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Jeff Sentell / AJC
Brian Herrien ran for a touchdown on his first collegiate carry on Saturday night in the Georgia Dome.

Sentell’s Intel: Revisiting the against-all-odds story of freshman RB Brian Herrien

Brian Herrien ran for 19 yards and six points on his first college carry against North Carolina. When he did, his coach and mentor Myron Terry almost hit the ceiling.

“I jumped off the couch,” Terry told DawgNation. “I couldn’t have been more proud of him. I’ve watched him do that since he was in middle school. Now, DawgNation gets to see it.”

The biggest goal line of Herrien career wasn’t the one he crossed at The Georgia Dome. He had to author a remarkable classroom comeback to earn the right to qualify for an SEC scholarship.

Herrien made sure that he pulled it off. But so did Terry and the rest of the support system he had at New Manchester High School. Terry had a role. So did his former head coach Rob Cleveland.

When he signed with Georgia back in May, Herrien and his family also pointed to another vital difference maker in math teacher Natasha Jordan.

“He has earned this opportunity,” Terry said. “Folks just don’t know. He was carrying all of Douglas County on his back (Saturday) night. Although he is only one game in, the excitement is electric.”

Brian Herrien showed skill and speed against North Carolina. (BRANT SANDERLIN/AJC)
Brian Herrien showed skill and speed against North Carolina. (BRANT SANDERLIN/AJC)

Herrien entered his final high school semester believing he needed to get all As in his three remaining core courses and achieve a 16 on his ACT in order to qualify.  He did more than that in recording an 18 on his final ACT attempt. That gave him some wiggle room to qualify to sign at UGA for its Class of 2016. He only had to make all As and Bs in the spring semester.

He did just that. The storyline only gets richer from there for a recruit who was so under-the-radar he wasn’t even ranked. No stars. No major SEC offers.

Most of the major college programs saw the talent but doubted his ability to overcome the hole he’d dug in the classroom in his freshman and sophomore years. That’s why he wasn’t offered.

The one program that stayed on him was Georgia and coach Kirby Smart. Smart and his assistant Glenn Schumann kept in contact with Herrien after getting to first know him when they were both at Alabama.

Cleveland said Herrien started to buckle down in the second semester of his junior year to boost his grade-point average. Herrien made just one “C” during the final two years of high school. The rest of his grades were all “As and Bs” after that.

“He had a lot of catching up to do,” Cleveland said back in May. “From the on-the-field standpoint, there was never a doubt. We just had to do a really great job and he has done that to become qualified. Once we got Brian on board with how important he had to take this to become academically eligible, he’s done everything he needed to do and more in the classroom. We’re awfully proud of him. He led (GHSA Class) 5A football this year in rushing with 1,970 yards in just 10 games. He’s just a special football player and one of the best running backs and players I have seen in all of my 28 years. … I’m just proud to say that I got to coach a player like Brian Herrien in his career. Especially in my last year.”

Herrien went through ACT tutoring sessions and reported to school early to do make-up work and to make sure that he stayed on top of all of his assignments. He told DawgNation back in March his transcript issues were also compounded when a school representative mistakenly put one of his grades as a “D” instead of a “B” on his grade report.

He told DawgNation back in March that he wanted to qualify and play for Georgia more than anything. He carried the mindset that there would not be a Plan B. He was going to do whatever it took to qualify to play for Georgia.

Herrien made almost exclusively "As and Bs" in his junior and senior years of high school in order to qualify to play at UGA. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Herrien made almost exclusively “As and Bs” in his junior and senior years of high school in order to qualify to play at UGA. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

Herrien also became the first player the New Manchester High School program to play in the SEC. Terry summed up the moment best with a comment he made the day Herrien was able to finally sign with Georgia.

“This was being down 21-3 late in the third quarter and we didn’t have the ball,” Terry said. “It looked bleak. You just punted and haven’t gotten a first down all game. Then you get the first one. Then you get a score. Then you get a strip sack and return it. That’s when his test score popped. Then he just kept rolling from there. Everything that was working against him, he wasn’t going to let it stop him.”

Smart first saw him at an Alabama camp and he told Herrien he was impressed with how he ran pass routes and tucked the ball away like a receiver would.

Herrien said Smart told him he never forgot that first impression. That’s why the first-year head coach was so emotional when Herrien’s name came up in the post-game press briefing.

“Tears almost came to my eyes when that kid had that touchdown run,” Smart said. “Because a lot of ya’ll don’t know how far he came. He’s sitting in his second semester and he’s got to make four or five ‘As’ to even be eligible. … For that kid to come as far as he did and get thrust into the limelight and go out there and do what he did is really special.”

Herrien finished with seven carries for 59 yards and that one touchdown in his college debut.

Updating the latest with Mark Webb Jr.

Mark Webb Jr., a 4-star receiver from Pennsylvania, was expected to make his decision sometime shortly after his cousin D’Andre Swift made his decision to commit to Georgia. The timeframe could have been as early as within a week of that pledge.

That might have changed.

Scout.com‘s Brian Dohn caught up with Webb shortly after Swift’s commitment. That report indicates Webb feels he is “97 percent” certain he will follow Swift to Georgia and that decision could take place on ESPNU in two weeks.

It shapes up as a classic made-for-TV moment. Webb’s Archbishop Wood team will host Swift and St. Joseph’s Prep at 8 p.m. on Sept. 16. Swift is the newest commitment to Georgia and Webb has been trending since early in the summer to also join this year’s class at Georgia.

Webb's father felt that Alabama and Georgia were his son's co-leaders at this time. (NIke)
Webb’s father said recently that Alabama and Georgia were his son’s co-leaders at this time. Webb recently said that D’Andre Swift’s decision has now moved Georgia back out in front. (Nike)

Webb — who goes by the nickname “Gator” — would become the highest-rated commitment at receiver for the Bulldogs in this year’s cycle.

Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Penn State and Temple are the finalists for Webb. Dohn also reported Webb might take an official visit to Alabama this weekend.

That aligns with what Webb’s father recently told DawgNation. Mark Webb Sr. wanted to see his son take some official visits prior to his decision. He also indicated that UGA and Alabama were the teams to beat for his son’s commitment.

Webb told DawgNation this summer that there was a 100 percent chance the two cousins would be a package deal and play together in college. He’s a part of DawgNation’s projected 2017 signing class for Georgia.

The 6-foot-2, 194-pounder is rated as the nation’s No. 19 receiver and No. 134 overall prospect in 2017.

Smart’s recruiting priorities

Smart took a question on his new weekly Thursday night radio show that centered on recruiting. His answer outlined the clear priorities for Georgia football on his watch.

The question was what did Smart consider to be the most important position in recruiting and what was the biggest priority.

The line of scrimmage will be biggest recruiting priority at Georgia under head coach Kirby Smart. ( Kevin C. Cox/ Getty Images)
The line of scrimmage will be biggest recruiting priority at Georgia under head coach Kirby Smart. ( Kevin C. Cox/ Getty Images)

“I’d like to say that the most important position in recruiting are the offensive and defensive lines,” Smart said. “I think they are the hardest to recruit because it is the most competitive to get those players.”

Smart said he often references the story about NBA basketball statistic on just how many human beings that top the 6-foot-3 mark in height.

“There’s just not that many of them,” Smart said. “So when you start trying to find people above 6-foot-3 on the offensive and defensive lines, there’s just not that many. Everybody wants them in college football so we are all competing to get them. I always say that’s a priority. You win with the guys you have got up front. There are more skill players out there than there are big people. That’s always a priority to me so you can have a successful program is getting the offensive and defensive lines stocked.”

Early enrollment tracker

Who’s enrolling early?

DawgNation continues to monitor the progress of the Class of 2017 and which prospects will be able to graduate early and join the program in January of 2017. Some schools — Pace Academy in Atlanta is one example — have such a rigorous academic load that it’s impossible for student-athletes to graduate early.

St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia, the home of new 4-star RB commit D’Andre Swift, is another one of those schools.

DawgNation has been in touch with almost all of the 2017 commitments over the last week and been able to confirm the following early graduates:

  • 4-star DE Robert Beal (IMG Academy/ Bradenton, Fla.)
  • 4-star RB Toneil Carter (Langham Creek/Houston, Tex.)
  • 5-star S Richard LeCounte III (Liberty County/Hinesville, Ga.)
  • 4-star QB Jake Fromm (Houston County/ Warner Robins, Ga.)

DawgNation has verified that the other 11 commitments in the class are not going to enroll early at Georgia.

 

Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him 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.