UGA recruiting: What does DawgNation need to know about the 2017 Nike Opening?
Want a daily lap through UGA football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way this 4-star or 5-star might lean plus add some perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.
BEAVERTON, Ore. — The Opening starts Thursday in Oregon. What is this “The Opening” stuff? What’s the connection with Nike?
Please consult our primer for the big picture of all things Georgia and the 2017 Nike Opening finals. The elite all-star showcase and skills competition lasts until July 3. The guest list includes 166 of the nation’s top high school players.
The first two days are reserved for the quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends only. The event also includes a linemen challenge and 7-on-7 tournament among teams comprised of those 166 names.
Here are the top names, story lines, pending decisions and things to keep tabs on out west over the next six days:
The names to know
2018: Chris Smith II, 3-star CB, Hapeville Charter Career Academy (Atlanta, Ga.)
2019: Nolan Smith, 5-star DE/OLB, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
The stark initial difference for the Bulldogs with this Opening is that the program’s 2018 recruiting class isn’t as fully formed as the group that represented the Bulldogs last year.
Georgia had six commitments invited to the event and then picked up two more pledges on the final day of The Opening in 4-star running back Toneil Carter (who wound up at Texas) and 4-star tackle Andrew Thomas.
The biggest UGA recruits to really keep an eye on
2018 targets (with their overall 247Sports composite ranking)
- No. 3 overall: 5-star QB Justin Fields, Harrison High School (Kennesaw, Ga.)
- No. 9 overall: 5-star OL Jamaree Salyer, Pace Academy (Atlanta, Ga.)
- No. 15 overall: 5-star DE/OL KJ Henry, West Forsyth High (Clemmons, N.C.)
- No. 17 overall: 5-star QB Matt Corral, Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.)
- No. 20 overall: 5-star DB Tyreke Johnson, Trinity Christian Academy (Jacksonville, Fla.)
- No. 22 overall: 5-star Ohio State DE commit Brenton Cox Jr., Stockbridge High (Stockbridge, Ga.)
- No. 29 overall: 4-star OL Trey Hill, Houston County High (Warner Robins, Ga.)
- No. 33 overall: 4-star Florida State RB commit James Cook, Miami Central (Miami, Fla.)
- No. 41 overall: 4-star OLB J.J. Peterson, Colquitt County High (Moultrie, Ga.)
- No. 92 overall: 4-star TE Luke Ford, Carterville High (Carterville, Ill.)
- No. 98 overall: 4-star WR Kearis Jackson, Peach County (Fort Valley, Ga.)
- No. 123 overall: 4-star DT Rick Sandidge, Concord High (Concord, N.C.)
- No. 191 overall, 4-star WR Josh Vann, Tucker High (Tucker, Ga.)
- No. 260 overall: 4-star DE Azeez Ojulari, Marietta High (Marietta, Ga.)
There are other prospects that Georgia would like to sign who will be competing at The Opening that rate as highly as these guys. But the Bulldogs don’t have the same level of mutual interest as of yet with guys like 4-star DB Tyson Campbell and 4-star ILB Solomon Tuliaupupu, among others.
The 5 big UGA story lines this week
1) Is this really an either/or thing with the 5-star QB?
That’s the appearance of things so far. Georgia needs to add at least one quarterback for the 2018 cycle, and it appears the Bulldogs are looking to add another 5-star arm. Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm are the only scholarship quarterbacks on campus.
Matt Corral and Justin Fields, the two 5-star passers listed highly above, have noticed that. Both like Georgia. Both have other options, too. It sounds like Corral will choose just between Alabama and Florida after de-committing from Southern Cal earlier this month.
Fields is set to visit Athens for at least the second time next month, and it seems like the Bulldogs would rather have him at this time. He’s the better fit given that he’s a Georgia boy with ties to a lot of other elite Southeast recruits.
Fields is also the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat QB recruit in the nation. He would bring a different skill set to the program than what Eason and Fromm currently offer.
2) What is going on with Nolan Smith II?
The 5-star DE/OLB has been committed to UGA since January. Both Alabama and Clemson are coming after him hard. There are a few strong ties to Dabo Swinney’s program that are in play here.
Smith is so highly regarded that he was one of only six junior prospects invited to the Oregon showcase. He was just rated the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect for 2019 by Scout.com. His 247Sports composite rating also has him as the nation’s No. 3 overall recruit.
He is very close with IMG teammate Xavier Thomas. Thomas is a Clemson commit and is rated as the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect for 2018. If he ever gets lined up in 1-on-1s with UGA targets Jamaree Salyer and Trey Hill, then those will be one of the highlight matchups of the event.
Smith is a vastly explosive defensive lineman and a Savannah native. He grew up loving UGA, so this is a very interesting commitment to watch here. Look for Smith to finish in the top 5 in the Nike “Sparq” rating championship this week.
He told me his goal is to win that competition. That’s crazy. Defensive ends and outside linebackers just aren’t supposed to do that, but he has that ability.
That’s why he is in such high demand.
3) The Jamaree Salyer Show
Salyer, a 5-star guard from Atlanta, was also invited to the event last year. He shined and was named one of the top 5 overall OL prospects at that event in 2016. He makes a return trip to Oregon this weekend as the highest-rated OL at the event.
The 5-star prospect, along with a commitment from Corral or Fields, is the biggest remaining priority for UGA in the 2018 class. He’s the highest-rated interior OL prospect since Alabama great Andre Smith was rated No. 1 overall in 2006.
I feel that Salyer is the best prospect on the offensive line in America this year, and he will show that this week in Oregon. He’s not expected to make his decision until after his senior season.
4) Checking the tires on James Cook
James Cook, the Florida State commit, is the brother of former FSU great Dalvin Cook. Cook is now with the Minnesota Vikings. Will he follow his brother’s path to Tallahassee or choose his own way?
Georgia just got a big commitment from 5-star RB Zamir White this week. If the Bulldogs can flip Cook, that would be the ideal replacement for the departing tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Those two guys will play their last seasons in Athens this fall.
The backfield at FSU is a lot more crowded than the one that will be in Athens next fall. Georgia has recruited Cook well so far. Don’t put anything past RBs coach Dell McGee at this point.
5) Can Agent Alpha lock everyone down again?
That “Agent Alpha” tag is the name that UGA gave Chris Smith in edits so far across social media. As stated above, Smith is the only 2018 Bulldogs commit at The Opening this year.
He’s currently rated as the nation’s No. 34 cornerback prospect and that seems considerably low given his skills and the quality work he’s done across the spring and early summer showcase circuit. I feel that Smith is one of the nation’s top 20 cornerbacks in this cycle.
Look for him to prove that to rest of the recruiting industry this week.