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Jeff Sentell / AJC
4-star saftey DeAngelo Gibbs (right) shares one of many laughs here with 5-star UGA safety commit Richard LeCounte III. It would be a stout pairing if the Bulldogs can add both of these guys to the secondary in the Class of 2017.

Sentell’s Intel: Encouraging signs for UGA with the state’s top undecided recruit DeAngelo Gibbs

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 way this 4-star or 5-star might lean and add a dab of perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.
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DeAngelo Gibbs is entering the final stretch of his high school life. It will be a gauntlet.

The state’s top uncommitted prospect for 2017 will make his college decision in the midst of keeping both eyes laser-focused on a state championship run for Grayson High School. Gibbs is a sharp kid, but he can take comfort in the fact his family will have his back.

His father Deon Gibbs is in the car business, but he’s been in the shipping-kids-off-to college-business for over a decade. What the Gibbs family has learned from the life experiences gathered from three previous family college transitions will make the next six weeks of their lives much more manageable.

Deon and his wife Karen have a good grasp on this. That’s vital because they have to.

4-star recruit DeAngelo Gibbs is rated as the nation's No. 3 safety for the Class of 2017. He's an impact player for top-ranked Grasyon High School. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
4-star recruit DeAngelo Gibbs is rated as the nation’s No. 3 safety for the Class of 2017. He’s an impact player for top-ranked Grayson High School. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

Their son is the highest of priorities on the Georgia recruiting board (and everywhere else) for 2017. DawgNation rates him as the program’s second-most important undecided prospect. He will be a December graduate and make one program’s future a lot brighter when he enrolls is January.

But Gibbs has only taken one official visit and is part of a loaded top-ranked squad which will likely be alive for the next 3-4 weeks of the Georgia state football playoffs.

Grayson could very well be playing for a state championship on the final weekend (Dec. 9-10) before the NCAA-mandated dead period arrives for recruiting on Dec. 12.

That’s important because that dead period does not lift until Jan. 11. Gibbs should already be enrolled in college by then.

“I can guarantee you we don’t have weekends to burn,” Deon Gibbs said.

The plan is for Gibbs to still take all five official visits. That’s the first thing that DawgNation learned from the father of the nation’s No. 3 safety prospect.

That’s not all. It also appears that the following will happen:

  • Georgia — which was not expected to receive an official visit — is now a very strong contender to get one. That’s in spite of Gibbs taking approximately 15-20 visits to UGA just in the time since Kirby Smart was hired as head coach.
  • Alabama has gotten the only official visit. The rest are being finalized right now. He has already set up two of those and should have the rest of those officials locked in by the middle of next week.
  • It is not a given that he will share his public decision at the Under Armour All-American Game. Gibbs is a free thinker and doesn’t conform to the moves a typical recruit might make. His parents appreciate that. He could make his choice prior to that All-American week in a separate ceremony.  The plan is still currently to name his choice at the Under Armour game, but that could change.
  • Look for the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder to eventually settle on three finalists. He’s enrolling early so that speeds up his application process. Yet a late-to-mid December to an early January ETA on his decision means he must create the ability to enroll at one of those schools by making sure he’s already accepted for the second semester. That decision mirrors what 5-star UGA freshman tight end Isaac Nauta faced last year.
  • Gibbs has a first cousin at both Georgia (J.R. Reed) and Tennessee (Nigel Warrior) to go to for real-life examples of how he’d fit in at each school. But his father has told DawgNation on multiple occasions that the influence there will be minimal. It will just be part of the equation. The bulk of the decision will hinge on what will be the best thing for their son and not the chance to be on the same team with a member of his immediate family.
  • Which schools are doing the best job of recruiting Gibbs and his entire family? His father called that the “whole package” brand of recruiting. He answered that question by stating UGA, Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State in that order.

Let’s come back to a few of those points and start with the possibility of Gibbs taking an official to Georgia.

“Georgia was initially ruled out as an official but his mom and myself through discussions with him now feel we may do it,” Deon Gibbs said. “We may do an official. He may just do an official visit just to get that official visit to UGA. We initially ruled it out but it has come back up in the last couple of weeks in discussions. So that’s a possibility.”

Tennessee has long been seen as a key contender for Gibbs. Most analysts tend to think the decision will come down to UGA and that program, but the Volunteers were not named among those “whole package’ schools.

Gibbs was clearly having a good time on his Georgia unofficial visit for the Tennessee game. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Gibbs was clearly having a good time on his Georgia unofficial visit for the Tennessee game. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

“My wife likes Tennessee a lot,” Deon Gibbs said. “DeAngelo likes Tennessee. I like Tennessee a lot. They have a lot to offer. They are definitely still in the mix, but I just don’t talk to Tennessee as much as my wife and DeAngelo. When I try to answer that question about which schools include both of his parents the best as well as DeAngelo, I just tried to include the schools which communicate with all of us.”

That should not discredit the Vols.

Let’s make this very clear with a statement Gibbs used often to describe his son’s decision.

“I’m not knocking Tennessee at all,” Gibbs said. “(DeAngelo) has to be the one sitting in class for four years and running up and down that field all the time so we are not eliminating anybody.”

Previous college experience 

The Gibbs family feels better about the harrowing six weeks up ahead because of the previous life experiences they had with DeAngelo’s three older siblings.

His oldest son wanted to go somewhere, but his parents convinced him to try another route.

“We tried to force him to go to a school he probably didn’t want to go to,” Gibbs said. “I remember my mom walked past me and my wife and said he would never stay there because it was not his idea.”

They didn’t think that was possible. This was their child. They raised him, but that didn’t work out. Their son Britt transferred to another school of his choosing and enrolled in the ROTC program at Grambling and now serves our nation as a member of the military.

Gibbs told SEC Country.com earlier this season that he has more than 3,000 unread text messages. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Gibbs told SEC Country.com earlier this season that he has more than 3,000 unread text messages. (Rob Saye  / Special)

The Gibbs family learned from that. They applied those lessons when the time came for another talented child to choose where she wanted to play basketball. Southern Cal was three time zones away and a five-hour flight but they let their daughter Destinie Gibbs spread her wings.

“Don’t get caught up in all this hype,” Deon Gibbs said. “Hype tends to lead to confusion. You’ve got to continue to be a parent.”

It proved to the be the right choice. She’s now a graduate student in her final year of eligibility at Pitt.

“When she said she wanted to go to the University of Southern California, my wife and I looked at each other and we just smiled,” Gibbs said. “It was a five-hour plane flight but she went out there and excelled because it was her idea.”

That’s the operating strategy when the nation’s No. 3 safety sits across from them at the dinner table.

“Mom and I have input but at the end of the day he has to be the one,” Deon Gibbs said. “He’s going to be sitting in that class and running up and down that field. .. Students are going to experience adversity but when they buy in on their own with this decision they also tend to work through it more on their own because it was their decision. We take all that into account.”

Trying to be 5-star parents

His mother is a life-long educator and an assistant principal at Liberty Middle School in Covington. There’s a quote on her school profile page that exemplifies the way she’s also raised the children of her family.

“Success is alright if it doesn’t go to your head,” she stated. 

Deon describes his wife’s role as a big-time disciplinarian.

“She’s tough on him and she loves him but she knows the things that he has been exposed to,” Deon Gibbs said. “You would think she’d be quick to tell you that she’s his No. 1 fan. But she’s not his fan. That’s not her job. She’s his Mom and it makes a huge difference because we could lose perspective of these 17 and 18-year-old kids. You’re competing with social media and all those coaches and schools and girls for his focus. A lot of times a kid can get lost in the shuffle of all that, but we don’t allow that. We don’t get caught up in the hype. We try to always keep him grounded and — it is a challenge now — but we think we do a pretty good job of that.”

Gibbs has two uncles that played a combined 25 seasons in the NFL. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Gibbs has two uncles that played a combined 25 seasons in the NFL. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

That’s why they take up his phone and tablet at a certain hour each night so DeAngelo is able to back away from it all. Gibbs has told DawgNation and SEC Country this year that he had more than 3,000 unread text messages on his phone at one time.

“He hears how wonderful he is from seemingly everywhere else but there has to be a balance there,” Deon Gibbs said. “That’s what we are for. Because you and I know that the real world will eat them up and spit them out.”

Gibbs comes from a family of achievers. His mother is a member of the Miles College (Birmingham, Ala.) Athletic Hall of Fame for her career on the hardwood. She set the single-game scoring record with 49 points.

Deon Gibbs also played basketball (Truett McConnell College and North Georgia) at the college level. There’s the example provided by one sister (Destinie) who played college basketball at USC. Gibbs will also benefit from the insight of another older sister (Lydia) who is also a college athlete (lacrosse) at what is now Truett McConnell University.

Has a decision been made? 

Gibbs allowed a tiny view into his son’s thinking. He said DeAngelo has his schools in mind. His wife has hers. He also has his own potential favorites.

Deon Gibbs said his wife is able — by the nature of her profession as a trained school administrator — to get much more information from their son in regard to what he is thinking. She can do it, but he can’t. Gibbs is an excellent communicator and sometimes he even stonewalls his Dad when it comes to what he is thinking.

His father indicated that the decision has not yet been made at this time.

“This really is open-ended for us right now,” Deon Gibbs said. “I could tell you where I would love for him to go but I won’t. I have my idea. My wife has her idea. I’m sure he has his idea. But I can tell you for sure that he’s been doing his homework. He studies a lot. He has a passion for football and he’s very smart and very articulate and methodical in studying this stuff.”

Gibbs offered up two recent tweets recently that add to the dialogue regarding his decision. The first came after Georgia’s victory against Auburn. It was a rare public display out of him.

It serves as another encouraging sign for the school he doesn’t need to see anything else from, but may still take an official visit to see for the umpeenth time again anyway.

 

 

 

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