Aaron Sterling committed to Alabama on Christmas Day. Yet his status as an elite defensive line prospect in the Class of 2017 from Stephenson High School in Metro Atlanta attracts attention.
The 23.5 sacks he tallied as a junior last year only add to the appeal.
Sterling also mans a position that might be the top recruiting priority — along with quarterback — for the Kirby Smart era at UGA. Beg to differ? Then consider Alabama’s defensive line last season. If UGA can replicate that type of personnel, it makes every facet of the defense better.
Sterling’s commitment to Alabama also attracts attention because of the success UGA has had with in-state targets who had been committed (Jake Fromm, Tyler Simmons, Mitchell Wasson) to Alabama. Sterling, who rates as a three-star recruit, is getting elevated attention from the staff.
“I used to go to all of the games,” he said. I talked with (UGA defensive line coach Tracy) Rocker. It wasn’t like how they are now, though. They took a further step now.”
The nation’s No. 29 prospect at strong-side defensive end visited UGA last month and already plans to return.
“I’m a priority for them in the 2017 class because they need pass rushers off the end,” he said. “They want me to play defensive end. Some of the schools are at defensive tackle, but I really can play both.”
Sterling feels UGA is already investing a lot of time in him.
“When I took my trip to Georgia, Coach Smart gave me his personal number and told me to call him if I need anything or have any questions,” Sterling said. “Coach Rocker hits me up all of the time.”
The program also benefits from the presence of Stephenson alum Chauncey Rivers on the roster.
“He told me that workouts are really hard,” Sterling said. “He also said that it’s a maturing stage. You have to mature when you get to college. With all of the classes and working out, learning the plays, getting your body right, you just have to do what you have to do. It’s really a time-management thing. You can’t be late to anything in college.”
Which school will get an official visit? Logic would seem to suggest that he would take an official to UGA, but that’s not set as of yet. Florida and Tennessee are also on his mind.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “My mom really helps me out with my recruitment. I give her my feedback on situations and then she does the same and then we see where we’re at. She wants to make sure my official visits are places that I may go. She doesn’t want me wasting official visits.”
He described the strength of his commitment to Alabama as “pretty high” this week. His mother feels the trips to other schools will ensure he makes the right choice. It will provide more data to either cloud or reinforce his commitment to Alabama.
The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder said the other programs he visits are well aware he’s committed to Alabama.
“It’s funny because when I go on these other trips, they try harder to get me to change my mind,” he said. “It’s definitely funny.”
Sterling told Kirschner the thought of de-committing has yet to cross his mind. When he was asked what it would take for him to leave Alabama, his response was genuine.
It took him about five seconds to reply to that question.
“I really don’t know,” Sterling said. “It would take a pretty good amount. It’s good to play as a freshman, but if you aren’t ready to get on the field, then you aren’t ready to get on the field. It’s a tough process to figure out right now.”
Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.
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.