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Jeff Sentell / AJC
Brenton Cox already has put up some strong pass-rush numbers during the last two seasons.

Sentell’s Intel: Sackmaster Brenton Cox has emerged as a priority recruit

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 school this 4-star or 5-star might be leaning to and add a dab of perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.

STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. — Beast. Breakout. Dominator. Godzilla. Marked man.

If this was a multiple-choice exam, all of the above would apply to Stockbridge junior DE Brenton Cox.

At this point of the season, there is usually a long list of players who have played above their ranking. Cox definitely would be among that group. He also already has a lot of positive things to say about UGA.

Cox said that UGA grew up as his dream school and has been recruiting him better in quality and quantity than any other program. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Cox said Georgia was his dream school growing up. He said the Bulldogs have been recruiting him better than any other program. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

The 6-foot-5, 235-pounder has an eye-popping 10.5 sacks lined up out of an even front after 7 games this season. He’s posted 7.5 sacks over the last two weeks.

That figure doesn’t include another five sacks he tallied in a preseason scrimmage. He also said he finished with 11 sacks a year ago at Miller Grove.

He’s been able to pair up the on-field production with the major recruiting attention. Sometimes that is easier said than done.

The junior picked up an Alabama offer in June. When Cox took an unofficial visit to Ohio State earlier this month, an offer came his way shortly thereafter.

Cox generally is rated as a 3-star prospect, and yet he’s played above that level the last two seasons. The well-respected 247Sports Composite lists Cox as the 36th-best player in Georgia in 2018. That’s fairly low for a player that already had Alabama and Ohio State offers halfway into his junior year.

UGA ahas offered, and Cox visited the campus for Kirby Smart’s Camp in July. That’s one of six trips he’s made to Athens so far. That’s quite a lot more than any other school.

“My dream school growing up was and is UGA,” Cox said. “It was a household thing. All my family members and everybody liked UGA and the Atlanta Falcons and everything about Georgia. I also like how the defensive ends at Georgia don’t always have their hand stuck in the ground. You can also drop back and cover a pass or rush the quarterback.”

He’s a major priority for Georgia in the Class of 2018. Auburn, Ole Miss and Tennessee also have offered him out of the SEC. Cox has no decision timeline. He doesn’t see himself making an early decision, but he also doesn’t plan to take his decision all the way to National Signing Day.

“UGA, Clemson, Ohio State and Virginia Tech are recruiting me the hardest right now,” Cox said. “I think that UGA is coming harder than anyone else. They are really coming over the top with it. Clemson would be right there coming hard after Georgia.”

Cox said he already knows that Georgia, Ohio State and Tenneseee will be in it with his recruiting until the very end. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Cox said he already knows that Georgia, Ohio State and Tennessee will be in it with his recruiting until the end. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

But Cox added an important distinction in how Tracy Rocker and Kevin Sherrer are recruiting him to Athens.

“There’s a difference between a lot of communication and quality conversation,” he said. “I’m talking about telling me the right things to do and helping me out with my defensive end stuff. The school doing that more than anyone else would also be UGA.”

Georgia junior Lorenzo Carter is the player Cox patterns his game after the most.

Cox recently named a top 10 that included Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, North Carolina, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Virginia Tech.

What’s his best trait on the field now? Stockbridge coach Kevin Whitley said it is his athleticism.

The big defensive end said Urban Meyer already has been reaching out and texting him “almost every day” for a long stretch this year. Cox said his unofficial visit to Ohio State earlier this year ranks as his best experience on a college campus up to now.

“Ohio State likes the way I rush the passer,” Cox said. “They like my speed and length and that I can still put on a lot of weight.”

He’s already a marked man. There was a play this year in which Cox got blocked by four offensive players, including the receiver and running back.

“Yeah, I didn’t make that play,” Cox said.

He’s looking for more with his college choice than just selecting a typical jock major.

“I don’t want a degree in the typical physical-training stuff that football players choose,” he said. “I want to major in engineering or something tougher than that. I want college to be about taking care of my brain as much as it is for the football.”

Cox has already piled up more than 20 sacks in his high school career. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Cox already has piled up more than 20 sacks in his high school career. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

He had a unique experience on his first visit to UGA this year. Smart positioned himself by Cox, and they struck up a conversation. Cox — truth be told — said he had no idea who Smart was until he was told by others on the ride home.

It created an unforgettable first impression.

“He’s cool because, at first, I didn’t even know who he was talking to me,” Cox said. “He was just this shorter dude who was cool that kept talking to me. I really don’t know how to explain it. He just had a way of talking to you where it made you feel like he was just a regular guy and a real cool dude.”

Cox recently was named to the Georgia Rising Seniors game in December. That should give evaluators a long look at what he brings to the field.

Check out his midyear highlight reel. He’s beating a lot of guys to the edge or making an outside move and then knifing back inside for a lot of his big plays.


Smart on the early-signing period

Perhaps the most interesting recruiting news this month has been the NCAA’s proposal to add a pair of early- signing periods for college football. There would be a new period for official visits in early June and then a 72-hour period in late June as well as mid-December in which players could make a final decision and avoid some of the stress that comes with recruiting.

The NCAA’s latest plans also have called for a way for student-athletes to gain a free release from a letter-of-intent in the event of a coaching change or perhaps even NCAA penalties.

Smart shared his view on the proposal during the weekly SEC teleconference. Smart shared the same viewpoint that has been offered by Meyer and Nick Saban, among others.

Cox had a unique first meeting with UGA coach Kirby Smart. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
UGA coach Kirby Smart has a clear opinion on the early-signing period. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

Those guys don’t want to see any early-signing periods reduce the amount of talent in the player pool that would be available for them to sign or close on late. That’s a natural position to take for any coaching staff which invests a lot of energy in recruiting. Elite recruiters don’t want to miss on a chance to recruit the nation’s top talent under any scenario.

College basketball has had an early-signing period for some time, but Smart didn’t see the need for reform in the decision timeline for football.

“I’m a big proponent of it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it,” Smart said.

Smart said nobody really knows what an early-signing period for college football would look like. He wasn’t sure what unforeseen ramifications that would bring.

“Sometimes when you are not out there in the recruiting world and you’re not day-to-day traveling as an assistant coach going out and recruiting, you don’t see what happens to kids who change their mind,” Smart said. “Coaches change jobs. A lot can happen when you have the early-signing period, and it just speeds up a process that I personally think is already rushed. I’m not a big person that’s in favor of moving up (National) Signing Day or having an earlier signing period.”

He said the plan has some merits but kept his stance clear on the proposals.

“When the whole thing is considered in totality, I just don’t think it is something that is going to be good for the kids and good for the players. I don’t see it that way.”

The latest Zamir White highlights

Looking for more proof why North Carolina junior 5-star RB Zamir “Zeus” White is a talent who doesn’t come around but at least every five years?

The Scotland County (Laurinburg, N.C.) star’s latest highlight clip provides a telling example. Pay close attention to the proper use of the strength displayed as he pushes a potential defender out of his way.

White and the Scots have started 8-0 this season, but he sat out two weeks ago with a thigh bruise that has bothered him all season. According to the Fayetteville Observer, he returned to form last Friday night with 23 carries for 173 yards and 1 touchdown in a 20-13 win against Pinecrest.

The 6-1, 215-pound junior has missed three games this season. He still has rolled to 798 yards on 94 carries and scored 10 times. He’s averaging 8.5 yards per carry in 2016.

White is rated as the nation’s No. 1 RB prospect in 2018 and as the No. 4 player overall in 2018. DawgNation told his inspiring story this spring, and his family hopes to visit UGA later this season.

Look for White to go deep into his senior season before he makes his college decision. Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and North Carolina should be the primary contenders. South Carolina coach Will Muschamp was on hand to see White face off against South Carolina safety commit Jaylin Dickerson.

Take a look at White’s 2016 midseason highlight reel from PrepForce.com:


Harbaugh fashion goes beyond khakis

Can you imagine Smart showing up at Clinton High in Mississippi to watch 5-star RB Cam Akers and then changing into team gear?

Not UGA gear. Arrows gear. He’d be wearing the colors and logo of the big-timer he is recruiting.

Can you imagine Smart going to Grayson High and sporting green-and-gold Rams gear? What about announcing the homecoming queen at halftime?

Jim Harbaugh poses with a Michigan fan at a satellite football camp in Atlanta, Georgia on June 2, 2016. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Jim Harbaugh poses with a Michigan fan at a satellite football camp on June 2 in Atlanta. Give the man credit. He seems to adapt to his surroundings like a chameleon. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

Well, that’s the latest from Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh has found a new recruiting avenue to explore all by himself. He was at Antioch High (Antioch, Calif.) to see the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in 2017.

That’s Najee Harris. The nation’s No. 1 RB who just so happens to be committed to Alabama. That didn’t stop Harbaugh from showing up early, posing for photos with fans, changing into Antioch gear and then announcing the name of the school’s homecoming queen at halftime.

That marked his third trip to see Harris. He’d also held a satellite camp during the summer at his school.

It may sound like it, but I didn’t make up one single ring of that three-ring circus act. These 5-star recruits are used to entitlement. No doubt. But is this going too far? What do you think? Drop me a line in the comments section below.




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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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