enroll in January in Jake Fromm.

But I wonder what Georgia fans think about that topic right now. Especially with all those highlights of Hurts, Jackson and Watson dancing through their heads. Remember how Watson shredded Alabama and then defensive coordinator Kirby Smart in the national title game last season?

Please take a moment to let me know what you think. I’ll weigh in with my opinion after the poll closes.

Be sure to catch tonight’s Facebook Live

We host a Facebook Live chat every Wednesday night on all things Georgia football. We emphasize recruiting because that’s my area of expertise for DawgNation, but we cover all topics.

But please consider making the time to join us tonight. We usually do a couple of things each week. There’s the trivia question we throw out each week during the first five minutes of the Facebook Live session.

We also try to host a chat with a UGA commit at least a couple of times every month. The DawgNation chat has included back-to-back chats with Richard LeCounte III and Netori Johnson over the last two weeks.

This week we will have a special treat. We’ll be adopting a new weekly staple at the expense of another one. I feel confident that this new wrinkle will be welcomed like it was a 5-star Dual-Threat quarterback commitment.

We usually go live around 7:45 p.m. every Wednesday. Follow along and like our DawgNation Facebook page to catch this week’s live chat.

I’ll also drop a helpful hint for our daily Intel readers. There were 35 UGA alumni that were listed as active for Week 1 of the NFL season this year. That ranked sixth overall. LSU came in first with 42 former players. Ohio State, FSU, Alabama and Florida also rounded out the top five according to that criteria.

I’m throwing in that very random factoid because I think it will help somebody enjoy tonight’s Facebook Live chat just a little bit more tonight.


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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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