We’ve started to put together a recurring feature on DawgNation known as “What’s Important Now” regarding UGA recruiting. That is a tip of the cap to one of Kirby Smart’s go-to talking points about team focus and it also applies to the recruiting beat.
There’s really an alphabet soup’s worth of news at any given time, but we’re trying to distill it through the right filter to capture the important storylines at any given time. Mondays and Friday are usually the best times to do this.
The intent is to be brisk so I’ll just apologize off the bat for the length of the first item. There’s really just no 10-second explainer to cover it all.
What’s Important Now in recruiting
Nation’s No. 1 receiver signs financial aid papers with UGA
The item regarding five-star receiver Demetris Robertson was the news of the weekend. Yet most wonder, ‘What does it actually mean?’ Here’s an honest effort at explaining things: What he signed protects the student-athlete. The financial aid papers bind the school to holding a scholarship for the prospect, but it allows the student-athlete the freedom to sign elsewhere.
That said, the Savannah Christian senior has also signed those same forms with Cal and Georgia Tech. At this point, it seems more interesting to ponder why Robertson has not signed those papers with Alabama and Notre Dame. Those are also central players in his decision.
Easy theories pop up. Is that because those are his lead schools? Did he sign those papers with the schools he feels have the most catching up to do? Or does it establish a silent Top 3?
The other thing to know is those forms grant UGA, Cal and Georgia Tech unlimited contact with the nation’s No. 14 overall recruit for 2016. They will use that situation to their advantage.
Stanford also still looms. That’s his dream school, but he’s yet to visit there. He won’t get a chance to do that now on an official visit. He’s used all of those up. It will have to be an unofficial visit. The other wrinkle is he also awaits the results of his March SAT exam. Robertson needs to add approximately another 50 points to his score to qualify for admission to Stanford.
What’s the timeline? The honest answer is there isn’t one. He could announce he signed with UGA or Alabama or Cal or Notre Dame at any time, but that’s not likely. The only finality of it all is to expect the nation’s No. 1 receiver to sign just financial aid papers with all his favored schools and report to his choice in June.
Once he is on campus and enrolled, that is when any decision becomes permanent (at least) for the 2016 season. If anyone outside his inner circle knows what is going on here, they are propping up educated guesses based on an interview detail here or there. Let’s adopt transparency here rather than try to earn aplomb for cleverly disguising not having a hobnail boot’s worth of terra firma to go on.
I do believe he joins UGA for several off-the-field reasons, but the finish line is still fuzzy. If he qualifies to attend Stanford in May, that becomes the new team to beat. The financial aid papers he signed also grant him the time he needs to wait that situation out. That’s a smart move by Team Robertson there.
There’s one other thing to add: Perhaps the nation’s best pound-for-pound college town turned in another elite performance. Robertson showed he had a fantastic time on social media and was flanked during his trip by UGA freshman quarterback Jacob Eason.
He had a great time. There’s no question about that. Downtown Athens did its part like a 1990s era Nebraska team on Homecoming.
— Coach Kirby Smart (@KirbySmartUGA) March 20, 2016
Top-ranked athlete for 2017 makes another trip to Athens
UGA commit Richard LeCounte III is a fantastic athlete and a special player. So it goes without saying that any prospect rated higher above him on the recruiting vernacular food chain is truly a must-see target.
That guy is JaCoby Stevens (Oakland HS/Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and he made his second trip to UGA this year to meet the new staff. He brought his mother along in tow. The future Saturday safety got to see Georgia practice in pads over the weekend and enjoyed yet another trip.
Remember this name. Stevens is rated as the nation’s No. 22 overall prospect for the upcoming cycle. He also clearly appreciates what is already taking place at UGA and has already struck up a friendship with LeCounte.
If there’s a board with the Top 10 recruits on Smart’s wish list regardless of circumstance or position, then the last name Stevens is on there. High.
— JaCoby Stevens (@jacobystevens7) March 20, 2016
Freshmen Day a rousing success
The “Freshman 50” showed up to Athens on Saturday as expected. Well, sort of. There was about 47 of them on hand. Walton’s splendid receiver Dominick Blaylock could not make it.
Yet that wasn’t the only notable news from calling the roll on Saturday morning. Somehow another 40 or so freshmen players who weren’t on the guest list also showed up. UGA accommodated the additional overflow crowd without a hiccup, too.
The idea should spark offshoots all across the South. Sophomore Day? Yep. Let’s just hit the brakes on calling for middle school day just yet. Considering all the brainpower that’s applied to recruiting and logistics these days, it is a wonder that big-time schools do not host a “Family Day” for the offspring of elite football players to come tour the campus among all the other legacies and really hit home on that “home” concept.
UGA commits and targets shine at Nike’s Atlanta regional qualifier
Jake Fromm got open. So did Jaden Hunter. Those two UGA commits earned their golden tickets to Nike’s all-star elite prospect camp held every July at the corporate headquarters in Oregon.
They weren’t the only ones. Big UGA targets Nico Collins, D’Antne Demery and William Poole III also earned their invites.
How did Fromm look among that star-studded group of QBs? Well, he was right on target most of the day with his efforts even in the face of a wind that attempted to take the sizzle off almost everyone’s throws.
He looked confident in the pocket and made his throws and was still able to power his ball downfield with touch on the deep routes. In short, he did everything that was expected of him and a little bit more to not only serve as a great ambassador for UGA football among other elite prospects, but also uphold his status as one of the nation’s elite quarterbacks for 2017.
He even did so while clad in camouflage shorts and wearing a UGA cap. The young man is an outdoorsman. There’s no question about that.
Four-star cornerback says UGA and Florida are tied
Poole was a must-watch during competition sessions at the event. There were a few moments where he lost his footing, but it was an overall strong showing to earn that golden ticket.
Where does he stand with his recruiting? Poole told DawgNation he was all but set to commit to UGA right about now, but his recent visit to Florida has reopened his entire process.
Why are the schools tied right now? What happened? Here’s all the details.
Beal impressed by the new UGA
Remember that list we discussed during the Stevens portion of today’s “W.I.N” blog? Count the name Robert Beal among that group.
The Norcross junior visited UGA over the weekend, spent the night and even hung out with UGA freshman Isaac Nauta. It was significant for UGA to get one of the first visits for Beal once he de-committed from Notre Dame.
What does he think about UGA? How does he feel about all those Lorenzo Carter comparisons? He breaks all of that down and also sets the record on whether or not he is a package deal.
Another offer at inside linebacker
Maybe one of the most jumbled-up spots on the UGA board is at linebacker. The program is going after versatile athletes like Hunter, who can cross-train and play either role. Grayson rising senior Breon Dixon, another UGA commit, also fits that mold.
The template is an athletic pass rusher who can come off the edge, drop back in coverage and also play the run.
The offer list is already long with the likes of recent visitors Will Ignont, Tadarian Moultry, Monty Rice, Tyler Taylor and another sign-at-all-cost priority in Vidalia’s Nate McBride. Well, add another name to the list at inside linebacker at K.J Britt out of Oxford High in Alabama. Britt already has offers from Alabama and Auburn, but recently visited UGA and picked up an offer.
Britt told DawgNation at the Nike event on Sunday that UGA sees him as a true inside linebacker. He was also honored as the top player at his position at the event.
Let’s also not forget about major targets with great size at outside linebacker like Justin Foster, Willie Gay, Walter Grant and Leonard Warner.
That linebacker board looks a lot like a kaleidoscope at this point. That stems from just signing one inside linebacker and no pure outside linebackers in 2016. Could UGA sign six linebackers this year? The number is likely five, but that’s not out of the question.
Those slots are necessary given the prevalence of so many junior and senior linebackers on the spring roster. UGA should turn over at least four linebackers for 2017 due to graduation or the NFL Draft.
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.