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Jeff Sentell/AJC
Cam Akers is rated as the nation's No. 8 overall prospect in the Class of 2017.

Sentell’s Intel: The biggest ‘what if’ for Georgia’s recruiting class is …

We won’t mince words after a headline like that one. The biggest “what if” for Georgia’s recruiting class for the rest of 2017 cycle revolves around 5-star Cam Akers.

Akers — the nation’s No. 2 running back this year — might sound like an example of Georgia trying to get them all. The Bulldogs already have commitments from two running backs (Toneil Carter, D’Andre Swift) that rate among the nation’s top 10 at that position.

Akers was a definite standout at Nike's "The Opening" in Oregon back in July. (Jeremy Birmingham / Landof10.com)
Cam Akers was a definite standout at Nike’s “The Opening” in Oregon back in July. (Jeremy Birmingham/Landof10.com)

Can the Bulldogs add Akers? They will sure try. He’s an elite talent and there is a need. Bear in mind the Bulldogs will likely see Nick Chubb and Sony Michel move on to the NFL after this season. Senior Brendan Douglas will also exhaust his eligibility.

So, that’s three slots that will open up on the running back depth chart. At least. If that sounds like Alabama’s act of trying to sign three big-time backs every other recruiting cycle, then it should.

That would be a best-case scenario of scenarios for Georgia. Any plan that involves Akers coming to Athens would.

A well-placed source close to that situation told DawgNation the Bulldogs are in the running for Akers. That decision might be whittled down soon. When it does, I feel Georgia will be in the mix along with at least LSU, Florida State and Tennessee.

The big “what if” would be a problem the UGA staff would love to take on. How can UGA keep those other two backs committed with a talent like Akers coming on board?

It could get complicated. Akers and Carter will both enroll early. Swift is not able to do so coming out of his challenging private school curriculum in Philadelphia.

Akers also plans to take a visit to Georgia next weekend for the Tennessee game. Rusty Mansell of 247sports has reported that it will be an unofficial visit at that. He’s also expected to be at Ole Miss this weekend for the noon kickoff with Georgia. Getting the chance to put the future of the program on display for Akers in back-to-back weeks will be a huge opportunity to impress Akers.

Getting the chance to put the future of the program on display for Akers in back-to-back weeks will be a huge opportunity to impress Akers.

Akers was one of the top performers at UGA's "Dawg Night" prospect camp last summer. (Rob Saye / Special)
Cam Akers was one of the top performers at UGA’s “Dawg Night” prospect camp last summer. (Rob Saye/Special)

Akers has been hailed as the best back to ever come out of the state of Mississippi by the Magnolia State’s leading sports historian. Rick Cleveland said he’s never seen a better high school back than Akers.

That includes such luminaries as Marcus Dupree, Jimmy Johns, Jerious Norwood, Deuce McAllister and the unbelievable Walter Payton.

The Clinton High School standout stands as the best chance for Georgia to add another 5-star prospect (247sports Composite) to this year’s class. Safety Richard LeCounte III is the only 5-star currently in the class. Jake Fromm should definitely challenge for his fifth star given all the record-smashing he’s on pace for this season.

The 5-foot-11, 213-pound Akers plays quarterback for his high school team but is all running back at the next level. Akers ran a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash at the Opening in Oregon and also exploded out of his stance for a 38.6-inch vertical leap.

How can Georgia add a third back? Especially one like Akers? Keep in mind this is the same coaching staff that would like nothing better than to see Jacob Eason, Fromm and Cartersville sensation Trevor Lawrence all on the roster at quarterback, too.

There’s one more aspect to the Akers story that always crosses my mind. Jaden Hunter told me this summer he believed the 5-star back would still be committed to Alabama if Kirby Smart was still coaching over there.

Check out his highlights against perennial power South Panola earlier this year. They speak for themselves.



The developing Aaron Sterling story

Tucker High School defensive lineman Aaron Sterling recently de-committed from Alabama. He told my SEC Country colleague Chris Kirschner on Thursday he will likely move on from Alabama. The Tide will probably no longer be considered for Sterling going forward.

Sterling said Georgia has picked up the pace in recruiting him since he de-committed from Alabama. (Chris Kirschner / AJC)
Aaron Sterling said Georgia has picked up the pace in recruiting him since he de-committed from Alabama. (Chris Kirschner / AJC)

Sterling does not regret the commitment he made and he was highly appreciative for the opportunity extended to him to play at Alabama.

What does that mean for Georgia? Quite a lot actually. The 3-star prospect is much better than his rating as the No. 18 strong-side defensive end this year. The 6-foot-2, 260-pound prospect eventually drifted away from the Tide because he didn’t like the plans that were in store for him.

Alabama planned to use him at both linebacker and on the defensive line. He discovered through careful consideration and consultation with those close to him that wasn’t what he wanted to do at the college level.

Georgia, North Carolina State, South Carolina and Tennessee have all been recruiting him since he de-committed from Alabama. The Bulldogs have also increased their attention to Sterling since his decision.

“I actually just talked to coach Smart last week,” Sterling told Kirschner. “Coach Rocker just hit me up yesterday. I’m pretty sure he’s happy now that I de-committed. They keep on telling me that they need me there because they need pass rushers, fast-twitch guys who can rush the edge.”

South Carolina plans to use him in the role held down by NFL first-rounder Dominique Easley at Florida. That’s at defensive tackle, nose tackle and at defensive end.

That’s a strong selling point for Sterling. The fact is he just wants to play on the defensive line and that hurt his connection to Alabama when it discussed that hybrid role. Georgia plans to use him as a “3” and a “5” technique at defensive tackle.

That would be lining up on outside shoulder of the guard in the “3” technique and the same outside shoulder of the tackle in the “5” technique.

Sterling has only established official visits to North Carolina State and South Carolina at this time.


Smart tidbits from his radio show

Georgia coach Kirby Smart sometimes fields general recruiting questions during his weekly radio hour with play-by-play voice Scott Howard. He was asked this week for his thoughts on sending coaches on the road for Friday night football games.

Smart said on Thursday night that he might go out and see a prospect compete at a high school game this fall. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Kirby Smart said on Thursday night that he might go out and see a prospect compete at a high school game this fall. (Jeff Sentell/AJC)

Smart said there will be three Georgia coaches on the road tonight. The staff philosophy he adheres to is to keep his coordinators off the road on Friday nights.

“I think that is critical to your success because you want to have a presence, especially in your home state of where you are recruiting for those kids to see that ‘G’ on the sideline and know that Georgia is watching them,” Smart said.

It will be one-shot deals attending games during the season. NCAA rules do not allow the staff to visit the same team for more than one game prior to when the December contact period opens.

Smart said he might be on the road at a game this year.

“I’ve actually have considered going out as the head coach,” Smart said.

Check out this developing talent

Want to know about the next big thing before he blows up with offers? We aim to make that a regular feature with the Intel. We’ll always write about the kids with UGA offers. But wouldn’t you like to get a good look before the offer comes?

I’ve had my eye on Chattahoochee freshman CB Willie T. Lee. Lee moved to Georgia from Jacksonville prior to this season. Take a look at his freshman film below.

It seems hard to believe he’s only a member of the Class of 2020. Lee, 16, plays far beyond that grade level as a starter this fall. He’s been starting at corner in 1-on-1 coverage this fall and left with no safety help. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound freshman has already been shutting out receivers, too.

Lee had been a member of the Jacksonville-based Pro Impact 7-on-7 team. That garnered him the opportunity to train with and compete against a number of top Class of 2017 recruits like FSU receiver commit D.J. Matthews, South Florida pledge Bruce Judson and Ohio State commitment Shaun Wade.

He’s also trained alongside 5-star cornerback Tyreke Johnson from the Class of 2018. Johnson is a major UGA target for next year’s recruiting class.



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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