DawgNation is on high alert about who will be the next coach at UGA, but the families of the program’s 17 commitments are even more concerned stakeholders. Their sons have already made a life-altering choice.
Willie “Big Play” Clay, the former Georgia Tech All-American and an NFL veteran, describes that choice as a holding pattern. Chad Clay, his son, is committed to play defensive back at Georgia. To multiply the stress even further, Clay will enroll early.
The Clay family received an in-home visit from UGA assistants Thomas Brown and Jeremy Pruitt on Monday night. But what happens when the new staff comes in? Will his scholarship offer be honored by the new coaching staff?
“We got reassurance from Coach Pruitt and Coach Brown about that,” Willie Clay said. “(The athletic director) has told those guys that anybody who is committed obviously we are honoring them and we don’t care who ‘the new coach is,’ we are obviously going to honor that commitment we got.”
Chad Clay, a 3-star recruit rated as the nation’s No. 34 cornerback, is still committed to UGA.
“There are some variables that come into play to keep it that way, but more than likely I think at the end of the day when the smoke settles I think he will still be committed to the University of Georgia,” Willie Clay said.
Willie Clay acknowledged that recruits like his son do develop a relationship with the coaches who are recruiting them, but that they also do fall in love with the actual school and the football tradition itself.
The Clay family was given a timeline by Brown and Pruitt — or better yet, an expectation — that the new coach would be named within a “week to two weeks.”
What happens then?
Well, it would be fair to label that following week as speed dating by the new staff as they re-recruit of all those top prospects. That’s so they can fall back in love with the thought of playing for UGA.
The Clay family knows how Brown and Pruitt feel about Chad’s skill set. They knew Richt’s opinions, too. They need to feel the same reassurances from the new staff that Chad will still be one of their guys on defense for the Class of 2016.
“You worry about that stuff as a parent,” Willie Clay said. “Now you are going with the unknowns, whether it is Kirby Smart or anybody else. So will it be like, ‘We didn’t think highly enough of Chad for him to come to Alabama’ or whatever — and so there’s something you worry about with that. You worry about that stuff because there are obviously so many other opportunities out there for your son to go play. You want to make sure he goes to play for a program that really wants him the way that UGA did before all this stuff went down.”
That shouldn’t be a tripping point because UGA had signed the No. 4 ranked recruiting class in the nation per 247sports.com’s rankings.
The eight-year-NFL-veteran was impressed to see Brown and Pruitt on the road.
“They made no guarantees about their future one way or the other,” Willie Clay said. “All they said was hopefully we are still there and hopefully you are still interested in the University of Georgia. But for those guys to go on the road and recruit for a school they don’t have any idea if they will still be around next month, that has got to be one of the toughest things for them to do. But that’s a big job and that stuff comes with this territory.”
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.