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Fred Assaf, Pace Academy/special
Jamaree Salyer, a 5-star offensive lineman, could start as a freshman in the SEC.

UGA recruiting: Position coach weighs in on 5-star Jamaree Salyer’s college path

Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We take another look at 5-star OG Jamaree Salyer in this edition. The elite 2018 target will take his first official visit this weekend to Notre Dame this weekend. 

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Pace Academy is building quite a reputation. That Atlanta football program, which won a state title in 2015, is becoming a spot for future blocks of granite on the offensive line to learn their craft.

Andrew Thomas, who started his first game at Georgia last Saturday, was a four-year starter for the Knights. Jamaree Salyer, the nation’s top-ranked offensive line prospect for 2018, also has started all four years he has played for Pace.

Jamaree Salyer-UGA recruiting
Jamaree Salyer is the nation’s highest-rated offensive line prospect in the Class of 2018. (Fred Assaf, Pace Academy/special)

Salyer is the highest-rated player at his position by the 247Sports composite since Andre Smith was rated No. 1 overall in 2006.

He’s been trained by some savvy football minds at Pace.

Chris Slade, the coach, is a former All-American at Virginia who logged nine seasons in the NFL. Receivers coach Terrence Edwards is among the best to play that position in UGA football history. He also spent many years in pro football, including a long career in the CFL.

Then there is offensive line coach Kevin Johnson. The fiery Kevin Johnson. It is pretty hard not to like the way he goes about his business.

Salyer said he knows how fortunate he has been to learn from “Coach Kev” at Pace.

“I picked the right coach to play for and picked the right program to play for,” said Salyer, who clearly trusts him.

The nation’s No. 7 overall prospect started to blossom as a sophomore. His first MVP camp was a coming-out party. Salyer then went to the Nike’s The Opening in Oregon as a junior. He made the event’s overall top 5 at that elite showcase.

The 6-foot-4, 350-pound lineman returned to The Opening finals in Oregon in July. He was named the offensive line MVP. There was no debate about who the best blocker in Oregon was this summer.

He credits the coaching staff at Pace Academy for his growth into a major college prospect.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better coach,” Salyer said. “I’ve got guys looking at me that go, ‘I go to IMG [Academy] and I go to blah blah. Your coach is way better than mine let me come work out with you.'”

Which coach reminds Jamaree Salyer of Kevin Johnson? 

Clemson is coming after Salyer. Hard. So is UGA. Notre Dame gets Salyer’s first official visit this weekend. Stanford is another school that will receive an official visit and strong consideration.

Salyer was asked if any of the coaches which are recruiting him now remind him of Johnson. Georgia line coach Sam Pittman was the coach who came to his mind as he tried to make a comparison.

“He’s definitely different than a lot of the college coaches I’ve been around,” Salyer said. “Take Coach Pittman, for example. He’s the first person I think about right now. He’s cool. Mellow. He tells you what you need to do. If you do it wrong, he is like ‘Okay, let me teach you.’ But Coach Kev is like, ‘If you are going to do it wrong, then you at least need to do it fast.’ He wants a faster wrong. He’s loud. Aggressive. He wants everything you got. You come off practice some days, and I’m crawling because I have done given him everything I had in practice.”

Johnson’s work already can be seen with Thomas. A big reason why Thomas was ready to play so fast at UGA was because of, in large part, the training he received playing for Johnson at Pace Academy.

Pace’s line coach calls them levels. Thomas finished his fourth level last season. Salyer is in that fourth phase now. Johnson is a grinder. When Thomas was finished with all-star season last January, then those two really got to work.

Andrew Thomas-Georgia football
Freshman offensive tackle Andrew Thomas started his first game at UGA against Appalachian State. (Steven Colquitt / UGA)

Johnson used a lot of unique training methods with Thomas until he graduated from Pace in May. Thomas even was boxing to build his strength and muscle endurance. Pace also will use yoga as a training method for some of its bigger athletes, including Salyer.

Pittman respects Johnson enough to keep him regularly updated on how Thomas is progressing at UGA. His former student also stays in touch, and they connect two or three times on an average week.

That’s just something special that exists between a player and his former high school coach.

“They understand why I go so hard,” Johnson said. “Andrew understands now. He didn’t understand in the beginning, but now that he is at UGA he will text and say, ‘Coach, I get it now.'”

Johnson has a viewpoint on how a college freshman can play in the trenches early on. It isn’t easy, but he said he thinks it can be done. The first element is they must be technically sound.

“Then number two is they have to be strong enough and three you have to be tough enough,” he said. “If you have those three ingredients, then you have a possibility of getting on the field early. If you are lacking in one of them, then there is a possibility you are going to redshirt or you are going to sit there and hold your jersey basically.”

The example set by Thomas proves that.

Kevin Johnson’s view of Jamaree Salyer’s college path

Johnson knows Salyer better than anyone. He built the engine under that hood and knows what he can do.

“After the season is over with, we are going to get down and get together, and we are going to start training him to be a center,” he said. “We are going to get him ready to play center, too. Why? Well, one, because he is smart; two, because he is strong; three, because he is massive. When you have all three of those things you can be a really, really good center. He can be really, really good. Really, really good.”

Jamaree Salyer-UGA recruiting
Pace Academy 5-star OG Jamaree Salyer was an unofficial visitor at UGA this weekend for the Appalachian State game. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

What does he mean by “really, really good”?

Good enough that he could play 10 years in the NFL at center, Johnson said. His student is that versatile.

Salyer plays left tackle for Pace but is regarded as a future guard at the college level. He was pressed into duty at tackle after competing at guard at The Opening in Atlanta. Salyer beat 5-star Ohio State commitment Brenton Cox on two of their three reps.

Johnson said he likes the way Salyer is taking his time with his college decision. Salyer expects to announce his college commitment on Dec. 20. That’s the first day of the new early signing period.

“He understands this is a business deal and knows it isn’t a quick fix for him,” Johnson said. “… He realizes this decision he will make will affect him for 40 years from now. So we want him to take his time.”

Salyer has been a coveted prospect since his freshman year. He was with Thomas on a lot of those trips. So in some ways, he saw exactly what a 2017 prospect saw on those trips.

Georgia has prioritized both Salyer and Thomas since Pittman arrived.

“He understands that a lot of coaches are selling things and a lot of coaches are telling the truth about what they really have,” Johnson said. “In the interviews he’s had, he will tell you that he went to Clemson and they presented ‘The Paw Journey’ to him. That blew him away. That actually blew him away. Then he went to [Georgia], and UGA has ‘The Georgia Way,’ and that blew him away. He understands that football can stop in seconds, but this thing called life is forever. So that’s why he understands about making the right decisions and all the right choices on and off the field.”

Jeff Sentell-UGA recruiting
Jamaree Salyer was named the offensive line MVP at Nike’s The Opening in July. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Johnson said UGA has done a fine job recruiting him. Every chance they had an opportunity to visit him at Pace Academy per NCAA rules, they were there.

“They came up with a game plan for him if he decided to go to Georgia,” Johnson said. “I think Jamaree understands that game plan there as well as with Clemson. I can say those two schools have done a great job recruiting him. Coach [Tony] Elliott and [offensive line] coach [Robbie] Caldwell — they are all doing a great job of recruiting him and showing him this is what [they] are doing.”

Those are two great somewhat local options. Can Johnson see Salyer at a Notre Dame, an Ohio State or a Stanford? Those three programs, plus Clemson and UGA, represent Salyer’s top 5. He won’t come out and say it, but those are the schools he has given the strongest consideration to.

“I can see him going to all five of those schools,” Johnson said. “He can’t go to all five of them, but I can see him going anywhere only because he’s a young man that can do whatever he needs in the classroom. He can defend himself against whatever in the classroom as we call it.”

Miss a day of Intel? Well, the DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to Mecole Hardman speed before your tailgate crew can worry anymore about all the freshman offensive linemen who will have to play this fall.

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