WATKINSVILLE, Ga. — Jaleel Laguins is committed to UGA. The 4-star linebacker initially said if National Signing Day was tomorrow he’d still sign his letter-of-intent with UGA, but then his words trailed off. He came back with a new answer.
“I’d try to get out of it,” Laguins said. “I’d try to get some more time. I don’t know what’s going on now. I’m uncertain. I’m confused.”
That’s asymptomatic of the fact he’s heard from new UGA coach Kirby Smart just two times since he took the job. Those two phone calls covered a span of 10 minutes.
“I don’t know if I feel welcomed to come play at UGA anymore,” the Oconee County High School standout said. “In a perfect world, I wish things could go back to Georgia feeling the way it used to. But I guess this is not that.”
He had an official visit to LSU this past weekend. The thought of playing there or at Florida is weighing on him. He plans to take an official visit to Florida on the weekend of Jan. 15. He is also now planning an official to Alabama the following weekend. The senior will then visit Tennessee the final weekend before National Signing Day.
Smart’s first call relayed that Laguins still had an offer from UGA. He told him to keep “the main thing the main thing” and “not let other schools confuse you” when he was committed to UGA.
“The gist of it was we’re going to play dang good football,” Laguins said. “Come be a linebacker for us. It sounded sincere in a way. He was trying to put some emphasis on his words there. For sure.”
That second call was much shorter. He had heard Smart wanted to visit him on Sunday. It was the last night before the NCAA dead period that prohibits face-to-face recruiting until Jan. 14. Laguins called Smart to see if he was still coming by. He said he could not make it.
Why did he say that? Smart had told other recruits the staff is concentrating on early enrollees. The National Signing Day targets get the full-court press in January once the full coaching staff arrives.
Multiply that uncertainty by the fact his lead recruiter for UGA prior to Mark Richt’s firing was inside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler. He heard from him daily by some form of communication. He’s been led to believe that actions show worth.
When he returned from “a great LSU visit” on Sunday, he had another in-home visit with LSU defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. There were also three defensive coaches from Tennessee who came by for an in-home visit that same day. He’s weighed UGA’s lack of action compared to those schools.
Now add Alabama to that list. He got a call on Sunday night from former UGA defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. He asked if he’d heard from anybody at UGA since the changes.
“Not besides Kirby,” Laguins told Pruitt. “Twice.”
Alabama’s new defensive coordinator then asked if anyone from UGA had been to see him yet.
“Nope,” Laguins said. “He was like ‘Wow. Are you kidding because you were one of our top guys at Georgia? We thought we were good at inside linebacker with you there’ and he couldn’t believe it. Pruitt was like ‘Bring your butt down here to Bama on the 23rd.’ I guess he reinstated the offer I had at Bama like Kirby reaffirmed the offer I had from the previous UGA staff.”
Laguins understands the Alabama model under Nick Saban and Smart targeted those 6-foot-3 and 235-pound linebackers. Laguins is at the 6-foot-3 mark but weighed in at 216 pounds at LSU this weekend. He feels he’d lose all his explosiveness if he put on that much weight.
“I want Georgia to do what they feel like they need to,” Laguins said. “If they feel like they want me and establish they want me, I want to see it. Everyone else is. But if they are like ‘we could care less if you come or not’ then I also need to see that.”
He wants to let Smart have the chance to explain UGA’s outlook on him going forward. He said he and his parents would have the following questions 1) How do you feel about me? 2) Where do you see me at UGA? 3) Am I a priority or are you just honoring the commitment?
“Just be honest,” Laguins said. “I need to know. I’ll open that window for them to do that.”
He’s still committed to UGA. Yet it sounds like the school which recruits him the hardest out of UGA, Alabama, Florida, LSU, Nebraska and Tennessee will sign him in the end.
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.