MARIETTA, Ga. — Urban Meyer is at it again in Georgia.
Give the man credit. When he sees a special player, he won’t hesitate with what he feels is necessary to try to snatch a 5-star away from Alabama, Clemson and Georgia, among others.
It worked in the past with two Georgia 5-stars: Vonn Bell and Raekwon McMillan. That appears to be the task at hand with 5-star Lassiter junior DB Derrik Allen, too.
Allen’s father, Derrik, captained the basketball team at Army. The selfless values and work ethic that go hand-in-hand with that role are inherent in his son. The nation’s No. 2 cornerback prospect would rather duck the spotlight that comes with being rated as the nation’s No. 18 overall prospect.
The 6-foot-2, 206-pounder would rather transfer that attention or serve others than be placed on any pedestal. Yet he will draw the attention regardless. Allen took what he termed his “13th or 14th” visit to Georgia for the Tennessee game last weekend.
Where do things stand in a decision that should be made by next summer? Allen respectfully said he’d rather not discuss that now. But that topic became interesting when close friend and teammate Tyriq Hardimon made a prediction. Hardimon said Ohio State would be the team to beat.
“Ohio State just fits him,” Hardimon said.
Allen is a major UGA target. The Bulldogs can make a strong run at the nation’s top class in 2018 because of the abundance of elite in-state prospects and where they stand with those guys.
It might be a Ric Flair moment in the chase for Allen. That never-gets-old line of having to beat the man to be the man is used a lot in football locker rooms. It could apply here chasing the school with the nation’s top-ranked class at this time.
Georgia is ranked third in the nation for its 2017 commitments. That’s its best showing in the 247Sports Composite since 2006. Alabama is somehow only second despite commitments from three of the nation’s top five players.
Ohio State has the nation’s best class. Why? Consider how the Buckeyes go about recruiting an elite 2018 prospect in Metro Atlanta.
“They are recruiting him better than anybody else,” his father Derrik T. Allen said. “They call him weekly and go through the film. They talk about what they see and what they think he can do to get better. They reach out to my wife and I and send us stuff about the school. They know he wants to study computer science, so they send him stuff about that program.”
But that stuff is in every major program’s wheelhouse. The Ohio State difference might not be what it is doing but rather who is doing it.
“Coach Meyer texts me every day,” Allen said. “He just wants to know what is up and how I am doing. … Coach Butch Jones (at Tennessee) used to. He was the only other head coach who did that.”
Meyer is Allen’s primary recruiter from Ohio State. That goes about as far as one might think. Derrik Allen estimated that 75 percent of the communication from Ohio State to his son comes from the head coach. The other 25 percent is from defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs.
“They are just very consistent,” Allen’s father said. “Ohio State is. You have to give them that. Derrik talks to Urban weekly. That’s about a 5- to 10-minute conversation they have weekly. No other head coach is recruiting him like that.”
Meyer has a loaded team in the hunt for another national title. Yet he can take time away from the day-to-day to work on 2018. Kirby Smart is not yet in a position to match that at Georgia.
A lot of Smart’s focus has to be on the current team and its vital 2017 class. The state of the Ohio State program allows Meyer the ability to recruit from a position of strength.
Here’s another important point that should not get lost in this discussion: Allen has yet to visit Ohio State. He hopes to make the trip sometime this season. It could be for the Nebraska game on Nov. 5.
Ohio State is ranked No. 2 in the nation. Its head coach is spending that much time on a junior prospect who has yet to step foot on the Ohio State campus.
The first reaction might be to wonder what the Buckeyes are doing for the Class of 2017. But that’s the wrong angle. The Buckeyes already have those guys with the top-rated class for this year.
“Coach Meyer and I talk about grades and my degree a lot,” Allen said. “He also tries to help me with keeping my focus and my mindset where it should be right now in high school playing football.”
Where does Georgia stand?
Derrik Allen and his son share the same first and last names, but their middle names are different. That confuses so many recruiters. They no longer even bother to correct coaches who think his son was named after him.
His father also said Clemson and Georgia are doing the next-best jobs in recruiting. The distinction should be made here that all three of these programs are recruiting at an Olympic level. It is just that the gold medal would be heading to Columbus now.
Where do the Bulldogs stand after the visit for the Tennessee game? Allen said he takes a low-key approach with his son after visits. Some time on the drive back — it is not forced — he just asks how things went.
“I always ask if he could see himself at a school after the visit,” Derrik T. Allen said. “I asked him that after we went to Georgia this past weekend. I said, ‘Could you see yourself here?’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, I like Georgia’ after this last visit.”
He’s noticed his son feels comfortable at Georgia. That’s the school and program itself.
Yet Allen uses what he’s seen from visits to Clemson as a barometer. He watches how his son acts around Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables and defensive backs coach Mike Reed.
“The thing with Georgia is he’s going to have to get more comfortable with (defensive coordinator) Mel (Tucker) and (head coach) Kirby (Smart) going forward,” Derrik T. Allen said. “He’s very comfortable with coach Reed and coach Venables at Clemson. He’s not quite there yet with Kirby and Mel. That’s the thing I’m looking for. I want to see how that relationship builds this year going forward.”
Allen paid close attention to how Tucker worked with his defensive backs prior to the Tennessee game.
“Derrik said he noticed how Mel coached them and pushed them, but that he wasn’t really a big screamer,” his father said. “Derrik said he liked that. A coach can scream all he wants to at my son, but it does nothing for him to make him better.”
The Meyer class in recruiting
Check the 247composite team recruiting rankings from 10 years ago. That’s when Meyer led Florida from 2005 to ’10. The fact his Gators finished No. 1 overall twice would not be an anomaly. His classes were rated at an average of 4.5 nationally across those six seasons.
Meyer recruiting for an elite program will win over a lot of living rooms. He hasn’t had a final class ranking rated lower than No. 7 overall since his first season in Gainesville in 2005.
When the head coach shows the attention Meyer has to Allen, it goes a long way. There’s no other tool that an elite program has that is more effective than that. So the “who” definitely matters. Meyer also makes the content of his message stand out.
“If you look over the course of their conversations over an entire month, then maybe one or two of his conversations (with my son) are about football,” Derrik Allen said. “They are talking about his class schedule and the computer science program and usually not about football.”
That’s also the right approach. Allen is a happy-go-lucky kid. He straddles the line well between a serious-minded player and cutting up like a kid. His sock game on Monday afternoon meant he wore a Darth Vader and C-3PO pair from Star Wars lore. He matched those with a pair of orange cleats.
The nation’s No. 2 cornerback in 2018 might have Superman or bacon socks on today.
His parents call him “Hakuna Matata” because of the cheer he brings to his daily life. That Swahili term translates to “no worries.” It became part of pop culture after Disney’s The Lion King hit theaters.
Meyer picked up on that. He’s coordinated his pitch to fit a personality who has those options in his sock drawer.
“If my son is being honest, he’ll tell you he really doesn’t care about all this recruiting stuff at all,” Derrik T. Allen said.
It might be pure luck that Meyer has intensified his early efforts for a player who doesn’t want to see his recruiting drag into his senior season. But all those top classes Meyer has stacked up suggest there’s a little more to it than that.
Allen’s younger brother is already a middle school standout. Marcus Allen is an aptly named running back with a 5-star DB for an older brother. His father played college basketball at a Division I program. But they both say the seventh-grader is the real athlete in the family.
Meyer will have quite a built-in recruiting relationship there, too. Allen’s father described his role as being the pre-screener in the family’s decision-making process.
“My wife Chinita is a lifelong educator, and she’s ultimately going to be the one these coaches have to sell,” Derrik T. Allen said. “Ohio State is selling Mom right now. No other school is working on selling Mom about the value of their education right now. Academics are going to be huge for her.”
The contact window to recruit 2018 prospects just opened last month. Meyer has been recruiting Allen at least twice as frequently as any other head coach since then.
Georgia’s next upgrade in the recruiting race
Allen can see himself at Georgia. That’s a start. The next step is to become the program he has to play for. In this case, there’s only so much a prospect notices after more than a dozen trips to Athens.
Georgia is about to add a whole new level to that thought. The indoor practice facility should provide a tremendous recruiting boost going after the nation’s elite prospects. If necessary, one can refer back to former defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s “suggestions” from previous years to see how the estimated $31 million facility will help with recruiting.
The indoor practice facility will be a showcase for recruits. Georgia’s facilities will rank among the finest in the nation.
Smart and his staff are recruiting extremely well. I expect that facility to amplify those efforts. Look for that facility to be ready for the January stretch run for this year’s class.
That complex could be the difference between the No. 3 class in 2017 and the nation’s top class in 2018.
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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.