Isaac Nauta, the nation’s No. 1 tight end, told the AJC where he’s at right now with his recruiting process: Its UGA, Michigan, TCU and Southern Cal, plus alo a school to be named later.
“At this point I still don’t know where I am going,” Nauta told the AJC.
His recruiting process with UGA also began with uncertainty.
“For me with Georgia at first it was the summer before I was a freshman at Buford at a 7-on-7 in Athens,” Nauta said. “I had balled out right in front of Coach (Mark) Richt. They ended up being like my 13th offer.”
The eventual 5-star prospect and the nation’s No. 1 tight end wondered if he was good enough for UGA.
“At first I was like “Tennessee had offered. Alabama has offered me and why can’t Georgia offer me?’ because they were the school that was right down the road and I really liked Georgia,” Nauta said.
Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU and UCLA had also already all offered him, among others..
UGA finally offered him as a freshman, but that was after 12 schools had done so. Clemson was his first. That one came in the summer prior to his ninth grade year. Richt had even introduced himself to Nauta that summer when he “balled out.”
“He told me he loved what I was doing out there that day and we’ll be in touch,” Nauta said. “I never got an offer from Georgia until 13 offers later.”
It was a bad first impression.
“Initially I was like Georgia just doesn’t do a good job recruiting the guys in Georgia,” Nauta said. “We had these Georgia guys ending up going to Clemson. Like Mitch Hyatt and Deshaun Watson and Milan Richard. All of these guys had Georgia in their Top Twos, but ended up going somewhere else.”
Things are different now.
“Georgia had some catch-up to do,” Nauta said. “I liked them for awhile but they were never in my top group because I had all these schools in my top group and they were good schools. Those other schools took a chance on me early and it was like Georgia had offered me late.”
Nauta now chides himself at the thought of describing an offer that comes midway through the freshman year as late.
“Obviously those are immature assumptions when a kid’s head is blowing up as freshman and you are being talked about as one of the top players in the country and you’re wondering why a great school like Georgia hasn’t offered you,” he said. “As you get older, you grow up and understand the recruiting process more.”
When he committed to FSU at the end of his junior season, UGA had climbed all the way from his No. 13 to No. 2.
“Coach Richt didn’t get salty with me when I committed,” Nauta said. “He said ‘I respect your decision but just know that we are not going to stop recruiting you.’ That made a big impression on me, too. There were some coaches when I did commit they got real upset about it and kind of burned their bridge with me.”
He told the AJC that “he’s wide open” now and has no leaders. He won’t likely even name a leader after each individual official visit. He can’t see himself doing that as he wouldn’t know who leads after the first couple of visits because he’s yet to go on them all.
If it he does sign with UGA, he did click off the big selling points. He wants to wear No. 18 in college and knows that number just belongs to a defensive player at UGA.
“Obviously my family is right down the road so for them it would be the most convenient school,” Nauta said. “Georgia is a place where I have got a lot of connections as far as friends. I’ve always grown up in Georgia around a lot of Dog fans so right off the bat I know I would have a lot of supporters and followers and that’s probably the biggest thing for Georgia.”
Nauta has a detailed list of why he will eventually make his final commitment on Jan. 9 at the Army All-American Game in San Antonio. He’ll want to see how his top schools use their tight ends and in a creative manner. He’ll need to have a good relationship with his position coach.
He’ll notice any off-the-field drama. His choice will have a very good season. He doesn’t want his first season to be a rebound year, but there’s something else that will be more important.
“The biggest thing for me is a gut feeling. When I know when I know in my gut that’s where I am going to go. For me, that’s the big one. Along with that decision there needs to be a great fan base. That’s one thing I love about a school. That’s one thing that gets me going on Saturdays and on Friday nights is a great fan base. Good academics. Obviously football doesn’t last forever. You need something to fall back on.”
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.