UGA’s BIG BOARD FOR 2016
(**- – Indicates early enrollee in Athens in January of 2016)
Jacob Eason** – 5 star
6-5.5, 220, Lake Stevens (Wash.) Lake Stevens Senior: He can launch it like Matt Stafford, but he’s already at least two inches taller than the No. 1 pick of the 2009 NFL Draft. Eason is one of at least two cornerstones of this class who committed on “Dawg Night” in 2014. The 5-star QB by everyone’s measure is either the No. 1 or No. 2 QB in the nation according to all the services. The AJC compiled a series of summer stories on Eason.
Elijah Holyfield – 4 star
5-10, 205, Woodward Academy: The son of 4-time World Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield gives UGA another real deal at running back. He was secretly committed for over a month before he announced his decision on Sept. 4. Holyfield is vital because it’s an almost certainty that at least one of UGA’s current Top 3 backs (Nick Chubb, Keith Marshall, Sony Michel) will have bolted to the NFL by the 2017 season and a big-time back was necessary for elite depth. Holyfield might not have elite speed, but has impressive hands. His jump cut and instinctive hit-the-hole-and-go mentality are as good as it gets for a high school back.
Darion Anderson – 3 star
6-1, 190, Warner Robins (Ga.) Houston County: He currently stands as the only WR commitment for this class. That will need to change. Soon. A big-time QB like Eason should be able to sling it around to a cadre of four and five-star receiver recruits. Anderson been a dynamic playmaker and leader for his high school team. He’s a 4-star wideout on the 247sports composite and is mending this summer from a knee injury.
Davion Curtis – 3 star
5-11, 180 Temple (Tx.) Temple High: The buzzword here is speed. Curtis committed to UGA on August 3 and likely hasn’t looked back. He wasn’t offered by in-state power Texas, and that’s a sign as to why he’s only a 3-star recruit. He’s a track guy and that speed is evident on his highlight film. He has the chance to become the first scholarship signee from Texas at UGA since QB Matthew Stafford back in 2007.
Randrecous Davis – 3 star
5-10, 170 Atlanta (Ga.) Mays: Davis sports a red Georgia “G” on his bicep and committed to UGA shortly after earning an offer he could commit to at Dawg Night. He’s a Mays alum which is the alma mater of UGA receivers coach Bryan McClendon. This guy just makes plays in space and has home run speed. He’ll be a slot receiver in Athens.
Charlie Woerner, 4 star
6-5, 220, Rabun County: The nephew of UGA All-American Scott Woerner is a four-star recruit and the No. 19 receiver in the nation this year. It appeared to be a two-team race by the middle of the summer between Alabama and UGA, but it appeared Jeremy Pruitt’s work as his lead recruiter won out. He made just two trips to a college campus this summer. The first was to Athens for a Mark Richt 7-on-7 camp and the second was to Dawg Night.
• Chris Barnes, 6-5, 270, Leesburg (Ga.) Lee County: The position trend for this year’s class was getting in early on offensive line prospects it wanted and nailing them down. Barnes was the ninth member of this class to commit but was already the fourth offensive lineman. He made his decision right after G-Day. The three-star recruit told the AJC the initial plan is for him to line up at center or guard.
• **Ben Cleveland, 6-7, 325,Toccoa (Ga.) Stephens County: The other cornerstone of the class also committed on Dawg Night in 2014 with Eason. “Big Ben” is an early enrollee who will be the blind-side protector every strong-arm QB needs. The two are already close friends.. The massive five-star is adept in the classroom and agile enough to play first base for the varsity baseball team. He’s generally rated as the No. 3 offensive tackle in America for this class. He also likes to bring deer jerky to camps and all-star games and won’t be 17 years old until August of 2015.
• Aaron Dowdell, 6-4.5, 290, Atlanta (Ga.) Creekside: Dowdell was the fourth member of this class to commit to playing in Athens. He came on board shortly after National Signing Day last February. His high school coach told the AJC when he committed that Georgia has always been Dowdell’s favorite school. He’s been rated by most of the services as a consensus three-star prospect. The 247sports composite regards him as the No. 17 offensive guard in the nation for 2016.
• Tyler Clark, 6-3, 290, Americus (Ga.) Americus Sumter County South: Looking for a sleeper? The Big Board places that distinction on Clark. That’s projecting where he’ll be after about two years in an SEC strength program and getting all the protein and calories he needs every day. He chose UGA over Auburn and Clemson. Clark has received great technical coaching at the high school level the last few years so its not accurate to bestow the “raw” label here. Its better to say his body has yet to scratch the surface of its athletic potential. He still rates as a four-star prospect and among the Top 25 defensive tackles in the country.
• Chauncey Manac, 6-3, 220, Homerville (Ga.) Clinch County: Manac hails from one of the state’s top small school programs. He’s rated as the No. 6 weak-side defensive end in the nation by the 247sports composite and among the nation’s top 80 overall recruits. The four-star prospect is athletic and pretty salty at the point of attack. He was the third commitment of the 2016 class back in September of 2014.
• Julian Rochester, 6-5.5, 320, Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern: It has been awhile since a big-time prospect from McEachern signed with UGA. Rochester — a five-star recruit — appears to be about as solid of a pledge as his tree trunk frame. He’s rated as the No. 13 overall prospect in the 2016 class by the 247sports composite. That makes him the No. 4 defensive tackle in the nation and the No. 2 player in Georgia. He’ll be counted on to be a key recruiter for other big targets in this class.
Jaleel Laguins, 6-3, 215, Oconee County: Laguins has felt comfortable with UGA for a long time and he’s expressed the fact he doesn’t mind going to play college ball so close to his hometown. He backed up those statements when he committed on Aug. 19. He’s been timed at sub-4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash. There was a whiff of some last waffling in Auburn’s direction but he eventually decided to commit to the G.
• Chad Clay, 6-1, 180, Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge: He’s the son of former Georgia Tech All-American and eight-year NFL veteran Willie “Big Play” Clay. Clay is seen as a three-star recruit by majority of the recruiting services. This commitment might be key in making a run at two other SEC-level recruits in the Peachtree Ridge secondary. Georgia beat out Ohio State in what Clay described as a very difficult decision. Why? Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt recruited him the hardest.
• Tyrique McGhee, 5-10, 178, Fort Valley (Ga.) Peach County: McGhee is rated as a three-star recruit for this year’s signing class. He worried some Georgia fans earlier this summer by taking a visit to Auburn, but that trip has given him the chance to reaffirm his commitment to the Bulldogs. He was the fifth commitment of the class back in February and initially caught Georgia’s eye while Pruitt attending a prospect camp for his own son last season in South Georgia.
• B.J Emmons, 5-11, 230, Morganton (North Carolina) Freedom High: This four-star was once rated the No. 4 back in the nation by the 247sports composite. He was seen as one of the Top 110 seniors in the country this year. He committed to Georgia last December but reversed that decision on June 11. Emmons committed to Alabama on July 20.
• Devwah Whaley, 6-0, 209, Beaumont Central (Beaumont, Tex.): This four-star was rated the No. 4 back in the nation by the 247sports composite. He was seen as one of the Top 110 seniors in the country this year. He committed to Georgia on Thanksgiving Day but de-committed soon after Mark Richt was fired by UGA. Arkansas and Texas are the other schools he is now considering.
• E.J. Price, 6-6, 311, Lawrenceville (Ga.) Archer: Price was a big loss for the 2016 class. He committed to UGA back in April after not having the program in his Top 10 for some time. He decided in late June he wasn’t sure about his decision so he re-opened his recruitment. He did say he will continue to consider Georgia. The four-star prospect is currently rated the No. 9 offensive tackle in the nation for 2016.
• **Garrett Walston, 6-4, 220, New Hanover (NC) New Hanover: There were other tight ends in the class who would’ve been easier commitments, but the staff held out for Walston. The Bulldogs beat out UNC for his big soft hands. He’s seen as a three-star recruit and the No. 17 tight end for this class, but his stock has spiked the last few months. He averaged 19.3 yards per catch last season and caught 10 touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer told his high school coach that Walston looks like the kind of player who’d be ready to play in the NFL in three or four years.
Davion Curtis, 5-11, 180 Temple (Tx.) Temple High: The buzzword here is speed. Curtis committed to UGA on August 3, but flipped to his dream school back Texas back in November. He wasn’t offered by in-state power initially, and that’s a sign as to why he’s only a 3-star recruit. He’s a track guy and that speed is evident on his highlight film.
• Malek Young, 5-10, 175, Pompano Beach (Fla.) Coconut Creek: His inroad to Athens actually ran through Tallahassee. That’s when Pruitt started recruiting him when he was the defensive coordinator at Florida State. He survived Mark Richt’s dismissal at UGA, but quickly de-committed after the reports that Pruitt had moved on to Alabama. UGA is no longer seen as a contender in his recruiting going forward.
TOP UGA TARGETS
Devwah Whaley, 6-0, 205, Beaumont Central Senior (undecided) Beaumont, TX: UGA desperately needs back for the Class of 2016 after a June de-commitment from a talent who eventually landed at Alabama. Whaley would be a tremendous addition. The 4-star prospect is the No. 4 RB in America this year. He placed UGA in his Top 5 earlier this summer along with the likes of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M. UGA might sound like a longshot to get his signature on scholarship papers, but he did make it to Dawg Night in July.
Kyle Davis, 6-3, 215, Archer (Auburn commit): Davis is a lifelong UGA fan who was disappointed that the Bulldogs waited to finally offer until two months after he committed to South Carolina last year. The good news for UGA is that Davis has backed off his pledge to the Gamecocks, and the Bulldogs have slowly developed a good relationship. Davis is the state’s No. 1-rated receiver and passes all the eyeball tests with his physical stature.
Tyler Simmons, 5-11, 194, McEachern (undecided): Simmons recently told the AJC that UGA’s coaches have advised him he is one of three receiver priorities for this class. That’s the aforementioned Davis and Demeteris Robertson. Robertson is listed at the ATH position below. Simmons doesn’t have a clear leader and planned to narrow his options down to five schools by the end of July. He plans on committing in September and preferably early in his senior season.
Binjimin Victor, 6-4, 173, Coconut Creek, FL (undecided): The four-star from Florida is one of the nation’s top-rated receivers. He’s also teammates with UGA defensive back commitment Malik Young. His high school coach told the AJC that UGA already has the cornerstone quarterback in this signing class that he will play with. Victor knows that type of big arm will directly correlate to him having success at the college level.
Tremayne Anchrum, 6-3, 268, McEachern (Clemson commit): He’s recently told the AJC that he gets almost daily communication from UGA’s coaches with messages urging him to come to UGA. Some of those are even from head coach Mark Richt. The three-star recruit has been told by the UGA coaching staff that he can play tackle or center on Saturdays in the SEC. UGA has cracked his Top 8 schools and its interesting that Missouri is the only other SEC school which made the cut.
Terrance Davis, 6-4, 325 DeMatha Catholic (undecided): The 4-star road grader enjoyed himself at Dawg Night. It was his second trip to Athens and he now plans to take a third trip to UGA for his official visit in January. Watch this guy closely. He’s rated as the nation’s No. 2 offensive guard.
Robert Kraeling, 6-8, 267, Prince Avenue Christian (committed to Duke): Krealing attends high school 15 minutes away from the UGA campus, and always wanted an offer from the Bulldogs. He finally got one in June, after UGA had missed on some other targetsand a few months after Kraeling committed to Duke over Auburn, Alabama and N.C. State. UGA and other colleges will still likely pursue Kraeling until signing day.
E.J. Price, 6-6, 311, Archer (undecided): It has been a roller-coaster ride in recruiting for Price. After not listing UGA in his top 10, he abruptly committed to the Bulldogs in April. Then he backed off his pledge in June because he felt like he rushed his decision. However, UGA isn’t about to give up on the state’s No. 1-rated prospect on the offensive line.
Chandler Tuitt, 6-4, 289, Sandy Creek (committed to Ole Miss): This versatile prospect committed to Ole Miss in July, but told the AJC he started earlier this summer that UGA offensive line coach Rob Sale told him he was going to continue recruiting him no matter what school he commits to.
Jacob Mathis, 6-5, 230, Berkeley Prep (Fla.) (uncommitted): Mathis told the AJC he’s being wooed to commit to the “G” by current pledges Eason and Manac. Mathis visited UGA for Dawg Night and left very impressed. He’s rated as a four-star recruit and the nation’s No. 9 prospect at this position for the 2016 class.
Isaac Nauta, 6-4, 242, IMG Academy (Fla.) (decommitted from FSU): Nauta transferred to IMG for his senior season after a stellar varsity showing at Buford. The nation’s top-ranked tight end is a five-star prospect who has UGA at No. 2 on his board. He plans to take all five of his official visits. Nauta’s mother recently told the AJC that she thinks he might flip in the end, but UGA is in great shape at tight end with the addition of Walston. That said, UGA wouldn’t mind having the enviable task of finding a spot for a great route-runner with soft hands and 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash.
Mecole Hardman Jr., 5-11, 175, Elbert County (undecided): Hardman might be the most electrifying player in the state this year and if he’s not it would be the other big-time UGA target at athlete. Hardman clocked at 4.35 in his only 40-yard dash attempt at a Mark Richt Football Camp in June. He can be an incredible press corner from the jump for UGA, but also has the ability to shake loose from even elite defenders in space. He plans to be a silent commitment and his pecking order has been UGA and Tennessee at the top with a new No. 3 school in Auburn.
Demetris Robertson, DB/WR, 6-1, 180, Savannah Christian (undecided): Robertson was committed to Alabama for almost a year, but backed off that decision. He aims to play both sides of the ball at UGA. Hardman and Robertson must be seen as must-have signees in this class to pair with Eason. He still places Alabama, Georgia and Stanford among his top schools. UGA was his dream school growing up and his favorite player during those days was former RB Musa Smith. He will take all five of his visits and make his decision on National Signing Day.
Derrick Brown, 6-4, 309, Lanier (undecided): The state’s overall No. 1 prospect would be a great addition to a formidable defensive line rotation with Clark and Rochester. If the Bulldogs could add both Brown and Cedar Grove’s Antwuan Jackson, then a formidable front wall of elite defenders would be in place. Brown even caught a couple of touchdowns at tight end when Lanier competed at the Mark Richt 7-on-7 tournament in Athens this summer. He does plan to attend UGA’s elite “Dawg Night” prospect camp in July.
Antwuan Jackson, 6-3, 300, Cedar Grove (undecided): Adding both Brown and Jackson might seem lgreedy, but it would set UGA up to have the talent in the trenches to play huge games in December for the next 3-4 seasons. Jackson told the AJC this summer that both UGA and Auburn “would be in it until the end” with his recruiting, but he released a Top 10 on July 4 with a graphic that seemed to place UGA in the No. 3 slot. Auburn and Ohio State were his co-leaders. This might be one of the most interesting recruiting stories of this year’s class, but he told the AJC he planned to make his commitment during his senior season. He’s also an early enrollment candidate.
Nigel Warrior, 6-0, 175, Peachtree Ridge (undecided): The son of 13-year NFL veteran Dale Carter is part of a big-time prep secondary with SEC talent as every position. He went approximately a year without visiting the UGA campus, but just rectified that with a recent trip. The four-star safety is one of the nation’s Top 5 prospects at his position and he recently told the AJC that “UGA is a great place to be” after a Sunday visit to Athens.
Trayvon Mullen, 6-2, 170, Coconut Creek, FL (undecided): Call him a longshot, but at least UGA has a chance. Mullen is one of the nation’s top-rated corners and his teammate Malek Young is already committed to UGA. The four-star has always mentioned Florida State and LSU in his top group and he will take a hard look at UGA with his visit to “Dawg Night” on July 18. He already has expressed an appreciation for the way Jeremy Pruitt coaches up his defensive backs.
Jeff Sentell covers 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.