DeAngelo Gibbs might be the hardest-to-read elite prospect in the South for 2017.
As the weeks go by and most of the answers from the Grayson High senior seem the same. That’s because the nation’s No. 5 cornerback still does not know.
“I don’t know when I’ll ever be ready,” Gibbs said.
When we chat, the banter is comical. The No. 3 player in Georgia is always polite and respectful. I try to come with a fresh angle but it always comes back to the same thing. He’s uncertain. No leaders. No top schools. He doesn’t even feel a program has secured an official visit yet.
Gibbs projects to play in the SEC and the most likely landing spots would be Georgia and Tennessee, but he does bring up Clemson, Florida and another ACC program. Gibbs said he will “for sure” visit Florida State this fall. He also hopes to see a couple of Alabama games and plans a return to LSU. When Tennessee travels to Georgia to kick off October, he’ll definitely be there.
We laugh. He smiles. I scratch my head. He smiles and then says something interesting. It feels like Andy Dufresne digging his way out of Shawshank prison with a spoon. Sifting through a pocketful of pebbles every day to find the scoop. When he said he loved Georgia “a lot” in April, it was a major revelation.
But sooner or later it all comes back to this: He says he really doesn’t know.
He’s got a cousin at Georgia in transfer safety J. R. Reed. That might only offset another cousin at Tennessee in freshman Nigel Warrior. His close friend Breon Dixon just de-committed from UGA and that certainly did not boost the odds of him wearing red and black.
Gibbs now gets timely reports from those cousins about fall camp, practice and school life. Those are his recruiting reporters.
“I just talked to Nigel and he’s enjoying it up there,” Gibbs said last week. “He loves it and he’s getting on the field a lot. He’s been telling me the same thing since day one when he got there. He wants me to come to Tennessee but if it is not the right fit then don’t come. But he wants me to come. Then the same thing with J.R. at Georgia. He says he’d love to play with me at Georgia and what not. But he says if it is not a fit then I’m the one who has to spend the four years at a college. He’s not doing those four years for me.”
He said both cousins are like “brothers.” They let him know what he needs to hear and never hold back.
The 247Sports Crystal Ball shows 83 percent of the picks favor Georgia — including nine in a row — since June 23. Some folks seem to know about Gibbs. Especially more than he lets on in an interview setting.
There are very few certainties in recruiting (this week’s examples are Breon Dixon and Aubrey Solomon) but one of the truisms I rely on is the phrase “follow the visits.” More often than not, the place where elite players go and keep going back to seem to matter.
Athens just might be a close trip and a very fun town to hang around (see Lanier five-star Derrick Brown last fall) but his pattern ever since Kirby Smart was hired just seems different.
He recently told me he’s taken “six or seven” trips to Athens this summer alone. He also feels he’ll pursue a business or a communications major, but really doesn’t know about that path either. The Bulldogs have the academic oomph to serve both of those potential majors.
In the recruiting world, that’s big. That’s heavy interest mapped out by visits and an academic and a football fit. That’s why I think he will apply, enroll early and sign with Georgia. It will just take awhile. His decision might come as late as the U.S. Army All-America game. That’s the same path that five-star tight end Isaac Nauta followed last year.
But right now he could just as well be at a high school dance. There are about 15 pretty girls swirling about who do not have a four-star cornerback in tow.
“I might wait until the last second of the song,” Gibbs said. “I might even just start dancing on my own before that song ends. I really don’t know. I may wait until the very end and see how things will go from there.”
The reality is sinking in he’ll have to pick. Eventually. Especially as an early enrollee.
“Sooner or later,” Gibbs said. “I will just have to.”
He will name a Top 5 eventually. He just visited Tennessee over the weekend.
“I couldn’t name a Top 5 right now,” Gibbs said. “Not right now. Too complicated. Too hard. Can’t do it. I couldn’t name a Top 12 and haven’t named a Top 30 or anything.”
The other big question with Gibbs
Which school will it be for Gibbs? The only tougher question would be which position will he play.
He’s rated as the nation’s No. 5 cornerback and used to be considered an athlete. He played receiver primarily last fall at Peachtree Ridge. It was a luxury since that roster was stacked with so many SEC cornerbacks. Gibbs could be seen as a No. 1 or 2 receiver in the SEC or a lockdown cornerback. The temptation to line him up at receiver might be the greatest in red zone situations.
I think his best spot is at safety. That opinion was echoed by Grayson teammate Jamyest Williams. The young man knows a thing or two about pass coverage.
“If I was the defensive coordinator, I’d play him at safety,” Williams said. “Because he is big and long and will come down and hit you. Plus he’s got great ball skills.”
Williams said he’d let him sneak over to the offense during practice to prepare him to “get thrown a couple of jump balls every now and then.”
Gibbs said he’s been lining up all over the place at cornerback, receiver and safety in fall camp.
The second big de-commitment of the week
Breon Dixon backed off his pledge to Georgia on Sunday afternoon. Lee County defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon followed suit late Monday afternoon.
The four-star prospect de-committed from Michigan in a move that was at least amplified by the Wolverines losing track of him. According to 247sports.com’s Kipp Adams, the Wolverines sent Solomon some correspondence thanking him for attending the team’s recent BBQ event.
There were two big gaffes in that envelope. Solomon did not attend and their names were spelled incorrectly. When Solomon chose to commit to Michigan, he did so on an unofficial visit he did not attend with his mother. His tweet where he announced the news appears below. Solomon made it clear that his mother Sabrina Caldwell will have her hands on the wheel on his recruiting going forward.
God Bless ? pic.twitter.com/Uub9inc0Da
— Aubrey Solomon (@AubreySolomon91) August 22, 2016
Solomon also told Adams Georgia continues to recruit him harder than any other school in the nation. I thought he was going to Michigan based on previous interviews, but the de-commitment should eventually see him wind up at Georgia. He does not plan to enroll early.
Prime time for a seasonal disclaimer
The news surrounding Dixon and Solomon so early in the week seems like the perfect time to drill home a certainty regarding the unstable field of big-time college recruiting.
The ground there is as solid as the floor of a bounce house at an eight-year old’s birthday party. Nothing is stable in the minds of impressionable teenagers. That statement definitely applies to football players and elite student-athletes.
My SEC Country colleague Chris Kirschner points out an example regarding Solomon. The No. 1 defensive tackle in Georgia has at one time or another stated Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State and Ole Miss have led for him at some point in his recruiting process.
Keep that in mind every time you look at that 247Sports Crystal Ball. All those predictions are made in the past. No one knows how the decisions and the whims of these young men can be altered going forward.
Try this as an exercise: Scan the commitment board at a big-time program like a Georgia or any other school among the Top 10 in the recruiting rankings. These classes get built up so early these days. If an elite Power 5 program signs an average of 25 players every year, expect at least 20 percent of that class to turn over before National Signing Day.
Dixon’s commitment marks the fifth de-commitment among the Class of 2017 at Georgia. The Bulldogs still have 14 remaining commitments, but it is also worth noting that six of those guys were also committed to another program at one time.
That’s all taken place and we’re still five-plus months away from National Signing Day.
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.