What happened late with Georgia and elite RBs Noah Cain and Trey Sanders?
Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings at least four days a week. This edition calls for a chat with 4-star Penn State signee Noah Cain about the 11th-hour decisions he made regarding his college choice and where the Bulldogs factored into his late thoughts.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Noah Cain had a decision to make. Trey Sanders had a decision to make. Elijah Holyfield had a decision to make.
Kenny McIntosh had already made his decision to play for Georgia in 2019. Those other three running backs were weighing that for their respective careers.
“The final few days before signing day is when I really started to second guess myself,” Cain said Saturday.
Holyfield is still a Bulldog, but he hasn’t made a public declaration on his 2019 playing future yet.
Sanders eventually signed during the early period with Alabama. The nation’s top-rated RB for this class had a strong late interest in the Bulldogs. Cain, the nation’s No. 7 RB in this cycle, chose another school.
Those two both played together at IMG Academy.
Cain spoke on Saturday from the Under Armour All-America Game week events. His media day included a lot of topics about his eventual school of choice. That’s Penn State.
The fact he has signed with Penn State allowed him the freedom to discuss openly what the final 48 hours of his recruiting process looked like.
He shared a view that the Bulldogs really had a chance late to pull not one, but two elite backs from IMG Academy in this cycle. Or it was at least a viable option.
“Georgia was really transparent,” Cain said of the days leading up to his choice. “That week before signing day they didn’t know what Elijah was going to do. That was a big thing for me with Georgia. He was still wavering up to signing day. So (Georgia running backs coach Dell) coach McGee knew where I was at with that.”
“I still talk to (coach) McGee to this day so he knew where I was at. My relationship with coach [Kirby] Smart and coach McGee is very good still. It was the fact that Elijah was still wavering and I didn’t know what he was going to do.”
Noah Cain made a business decision
It really came down to a business decision for Cain. To his credit, that was what he said his choice was always going to be. He knew that D’Andre Swift would be back for the Bulldogs in 2019. He knew that James Cook and Zamir White were also there.
Georgia also had 4-star RB Kenny McIntosh in the 2019 class. McIntosh ranks as the nation’s No. 10 RB on the 247Sports Composite for this cycle. Most fans don’t realize how much his 225-pound frame will add a new dimension to the backfield in Athens.
He just couldn’t make sense of all the depth.
Then there was the unknown with Holyfield. Here’s what big what if: What would he have done if he knew that Holyfield had decided to take his talents to the NFL?
“It would have changed a lot of things,” Cain said. “If I knew he was leaving for sure it would have changed a lot. Probably. Because Georgia was really like that frontrunner the final few days. Elijah just kept wavering and I didn’t really know about it but that’s what it was.”
When it was time to decide, he wasn’t sure what Holyfield was going to do. If he knew those plans, he said the Bulldogs would have been one of his final options in the five minutes prior to his final decision.
“If I would’ve known Elijah was leaving for sure though a lot of things would have been different probably right now,” he said.
Was it ever Georgia? Could it have ever been Georgia? Could it have been Georgia for both Noah Cain and Trey Sanders?
“Probably different for Trey,” he said. “Georgia already had Kenny McIntosh committed. But Trey and I were always talking about Georgia. … For us, it was kind of like me and Georgia-Penn State. Him and Bama-Georgia. It was like Georgia as our other final school as well. We were always talking about it. We didn’t know what Elijah was going to do either. We talked on that night before signing day.”
He said that they just collectively didn’t have a really good read on that. So they just stepped away from Georgia and did the best things for themselves independent of that decision.
Cain still labeled it a viable option.
The Bulldogs had late traction with three IMG Academy standouts. That was Cain and Sanders and also 5-star OT Evan Neal.
Which one of those three did Cain think came the closest to choosing Georgia? He said Evan was in the mix there, but that would not be his choice.
“I know Trey and I were about fifty-fifty with it,” Cain said. “Because like two days before signing day we didn’t know what Elijah was going to do. Trey was asking me. I’m asking Trey. We were talking to coach McGee. Coach McGee didn’t even know.”
The final thing he said was there was a chance the Bulldogs could have signed both IMG backs in the 2019 cycle. The disclaimer here is it did include a lot of “ifs.”
“If Kenny McIntosh wasn’t committed and Elijah [Holyfield] would have left we probably would have made that move,” Cain said. “If McIntosh didn’t commit and Elijah would have left. Trey and I loved playing together. So it probably would have been a viable option.”
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