Justin Shaffer is a big man even among heavyweights. The 6-foot-5, 335-pounder has hands that measure 10 inches in length from the base of his wrist to his fingertips.
The 3-star offensive lineman from Cedar Grove High School flipped from Louisville to UGA on Monday, but jumped his snap count because he could not wait to commit. It traces back to when he was offered on an unofficial visit on Jan. 30. When he was invited for a return visit, Shaffer knew he was flipping within the first five minutes after arriving this past Saturday.
When he walked in the door, UGA offensive line coach Sam Pittman and official visitor Tyler Catalina were right behind him. Catalina is the potential fifth-year graduate offensive lineman from Rhode Island who was on an official visit with the Bulldogs.
“Coach Pittman was coming up behind me with that smile before I could walk in the door,” Shaffer said. “He made me feel like he was so happy to see me. .. Hanging out with Coach Pittman and Kirby (Smart) just makes your day go by so well.”
Before he left, he laid out a plan with Pittman and Smart for what was about to happen.
“I told them I’m going to de-commit (from Louisville) Monday and commit to Georgia sometime soon,” Shaffer said. “Sometime this week. I saw the smiles between Coach Kirby and Coach Pittman then and I came home and told my parents.”
Shaffer called his own audible on that one.
“I asked my head coach if I could just make a tweet saying I was de-committing from Louisville and committing to Georgia at the same time,” Shaffer said. “He told me that would be better and I was like ‘OK cool’ so I did that on Monday to make the week start off great.”
What did Pittman say when Shaffer told him about the flip?
“The first thing he said ‘Shut your freaking mouth’ because he was so happy and jumped up and gave me a big hug,” Shaffer said. “He was so excited. … He has a pretty good grip on that hug.”
Pittman was very direct. He fired off the ball with his pitch like a lineman heading downhill.
“The first time we sat down and talked he said ‘We really like you a lot’ as we ate together,” Shaffer said. “He was telling me how I’d fit into the offense they were trying to build.”
When Shaffer heard one specific phrase, it was over.
“What really pushed me over was when Coach Smart and Coach Pittman just said we are going to get straight to the point,” Shaffer said. “They said ‘We want you and you fit in with what we are trying to build here at Georgia’ and it just hit me. …. I was looking for a place where I could help build a program up to win a national championship.”
Shaffer loves the academic side of UGA. He plans to major in sports medicine and can see himself as a trainer. Smart emphasized his education when he offered him on Jan. 30.
“Coach Smart laid it out and told me everything I needed to hear,” Shaffer said. “I sat down and thought about it and felt Georgia was going to be the place for me education wise and football wise.”
Was it UGA all along? Shaffer said he told the state’s elite recruits as much at the Rising Seniors event in December.
“Those guys told me to commit to the G back then and I was like ‘If they offer me I am going to join the team’ back then,” he said.
A few interesting topics came up during Mr. Shaffer’s interview with DawgNation.
- Pittman told him UGA was looking for two guards and three offensive tackles in this year’s class. That means Shaffer and his 4-star teammate at Cedar Grove, Netori Johnson, would fill that order.
- Johnson has held a UGA offer since last June and recently de-committed from Alabama. Shaffer feels Johnson’s recruitment will go down to National Signing Day.
- Shaffer is on track to graduate early and will explore the opportunity to enroll early at UGA
- Pittman wants Shaffer to drop 5-10 pounds before he joins the program. That’s not a lot of weight, but he wants to see flip excess body fat into muscle.
- Shaffer was close to saying his recruitment was over but wants to leave a few other options. He expects South Carolina and Tennessee to make a big push. The only way he’d consider another school aside from UGA is it offered a “way better” academic opportunity. “Aside from that, I am really down pat with Georgia and really ready to rock and roll and play. I’m really looking for a place where education wise is really it. If somebody’s education program is better than what they offer at Georgia, that would be the only thing that might change my mind. When you talk about the SEC, then Georgia is No. 2 in education behind only Vanderbilt.”
Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and 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.