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Brant Sanderlin/AJC
Tennessee defenders hem in Georgia freshman RB Brian Herrien on Saturday.

Sentell’s Intel: How do the recruits view Georgia’s performance so far this year?

Hobnailed. Stepped on. Broken faces. Crushed noses.

Legendary UGA play-by-play man Larry Munson used those terms to describe how the Georgia faithful felt after a win in 2001 at Tennessee. The emotional range he surveyed after that game also would aptly describe how it felt on the receiving end of one of those in 2016.

That goes for the fan base, but what about the recruits? The 2016 results have produced a certain feeling so far among the recruits. Just don’t look for the 3-2 start and the setbacks the last two weeks against Ole Miss and Tennessee to douse the excitement that the inbound talent has for Kirby Smart’s program.

It seems to motivate the current commitments more than anything.

“When Georgia loses, I feel like that’s my high school team losing right now,” Pace Academy senior Andrew Thomas said. “Because I am committed and set to go there, it makes me upset for the rest of the day. But you can’t really get upset because that is a new staff with a freshman quarterback and a pretty young team. They are going to bounce back. I just feel that way.”

Georgia cornerback commitment William Poole III said the Tennessee loss affected him greatly. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Georgia cornerback commitment William Poole III said the Tennessee loss affected him greatly. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

Georgia commitment William Poole III probably had the most telling comment during the weekend when he described how he felt about Tennessee’s last-gasp win. He tweeted out that Georgia “had some for that next year,” but he also shared a very real comment.

“I’m hurt,” Poole said. “Feels like I was out there on the field myself. Every year I play Tennessee I’ll remember that exact moment.”

Poole is a defensive back. He’s clearly Georgia all the way, and that seems like a very honest view into how he handled that loss.

Georgia definitely has looked like a wobbly and inconsistent team the last three weeks in conference play. That even could be said about the Nicholls State game.

There’s a natural recruiting pitch that can derive from that. That’s what the recruits are hearing, but the legitimacy of those words seem very real given that hasn’t changed from the moment the new staff was brought in. Georgia needs help at several positions to play the brand of football Smart prefers.

The recruits have appreciated Sam Pittman’s approach. He’s been honest with his priority targets on the offensive line about what he needs going forward.

“I can see how it is unfolding,” Pace Academy 5-star junior Jamaree Salyer said. “I can definitely tell how he needs more offensive linemen. They are kind of small up front for (an) SEC school, but they are making do with what they have. I like what I’m seeing with them overall.”

Salyer said Pittman tells him after every game that the team needs more push up front. Salyer quickly could remedy that as the nation’s No. 1 offensive guard prospect in 2018. He could play right away at center or guard for Georgia.

2017 commit Trey Blount sees the same thing at receiver.

“I see what they are lacking, and I feel like when I get there my opportunity to play and maybe even start could possibly be very, very now when I get there,” he said. “They need big receivers that can block and extend the field, and I’m one of those guys who can do that for them.”

When Georgia loses, it motivates Blount. He actually predicted a bounceback performance and a victory against Tennessee heading into that game.

“I don’t want that to happen when I get there,” Blount said. “I just want to help the team any way that I can. That makes me want to go out and catch extra balls and run more suicides to get faster and just be more consistent with my game so I can come right in and compete.”

Blount said receivers coach James Coley has told him to “stay humble” and “keep working” and “he can’t wait to have him” in Athens.

“He’s not promising me anything,” Blount said. “He’s said I am going to have to work for everything, and that’s what I want to hear.”

Thomas is focused on his senior season at Pace Academy. He hopes that season ends with another state championship at the Georgia Dome. When it does, he’s set to work with his offensive line coach and the program’s training staff to start a regimen that prepares him to compete right away at Georgia.

“We’re going to really go to work and prepare and get in shape and get stronger for the SEC,” Thomas said.

He’ll show up next June and hope to compete. He’ll set a goal to start, but he plans to compete from the outset. The goal would be to start as a freshman at left tackle.

“If not, I will do whatever they need to help the team out,” Thomas said. “If they need me to play guard, then I will surely do that. Guard. Right tackle. Whatever they need, I want to play and to help Georgia.”

Thomas told DawgNation last week he will not take any other official visits except the one to Georgia.

“Shocking” Alabama commitment will help Georgia

5-star OLB Dylan Moses committed to Alabama on Sunday. That was huge news as the Crimson Tide continue to corner the market on linebackers every recruiting cycle. Moses has been the poster kid for an elite recruit dating back to getting his first SEC offers from Alabama and LSU in the eighth grade.

He’s rated as the nation’s No. 4 overall prospect in 2017. It gives the Crimson Tide commitments from the nation’s No. 1, 4 and 5 players this year. By comparison, Georgia’s three highest-rated pledges so far in 2017 rank at 24, 37 and 38.

(That’s the right perspective to look at here. Georgia has the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class in 2017, but that’s the difference between that slot and the best class in the SEC.)

The rich got richer in Tuscaloosa, but that likely closes the book on linebacker recruiting for that team. The Tide have commits from the nation’s No. 1, No. 4 and No. 5 prospects at outside linebacker and the top junior college prospect at inside linebacker.

Small side note: Those are the only OLBs ranked among the nation’s top 8 who have committed. They all chose Alabama. The Crimson Tide have 11 linebackers on the roster, including the nation’s No. 1 ILB and No. 2 OLB who signed in February.

Georgia and Alabama were the teams to beat for Cairo OLB Walter Grant, but I always felt the in-state school had a slight edge. The decision from Moses on Sunday virtually assures Grant to Georgia. He was expected to make his commitment sometime this month, and this all but gift-wraps him to Georgia.

Crisp County OLB Markaviest “Big Cat” Bryant also wanted to give Alabama a good look, but this likely takes the Tide out of serious consideration for him, too.

Alabama is also Georgia’s top competition for Vidalia ILB Nate McBride and James Clemens ILB Monty Rice. If the Crimson Tide want to add an additional ILB, my SEC Country colleague Chris Kirschner feels the most likely addition would be Nashville 4-star Jacob Phillips. McBride is rated higher, but Phillips likely would be the choice.

Something to pay more attention to …

Jacob Eason is just a freshman. That long touchdown he threw to Riley Ridley won’t get the attention it deserves for the way he delivered that ball in another clutch moment. It was simply an incredible throw.

CBS analyst Gary Danielson already feels Eason is a can’t-miss prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft class. He’s said Eason already has the SEC’s strongest arm since Matthew Stafford.

If he’s healthy, his skills won’t have many pondering about the backup at Georgia in the short term. Yet, there remains the real (and likely) scenario in which fourth-year junior Brice Ramsey transfers to earn a starting job elsewhere in 2017. Senior Greyson Lambert, the current second-team QB, will exhaust his eligibility as a graduate transfer this fall.

Jake Fromm — the 4-star commitment in 2017 — is naturally a guy to think about here, but that’s not the likely succession plan for his very bright future. Fromm will enroll early in January and compete like a madman to challenge Eason in 2017. That will be a much stiffer test for Eason than the derby he won this year to claim the starting job.

But the ideal scenario is a Fromm redshirt in 2017. I easily can see him as the actual No. 2 on the depth chart, but that redshirt will be preserved unless something happens to sideline Eason for a significant time. That would give Eason 2016, 2017 and 2018 as the guy. Fromm backs up Eason in 2018 and has 2019, 2020 and perhaps 2021 to sling it around if he stays all four years.

But how does that happen if Ramsey transfers? I’m thinking of another name aside from walk-on redshirt sophomore Sam Vaughn and another name. The recent addition of Parker McCleod might have been a more important piece to the team than the headlines it created two months ago.

McCleod signed with Alabama as a 3-star prospect in 2013 but transferred to Western Kentucky and never played. He joined the team as a walk-on for fall camp after having just been a student at Georgia in 2015. Smart recruited him in high school and talked him into joining the team to bolster the quarterback depth.

What are the odds of McCleod being the primary backup who preserves the redshirt year for Fromm in 2017? That’s an interesting question. I’d wager that’s more likely than any junior college quarterback or graduate transfer coming in with Eason’s 6-foot-5 shadow looming over playing time next season.

Does Georgia go after a dual-threat quarterback in 2017 instead of another pocket passer like Fromm? Tray Bishop, a 4-star athlete, was a thought there, but he committed to Auburn instead. That’s something to consider but not many top-tier dual threats are thinking Georgia because of Eason and Fromm.

The senior at Houston County is set to shatter almost every significant career and single-season passing record in the Georgia high school record books this fall.

The usual good stuff from Richard LeCounte III

Richard LeCounte III is Georgia’s top-rated recruit in 2017. He was also the first prospect to commit to Smart at Georgia. It took him about a week back in December.

We’ve documented his worth as a program ambassador at length in this space to go along with his 5-star status. Last weekend saw his Liberty County team suffer a tough 35-34 loss on Friday for its first defeat of the season.

His Saturday might have one-upped that setback in the gut-punch column. He shared his reaction on Twitter on Sunday afternoon.

Mr. Lawrence went to Clemson 

Trevor Lawrence — Georgia’s top recruiting target in 2018 — went to Clemson on Saturday and saw a quarterback showcase of the highest order. The 5-star QB rates as the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in his signing class.

His decision between Clemson and Georgia should come some time this year. He’d be another wonderful problem for Jim Chaney to have if he enrolled early at Georgia in January of 2018.

Clemson made some inroads with three 5-star prospects Georgia and the rest of the nation has prioritized in 2018. The Tigers not only hosted Lawrence but also DE Xavier Thomas and RB Zamir White.

Thomas rates as the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect in 2018. White comes in at No. 4 overall.

White told 247Sports.com’s Ryan Bartow the atmosphere for that contest trumped Alabama-Georgia from last season as the best he’s ever experienced on a college visit.

He also told Bartow his decision likely will come after his senior season.

Georgia fans should regard the pursuit for all three of those guys as chasing the highest-rated prospects the program ever has signed at each of those positions.

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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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