It would be a good thing for Georgia if 5-star quarterback Trevor Lawrence committed to the program this month.
The nation’s No. 1 overall prospect for the Class of 2018 could be the third top 5-rated passer set to join the quarterback room on Kirby Smart’s watch, along with Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm. He’d be only the second (hello Trent Thompson in 2015) No. 1 overall recruit to play for Georgia in the internet era of tracking elite prospects, which spans the last 16 years in which the star rankings have become so prevalent.
The two-team chase with Clemson for Lawrence is more than that, though. (Side note: Look for this commitment to come sometime this month but not during the first few days of August as earlier anticipated.) This decision comes at a nexus point of opportunity that has been met with a serious grind. Georgia’s staff has made it clear during Smart’s watch it will not be out-worked for anyone considered a must-get in Athens.
The nation’s No. 1 overall player certainly meets that criteria.
Smart went to Cartersville to meet with Lawrence’s coach last December in that flurry of a first week when he was hired. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was at the school on the first day he was allowed to go see Lawrence under NCAA rules. He then made another trip to see Lawrence. Chaney would have taken five trips if he could.
The man who coached Drew Brees in college told Cartersville coach Joey King he just has to coach the 6-foot-6 Lawrence.
If Georgia is now a high-powered recruiting machine in the Smart era, it earns the Lawrence commitment. The depth charts at Clemson and Georgia will both be stocked with talented arms. That’s no reason for a player like Lawrence to avoid either school. He’s already thrown for 69 touchdowns and led his squad to a state title after two prep seasons.
Here’s more simple logic: You don’t let a rare talent like Lawrence leave the back yard.
But remember local product DeShaun Watson, who is now a Heisman Trophy candidate at Clemson? If Georgia lands Lawrence, it sends a message things are different under this staff. Georgia could lose Lawrence and be just fine under center with Eason on campus and the splendid Fromm enrolling in January.
But more than that, Lawrence represents planting a flag on a mountain of opportunity. The state of Georgia boasts nine players among the nation’s Top 81 prospects for 2018. The Bulldogs are also in very good shape with three-to-four other out-of-state Top 100 recruits in the class.
A rare talent like Lawrence lures others to play with him in his backyard, too.
Those guys are waiting to see what Lawrence does. Don’t believe it? Listen to the words from 5-star prospect Derrik Allen. He’s rated the nation’s No. 2 cornerback for 2018. Ohio State is already going hard after him.
What would Lawrence to Georgia mean to him? A lot. The two grew up together playing ball in Acworth. Allen described their relationship as “Acworth boys” and probably always will.
“That would definitely make quite an impact on my recruiting,” the soft-spoken Allen said.
Win Lawrence and then win on the field in 2016. Do that and the recruiting world opens up for Georgia to challenge the Alabamas and Ohio States of the world to sign the nation’s top-ranked class.
There’s no way that happens in 2017. Georgia will climb no higher than its current No. 3 slot. But 2018 is another story.
247Sports also released its Top 100 for 2019 this week. There are another seven Georgia boys among the nation’s Top 34 on that list, too. There are 13 Georgia players already in that Top 100.
The players are all here. They’ve always been, but there’s a ton of them at the dawn of Smart’s tenure. They need a sign that the new Georgia won’t let another DeShaun Watson-type talent go to Clemson, too.
How many of those guys would play for the in-state team with not one, not two but three quarterbacks who are better than anyone else has? Especially a program that prides itself on playing defense now, too.
Alabama LB target says Georgia still leads
James Clemens (Huntsville, Ala.) LB Monty Rice told SEC Country’s Chris Kirschner this week that Georgia is still his leader.
The 3-star ILB is rated as the nation’s No. 22 prospect at his position, but his list of offers and top schools would suggest he’s undervalued. He’s also still strongly considering Auburn, Florida and LSU.
Georgia stands out as his leader because it works harder at gaining his commitment than everyone else.
“They show a lot of love,” Rice told Kirschner. “I haven’t visited Florida yet though so I can’t really say they’re up there with Georgia because they are showing a lot of love, too. But Georgia is definitely showing the most.”
Rice said UGA inside linebackers coach Glenn Schuman texts him almost every day. Kirby Smart and Mel defensive coordinator Tucker also reach out frequently. He also gets a frequent message on social media from one particular Georgia fan.
The Bulldogs approach him with honesty and he believes the staff knows what it is doing.
“They never said I would start or anything like that,” Rice said. “It’s Kirby Smart, Glenn Schumann and Mel Tucker, though. All of them are great coaches. Kirby Smart has already proven that he’s a great defensive coach and knows what he’s doing.”
There’s no timeline. Expect Rice to take all five of his official visits. It appears that Auburn, Georgia and Florida State are all likely to receive an official.
Beal is already working hard for Georgia
Five-star UGA commit Robert Beal showed refreshing honesty Wednesday about his love for his future team at IMG Media Day. The former Norcross (Ga.) star is already using that deep voice to recruit for Georgia at the Florida juggernaut.
His main target so far? That would be 5-star defensive end Joshua Kaindoh. The 6-foot-6, 256-pound defensive end is rated as the nation’s No. 30 overall prospect and he’s committed to Maryland.
“He’s telling me ‘Come to Georgia’ all the time, just about every second I see him,” Kaindoh said.
Kaindoh told DawgNation he was deeply committed to Maryland. Like 100 percent and done. Clearly committed. He said his interest level in Georgia right now would be at zero and he is 100 percent committed to Maryland.
“I tell him Maryland when he starts talking to me about Georgia,” Kaindoh said. “I’m committed, man, but he’s trying.”
That’s not going to dissuade Beal over the next four months he will play with Kaindoh.
“I can probably get him,” Beal said. “I’d put the chances of me getting him at probably 50-50 at that.”
What does he say?
“I tell him that Georgia is a great spot,” Beal said. “We need to fill in that other spot on the other side. We need a guy like him on the other (defensive end) side, too.”
We will continue to keep track of this as the season goes. But which recruit did Beal say was the biggest influence on his decision to come to Georgia?
That’s not a surprising answer. Count another commit in the column for Richard LeCounte III.
“He was talking to me all the time,” Beal said. “He just said stay in state, stay and play close to home and be a hometown hero in your state.”
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.