DALLAS — Smael Mondon’s locker told dropped a big hint long before his public commitment ever did. A recent visit to his locker revealed not one, not two, but three edits of him in a No. 4 Georgia uniform.
Follow the visits? That’s not possible in a pandemic recruiting cycle. What about following what is pinned up in his locker?
It made sense for Mondon and Georgia on Wednesday morning. The nation’s No. 2 OLB and No. 27 overall recruit (247Sports Composite) committed to UGA over Auburn, Florida, LSU and Tennessee on a live Fox 5 “Good Morning Atlanta” broadcast from the Dave Hardin Stadium at Paulding County High School.
Why was it Georgia?
“I can’t really say like one thing ultimately made up my mind,” Mondon said. “It was kind of like a mixture of a couple of things.”
He broke down his criteria of how the Bulldogs won out here.
“Relationship with coaches,” Mondon Jr. said. “How I am going to be used. The depth chart. Like the ‘fit’ to the school and just all of that added up.”
Mondon said he came to the decision “a couple of months ago” with his process.
“I already had an idea with them as my school,” he said. “If they were not my number one, they were always in my top two for a long time.”
How will he be used? Mondon said every school that recruited him keyed on his versatility.
“Playing inside but being a three-down linebacker,” he said. “Being able to play the run and the pass. Pass rush. Pass coverage. Just different stuff.”
He discussed what his recruiting process was built around.
“Just not to rush through it,” he said. “Don’t rush to commit anywhere. Just take your time. The right school for you will end up being there for you the whole time. Don’t rush the decision. Don’t worry about it too much. Just let it happen.”
When he let those recruiters know, he said the team was happy.
“They were talking about everything they promised in my recruitment and how they talked about they were going to develop me,” he said. ‘They were just talking about that.”
Mondon told DawgNation this week he will enroll early in January. He said he expects to be just about recovered from cleanup surgery on his knee (meniscus) that ended his senior season after three games.
Check out his junior tape below.
Smael Mondon Jr: What this means for the Georgia class
Here’s an interesting stat for the Kirby Smart era in Athens. Mondon becomes the 42nd commitment or signee with a 5-star ranking from any service to at least commit to playing for Smart since he became head coach in December of 2015.
That figure will include three future decommitments and a couple of transfer portal 5-star signees.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound LB rates as an OLB but will project to play ILB for Glenn Schumann in Athens. He becomes the third pledge in the 2021 Georgia class with a 5-star rating and the 19th overall commitment for this cycle.
Mondon’s public decision on Wednesday was enough to push Georgia past Clemson in the 247Sports Team Composite rankings. The Bulldogs are now fifth nationally with a score of 282.83. That places the Bulldogs within striking distance of Oregon’s 23 commits and current 285.10 tally on the composite.
Alabama, Ohio State and LSU are the nation’s first, second and third place programs in those rankings.
Mondon chose the occasion to honor his 87-year-old grandmother.
It is impressive to see how Mondon chose to use his moment, even as so many have been taken from him this year, to honor his 87-year-old grandmother in West Africa.
“It was my mom’s idea,” Smael Mondon Jr. said. “I was trying to find out and pick a day to make my commitment and she said let’s just do it on this day. That’s what we went with.”
Helen Tape already knows where her grandson will play college football. She still calls the Ivory Coast home.
“She’s been a bigger part of my sibling’s lives but I still got a lot of love for her,” Mondon Jr. said. “That’s why I put my commitment day on her birthday. It is kind of like a gift for her.”
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Smael Mondon Jr. now becomes the third 5-star member of the 2021 recruiting class for the Georgia Bulldogs. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
What is Georgia getting in Smael Mondon Jr. at LB?
Paulding County coach Van Spence said Mondon played his freshman year at safety. Then he went inside the box to play a “Mike” linebacker spot in a 4-3 front as a sophomore. He switched to an odd front as a junior and senior in a 3-4 and a 3-3-5 look.
“He’s played a lot on the inside but he is very instinctual on the outside,” Spence said. “He’s so long. He’s athletic. He’s fast. Wherever they put him, he’ll do great. For us, he was more on the interior. But if they put him on the outside, he can do some pretty good stuff on coverage and on the blitz.”
Mondon was only able to play in two-and-a-half games this fall before a cleanup knee surgery resulted in the premature end to his senior season. It will leave him with much to prove once he arrives in Athens.
He didn’t get the chance this fall to truly validate his 5-star ranking and All-American status.
“A little saying I have is a hungry ‘Dawg hunts better,” Spence said. “He should be real hungry. He really only played two-and-a-half ballgames this year. I think they are going to get a guy who is pretty motivated. Pretty driven to prove that his high rankings are what they should have been. This is all hard on a kid when he doesn’t really get to play. He really wanted to.”
He kept stressing the term “versatility” in his assessment of what Mondon can be at the next level. The new Bulldog commit gashed many a defense in his prep career running jet sweeps and carrying the ball on offense and playing linebacker for Spence’s Patriots.
“They are getting a guy who can do anything they need him to do,” Spence said. “Whether it is inside the box or outside the box. Tote the ball. Note tote the ball. He’s very very very versatile. That’s the one thing that people are going to get. Versatility. He’s going to play on special teams and do it well. He is very capable of doing anything and doing it well.”
Former Bulldog Lorenzo Carter. Current ILB Monty Rice. Former Clemson All-American Isaiah Simmons. Spence used all those players as parallels and skillsets for Mondon’s future.
“Put him around guys who are all of like skills and I think you are going to see the lights really clock for Smael at an even higher level.”
He thought about what Mondon would be like with Jordan Davis in front of him at Georgia.
“He’d be eating up two gaps,” Spence said. “Talk about him seeing some space open up for him to free run downhill. It would be a pretty neat deal.”
Spence labeled him as a “hard worker” and “very driven” when it comes to watching the film, rehabbing, and getting better in the weight room with what it takes to be great. What does Mondon want to bring to the UGA program?
“A team player and a hard worker,” Mondon said.
He’s the sort of person who likes to take things as they come. Mondon is not the sort to spend time thinking about what might be coming down the road.
As a result, he has only laid out one goal for his time in Athens.
“Just want to end up being a first-round draft pick,” he said.
Smael Mondon Jr. ranks as the nation’s No. 2 OLB prospect for 2021 on the 247Sports Composite rankings. He will enroll early at Georgia in January. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
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