Would you like to receive DawgNation news alerts? Excellent! News alerts will be displayed in your browser.
Jeff Sentell / AJC
5-star cornerback Stanford Samuels III was a big unofficial visitor at UGA-Auburn on Saturday. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

Sentell’s Intel: How do the 5-stars and the other big names feel about UGA now?

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.
__________________________________________________________________

The sidelines at Sanford Stadium morphed into an elite prospect camp on Saturday. The talent that came to UGA for the Auburn game was staggering.

Anyone with a pair of ears would’ve picked up a lot of runaway optimism. Throw in a set of eyes and it was an impressive array of highly-rated star prospects on hand. They all saw what turned out to a three-plus hour commercial for the future of Georgia football.

RELATED: Check out 30-plus prospect photos from UGA-Auburn on Saturday

Freshman QB Jacob Eason threw it around. That defense was so stingy it never needed to hunker down. That’s not hyperbole. That’s an opinion backed up the fact the Bulldogs held the top offense in the SEC to less than 35 yards and zero first downs in the second half.

Kirby Smart and Mel Tucker would never have predicted that. That’s coaching clinic tape stuff right there.

The pre-game setting was like an Oscar runway walk. Except the stars were prospects on the sidelines of Sanford Stadium. I’m not quoting anyone since that was a sensitive pre-game setting but I will convey two statements that best fit that scene. One Georgia assistant said out loud to no one in particular. (Note: The spelling here is meant to convey a certain tone.)

“Look at all the Dawgs we have out here today,” he said. “They are going to see us get a big win.”

This view at Sanford Stadium on Saturday night was one of many which stood out along the Auburn game. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
This view at Sanford Stadium on Saturday night was one of many which stood out along the Auburn game. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

That they did. Georgia hosted — by my unofficial count — at least seven 5-star prospects that were in the Class of 2017 and 2018 alone. That’s not taking into account future 5-stars in the Class of 2019 like Dominick Blaylock of Walton High and Grayson’s Owen Pappoe.

The prospect count was so deep that Top 5 and Top 10 players at their positions like DeAngelo Gibbs and Jamyest Williams were just part of the panoramic slew of elite prospects in town.

I took one look up and down the sidelines and took notes on my voice recorder. I’ve scanned all the photos I took from the event.

When I weigh it all in, I’m going to dial down my most honest reaction to the amount of talent that was there just a bit. I don’t want to say something so outlandish that it seems sensational.

That said, there looked to be at least 10 easy future All-Conference players (Power 5 level) in Athens on Saturday. We could very well look back to UGA-Auburn and eventually count up at least five players that will make at least one All-American team in their college careers. The guys that were in the stands on Saturday already have that much college potential on their resumes.

So what did all the key prospects think? Let’s get to that.

5-star CB Stanford Samuels III

I’m a big proponent of the term “follow the visits” to convey the way a prospect is thinking. That’s the best advice I can give folks that want to know whether UGA has a shot at FSU commitment Stanford Samuels III.

He’s committed to FSU and he’s a legacy. His father Stanford Samuels Jr. had a great career as a defensive back for the Seminoles. The talented young defensive back grew up around that program.

5-star CB Stanford Samuels (right) was seemingly always with UGA commit Richard LeCounte III on Saturday. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
5-star CB Stanford Samuels (right) was seemingly always with UGA commit Richard LeCounte III on Saturday. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

Samuels is now rated as the nation’s No. 3 CB and as the No. 18 player overall in this year’s class. He was the highest-rated player from 2017 at UGA-Auburn on Saturday.

The follow the visits count for Mr. Samuels is now at two. That’s since August. He’s already planned a third.

Let me preface every bit of this by saying I feel the extremely likely scenario is for Samuels to maintain that commitment and follow in his father’s footsteps with a stellar career in Tallahassee. I’m not going to artificially rev up hopes here.

But here’s the stuff a writer says after the but.

  • Samuels told me that the unofficial visit went great and UGA gave him something to think about.
  • He does plan to return for his official visit in December.
  • The visit reinforced what he had already felt about UGA. He really likes the coaching staff. “I have very good relationships with those guys,” he said. “I have known a lot of them for a pretty long time.”
  • That’s a reference to the relationship between UGA head coach Kirby Smart and his father. Smart served was a graduate assistant at FSU when his father played there. Smart worked with the defensive backs daily.

Samuels told DawgNation he was planning his official visit for the traditional “Senior Gala” weekend. I’ve been hearing that the event is no longer a big recruiting weekend for the new staff. So I found it interesting that was the date Samuels said he currently has planned for his official visit.

The 5-star prospect also said that depth charts will not matter in any comparison between the playing opportunities for him at Georgia and FSU.  He realizes it is all about his game, how hard he works and how much passion he puts into perfecting his craft. If he does that, he feels he will play immediately at any program.

It is easy to see that a strong relationship exists between Samuels and 5-star UGA commitment Richard LeCounte III. Those two stuck close together for the entire day and seemed to always be laughing.

“Rich is my boy,” Samuels said. “We just have that natural click and have a lot of fun when we’re around each other.”

I’ve got three thoughts on the Samuels topic:

1) He can play right away at Georgia. Great size and length at CB.

2) Any flip chance that Georgia might have would leverage the relationships that exist between Smart and his family and then with LeCounte as a potential teammate and roommate. Smart has remained close to that family since the days he coached his father at FSU.

3) LeCounte is not sure when he will take his official visit as of yet. When he sets that date, look for it to likely coincide with the weekend Samuels will be in town.

5-star OT Walker Little 

Little, a 5-star offensive tackle from Texas, was the highest-rated official visitor at UGA on Saturday. He’s regarded as the nation’s No. 19 overall prospect for 2017.

Most importantly, he’s the No. 4 offensive tackle in the nation for the 2017 class. To put the chase for Little in football vernacular, I had Georgia’s chances at about a 2nd-and-30 at getting a likely instant starter to join the Class of 2017.

Texas 5-star OL Walker Little took an official visit to UGA for the Auburn game weekend. He's rated as the No. 4 OT in the nation for 2017. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Texas 5-star OL Walker Little took an official visit to UGA for the Auburn game weekend. He’s rated as the No. 4 OT in the nation for 2017. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

Stanford is the logical choice to land Little for several reasons. Texas was the likely No. 2. That’s the exact way the 247Sports Crystal Ball lines up for Little.

But things went well for Georgia. That’s what everybody should be reporting after an official visit that included so many pro-Georgia moments.

4-star QB commitment Jake Fromm told me he spent some time with Little on Saturday. He thought he enjoyed the trip. That intersects with a couple other reports I picked up regarding Little.

I’m moving the chances here up slightly. Maybe to something like 3rd-and-15.

Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports caught up with Little after the visit. 247 sports (not the composite) rates Little as the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect for 2017. The 6-foot-8, 305-pounder said he enjoyed the atmosphere and felt Georgia was a young team on the rise. I’d encourage everyone to follow those links. I’ll respect a peer’s fine work by only noting one more thing from his report: Little told Wiltfong he felt a genuine connection with Smart and offensive line coach Sam Pittman.

The 5-star tackle has future official visits lined up to Ole Miss, Texas and finally Stanford. I expect that last visit to cinch it. I won’t upgrade the chances on Little unless he returns for another unofficial visit.

3-star CB Eric Stokes Jr.

Stokes is rated as the nation’s No. 60 cornerback for 2017. He’s a 3-star recruit. While his thoughts on the UGA game might seem out of place at first glance, I deem them to be highly significant.

This 3-star recruit can run 100 meters in 10.4 seconds. That’s elite speed for a football player (and not a track guy playing football) at any level.

Stokes just picked up his UGA offer this month. That low ranking is a reflection of the fact he wasn’t a full-time cornerback until this season. The 6-foot, 180-pounder might also be the fastest prospect in the South.

Stokes took his first visit to UGA for a game on Saturday. (Joshua L. Jones. / Special)
Stokes took his first visit to UGA for a game on Saturday. (Joshua L. Jones. / Special)

I’m including Stokes with today’s Intel because I feel his trip likely meant more to his chances of eventually committing to UGA than any other recruit who was there.

That’s because it was his first visit to UGA for a game. He also made that trek to Athens within two weeks of receiving a long-sought offer from the in-state school.

He told me that his visit went great. As expected.

“I love the program and the players they are recruiting,” Stokes said.

The Eastside standout (Covington, Ga.) wasn’t sure when he would return. I’d say he’s a candidate for another visit for the Georgia Tech weekend.

How did it go?

“I can easily see myself at UGA,” Stokes told DawgNation.

He said the best part of the trip was his first face-to-face meeting with Smart.

“He would love to mold me into something that will get me to playing on Sundays,” Stokes said.

Want to play catch-up with everything vital to know about Stokes? We had an advance report on his visit last week.

It will be a busy week on DawgNation tracking down as much as we can from all of the day’s visits. We’ll try to post as many as we can during the week.

 

 

 

 

 

Hunker down for DawgNation’s latest news. Download our app: http://dawgs.us/2ctFtTG

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.

We have a new way to comment on our DawgNation stories. To do so, you must be a registered user on the DawgNation forum. If you haven’t registered, please go to the Forum homepage on DawgNation and look for “register” on the right side.