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Jeff Sentell/SEC Country
Buford freshman Aaron McLaughlin is actually already a big thing. Not the next big thing.

UGA recruiting: The attention swirling around Aaron McLaughlin is the new normal

Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and give some insight on the next big thing like Aaron McLaughlin plus add some perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.

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The current narrative that swirls around Aaron McLaughlin seems crazy to most. It feels more than a little out of bounds to me, but it really is the new normal.

That’s because I could be two years behind on writing about McLaughlin. He’s an in-state kid. Powerful arm. Great size and stature. He’s already been a part of one of those big summer QB camps all the college guys and the prep phenoms attend. Got a lot of the big boy tools.

But count me tardy on writing him up. Why? Well, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound QB prospect picked up his first major offer two years ago. (Not Lane Kiffin this time.) Texas A&M offered McLaughlin before he entered eighth grade. He was just 14 years old.

Aaron McLaughlin
Aaron McLaughlin already has three SEC scholarship offers. (Jeff Sentell/SEC Country)

McLaughlin will also just be a freshman this fall at powerful Buford High. He’s a part of the class of 2021.

He said his current offer tally is trending toward double-digits. Those offers include those Aggies plus Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic, Georgia State, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Ole Miss and UCLA.

McLaughlin, now 15, states the obvious here.

“It is really hard for these schools to communicate with me because I just got out of the eighth grade,” he said.

That’s true. But a big-time young QB is going to attract a lot of recruiting attention.

The hype train got started early for 2020 Marietta QB Harrison Bailey and he’s lived up to every bit of his early exposure and then some.

Bailey is already one of the top QBs in the Southeast right now. There’s not a doubt in my mind about that. We should see a similar progression from McLaughlin this fall.

The very early read on Aaron McLaughlin

The eyeball test is clearly passed. Just check those size-14 feet. McLaughlin told DawgNation he can throw the ball 70 yards on a good day. He doesn’t have a favorite route. The kid will throw anything.

McLaughlin also aims to be a sponge. That’s the right approach.

“I’m just learning from anyone and everyone honestly,” McLaughlin said. “I just want to be the best quarterback I can be and any tips I can pick up from anyone is great.”

What was the one thing he picked up on at the Steve Clarkson QB retreat last month?

“Not just learning defenses but reading the defense is what is going to be really important,” McLaughlin said. “Everyone can throw the football, but you have got to be able to read the coverages.”

Aaron McLaughlin
Aaron McLaughlin picked up an offer from Texas A&M when he was still in middle school. (Jeff Sentell/SEC Country)

He’s yet to start a varsity game. That’s why I won’t point out the things he needs to work on like locking onto receivers, patting the ball a shade too much and more accuracy on his deep ball.

Deep breath everybody. Class of 2021 here. 

McLaughlin threw against a strong Fundamentally Sound Sports squad at the Cam Newton 7-on-7 Memorial Day Classic last month. Did he take the game over? No.

But he’s already playing at that level and can show he belongs. That’s to his benefit with four full seasons of varsity football up ahead.

The best thing I liked about McLaughlin was his honesty. He told me straight-up he did repeat a year of middle school. That happens all the time, but he stepped up and owned it.

McLaughlin would still be a major college prospect if he was in his slotted grade and about to be a high school sophomore. The tools are all there. That repeated year did not garner him those offers.

It just impressed me the way he explained why. What he did is kind of comically referred to these days as a “redshirt year” of middle school. I know several recent SEC quarterbacks that went that route.

“That was what I needed to do,” McLaughlin said. “Just physically getting there. I didn’t weigh a lot. My body wasn’t where I needed to be. I’m there now. Mentally was the big thing. Just getting myself prepared and with another year of just learning what I needed to learn. I’m ready now. That got me ready for high school and it was what I needed. It helped me a lot.”

No situations are exactly alike. That’s because no two people are the same. What works for one guy doesn’t always fit for another. He needed it. It worked to his benefit. That is the only thing that matters.

The current Aaron McLaughlin recruiting attention

McLaughlin has set his mind with a mature approach to all this recruiting stuff.

“I don’t know any school that is going to be there right now,” McLaughlin said. “I don’t have a favorite and I don’t have a least favorite or a fifth-best favorite. I’ve never been a fan of any school. The school I’m going to go to is the one that can prepare me for the next level and that needs me there and wants me there. I don’t know where it is going to be.”

What does he think about the Bulldogs?

“I took a visit there last year to G-Day,” McLaughin said. “I didn’t go this year. I’ve worked out for them at camps. But they want me to go out there and come back again. Georgia is a school that I am interested in.”

He said his parents went to FCS schools. That means there’s no family connection that will swing toward any big-time program.

Quarterbacks are different. 5-star QB Justin Fields is a rare exception right now. That’s because most of the elite arms have committed by the end of their junior year.

The Power 5 programs want to see that. It helps them build the great signing classes of backs, the offensive line hogs and the receivers around those prized arms.

“I’m going to commit when I feel ready to commit,” McLaughlin said. “When I like the school and feel like I should be there. I’m not going to rush it. I’m just going to commit when it feels like I am ready.”

More camp days at UGA this week

There are three days of camps up ahead at UGA this week. It will be ripe for a strong 7-on-7 tournament with a lot of Georgia high school teams on board.

It is a closed camp. Media that cover UGA football and recruiting will not be allowed to attend. There will be some top prospects in town. Central Gwinnett’s team will be there this week. The Black Knights will be led by Kentucky QB commit Jarren Williams.

Houston County will be there. The format will include lineman drills and the 7-on-7 format.

Tucker High School should also camp there this week. That group should include the likes of 4-star WR target Josh Vann and 4-star ILB Michael Harris. Both of those guys are big targets in the Class of 2018.

McEachern is also at UGA. The Indians have attended the UGA team camps on a regular basis.