Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry recaps a recent conversation with 5-star ILB recruiting target Smael Mondon Jr. of Paulding County High School.
Smael Mondon Jr. was recently named to the All-American Bowl out of Paulding County High School. That’s big.
“I never thought it was going to be me in this game,” Mondon said. “But I used to watch it all the time, though.”
Mondon said it “feels good” to know some kid who also lives in Paulding County will watch him in the game and say ‘Mom I want to do that’ just like the Mondon kid did. It can help bring hope to his community.
According to the records of the Georgia Football Historians Association, his Patriots have had just one winning campaign across their last 17 seasons.
Mondon plays for a program that is not used to big Power 5 offers. He has an offer from basically every team in the SEC. Those options extend out to the Clemsons, Oklahomas, Stanfords and Southern Cals of the world. The AJC “Super 11” annual selection will play in the All-American Bowl this January out in Texas before he enrolls early with the school of his choice in January of 2021.
Paulding County is not used to that level of recruiting attention. The Patriots have averaged four wins per year across their 52 seasons. That has meant just nine winning seasons since 1969.
When recruiters started to come around, it made sense for him to want to extend his recruiting for as long as possible. There are several other college prospects at Paulding County this fall in all classes and the plan pre-COVID was to take his decision as far as possible into the fall in order to maximize their evaluation chances, too.
It would have been unprecedented to see all the big-name coaches on the sidelines of his games this fall. That has never really happened before.
That is no longer the case in the pandemic. No off-campus visits or evaluations are allowed. But Mondon still finds himself still putting the pieces of his decision together.
He is not sweating the fact he cannot take any unofficial or official college visits to help with that.
“It has slowed down because I can’t take any visits,” Mondon said. “But it is not something that I dwell on or anything like that. It is nothing I think that is going to mess up the decision-making process too much.”
Mondon speaks like a young man with a process that is grounded in good advice.
“It just means I won’t base anything off like an official visit like a lot of dudes would or have,” he said. “How they will use that to help make their final decision. I will probably just go off the last two years of recruiting.”
The 5-star is rated as the No. 1 overall player in Georgia and No. 9 in the country with his isolated 247Sports rating. When the 247Sports Composite rankings are factored in, he drops one spot down to the nation’s No. 2 OLB and No. 27 overall prospect.
Georgia is one of his final five schools. What does he feel like his future would be in Athens if he chose the Bulldogs?
“I feel like I would be successful in that defense,” he said.
What about Auburn’s defense?
“Yeah, I think I would fit in well,” he said.
There’s an oddity there in that each program among his final five schools considers him to be an ILB at the college level, but that rating is justified given the Mondon has rare speed and athleticism and length for that ILB spot.
Mondon reset the school record in the triple jump every spring and also runs jet sweeps for his Patriots. The 6-foot-3 senior will also level the scales now at about 215 pounds. He no longer plays full-time RB and LB for his Patriots, but his size and that level of athleticism is what fuels that OLB ranking designation.
How Smael Mondon Jr. plans to sort out his decision
Auburn. Florida. Georgia. LSU. Tennesse. That’s still the final five for Mondon.
He had an idea to commit in June. Mondon was “kinda close” to making his decision but backed off that.
“Even if I committed in June, it was still not going to be the end of it,” he said. “I was still going to have to sign in December so I didn’t want to do it too early. I ended up just dropping a top five in June.”
He doesn’t know if he needs to take a self-guided independent visit to a few of those schools to help with his decision.
“Not really or I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve been to all of those campuses a couple of times.”
The group visit taken to Georgia by a group of All-Americans just before the season does not sound like it is something he needs to take to any school, but he did acknowledge how a trip like that might be good.
He was kind enough to share a rough estimate of a current timeline.
“Hopefully before the [All-American Bowl] game,” he said. “Since I am going to sign and enroll early. So probably hopefully before the game. So I can do that at school. I’m not sure, though. I am just going with it. Whenever.”
Could he make his decision in the next month?
“Yeah, within the next month,” he said last week. “I could. I’m not sure. I don’t really have a timetable set out.”
The future communications major seems to have gotten a lot of experience talking about his decision and finding interesting ways to say he just doesn’t know yet.
But he doesn’t make it sound like he will wait until the calendar turns to December and realize he has to figure it all out.
“It is not like I will be making up my mind in December,” he said. “It is really like a process. I have been making up my mind this whole time. I have gone from a lot of schools down to five to now. It is just something that takes time. Maybe like in November or December for when I will make up my mind.”
That still feels right.
Did you know the weekly DawgNation.com “Before the Hedges” program is now available as an Apple podcast? Click to check it out and download it.
Smael Mondon made a couple of trips last fall to check out Georgia last season. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Smael Mondon: Breaking down that final 5
This is the part that always feels far too easy. Especially with a sorting process like Mondon has already been through.
The typical recruiting update asks for a quick flow of the words that come to mind regarding each school. Are they revealing? Are these recruits picking and choosing each word carefully?
Do they leave any clues behind in their school-by-school overviews?
Mondon was invited to share what the biggest thing each of these programs has going for it when it comes to securing his signature. But he was asked to do so in 15 seconds or less with the things that really stand out for each school.
The decision will not be grounded on what he sees from each team on the field this fall. He said he just can’t base a four-year or a 40-year decision off wins and losses across just four months of one season.
“There are teams like LSU,” he said. “If you were to base your decision off last year and going there after them going 15-0 and winning the national championship, then you might be there and a little disappointed in the dropoff. That’s why I’m not focusing too much on this year.”
- Auburn: “I have a good relationship with coach T-Will [linebackers coach Travis Williams] and he’s like someone I trust.”
- Florida: “My relationship with coach [Christian Robinson] there. It is a good one. I met him like in January of my sophomore year and we’ve been talking a lot since then.”
- Georgia: “I’ve got a good relationship with a couple of coaches on the staff. I’ve been there a couple of times so I’m comfortable there. I’m comfortable at all the places but it is like home in Georgia. It is just really hard to put my finger on it right now. There’s not one specific thing that makes them stand out.”
- LSU: “A championship program and I feel like they are on the rise. They probably might take a step down this year after losing all that talent to the [NFL] Draft. But I feel like, for the next couple of years, it will be set straight.”
- Tennessee: “They are another school that is on the rise. They have had two good recruiting classes. Well, they had one good recruiting class and they are building another one this year. That is just another team I feel is going to be good.”
When asked to put the decision into context, he shared something that adds to that information. He’s not flipping between an Auburn and Georgia one week and then thinking he’d look good in orange the next.
Others might struggle with that. He does not.
“It is not maybe like the next day or the next week,” he said. “Maybe a couple of months I will be feeling here and the next couple of months I will be feeling this school. It is not every other day or every other week thing here. I will be feeling one school for a little bit and then I will be like I don’t know about that anymore and I will be on to another school.”
Georgia has been that school before. He did say that, but that’s not unique.
“I’ve had my time with all five of them,” he said of which schools have been the top school for those longer stretches.
It is just part of his process. Not a chore.
“I feel like it is only hard if you make it hard,” Mondon said. “The way I feel, I feel like the decision is going to make itself.”
Mondon feels like he can get a good education from all five of those schools. What will really matter?
“Just like the coaching staff,” Mondon said. “How I fit into their defense and the scheme and all that. The position fit and the depth chart for the school.”
He’s been to Auburn, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee the most out of those five finalists. That’s about 2-3 trips for each school. He has not been to a game at LSU but has seen all of his other four finalists on a game day.
Mondon did say that assistants Dan Lanning and Glenn Schumann and head coach Kirby Smart are the strongest relationships he has with the Bulldogs. He felt he was not really able to put his finger on what they have been telling him that stands out the most.
“It is a lot,” he said.
He talks to these schools every day. He didn’t know of any burning questions he still needs to get answered by any school. Carrying the decision doesn’t sound much tougher than a backpack down the halls of Paulding County High School. He still does that just two days per week with his senior year schedule.
He was hearing more from the committed recruits from a few of those classes over the summer, but that’s not very frequent at this time.
Check out his Atlanta Journal-Constitution “Super 11” video interview below.
(the recent reads on DawgNation.com)