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 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.