Where does UGA turn now after the loss of 4-star OT Max Wray?
Max Wray had always been so Georgia.
The past tense now applies.
This was the guy who abruptly un-followed every recruiter he knew on Twitter last year after he committed to Georgia. When coaches from rival SEC schools came by, Wray told his coach at Franklin High in Metro Nashville that he was all Georgia.
That’s no longer the case.
Let’s be clear about this. This is a de-commitment. The Wrays are a genuine family. They don’t believe in taking visits to other schools like Alabama and Clemson while they are committed to another school.
What went wrong with Max Wray?
Did UGA load up with so many offensive tackles in 2017 that his position no longer was seen as a priority? That hardly makes sense. An upper-echelon SEC team like Georgia will always value NFL prototypes at offensive tackle.
Especially a 6-foot-6, 283-pounder with an 83-inch wingspan. Wray was an agile player and an intelligent one at that. He was a legit blindside protector in a recruiting year in which there are not a lot of them to go around.
Wray visited Alabama on Thursday and then hung out with 5-star QB Trevor Lawrence at Clemson on Friday. He’s been heavily recruited by the nation’s elite over the last few weeks.
But this point must be considered here: Georgia signed four offensive tackles in 2017. Those guys came on board after Wray committed on March 31, 2016.
A potential scenario: Those programs somehow needed Wray more than Georgia did.
Alabama hired former New England Patriots tight ends coach Brian Daboll as its offensive coordinator. Daboll will be bringing those tried-and-tested schemes to Tuscaloosa.
DawgNation has gotten early feedback on that hire. One very plugged-in coach said the Tide might now have their best schemes in years on that side of the ball. The Patriots started 6-foot-8 Nate Solder against the Falcons in the last Super Bowl. Wray fits that blueprint.
That said, it will be hard to imagine UGA not signing another OT in 2018. Georgia’s line class this year might go only 3-4 players deep with this cycle. DawgNation has been working up a possible class scenario with Wray as the only tackle. That seemed plausible prior to his decision.
What’s next for UGA? DawgNation has collected the opinions of several of the nation’s top offensive tackles for 2018.
The Bulldogs currently have 20 reported offers out to the following tackles. This information was culled from various sources like Twitter and the fan-friendly database on 247Sports.
UGA offers at offensive tackle for 2018 (plus national rank)
- No. 1 OT Jackson Carman: Offered on Sept. 15, 2016
- No. 2 OT Brey Walker (Oklahoma commit): Offered on May 4, 2016
- No. 4 OT Max Wray: Offered on Jan. 21, 2016
- No. 5 OT Nicholas Petit-Frere: Offered on Sept. 21, 2016
- No. 6 OT Richard Gouraige: First offered on Nov. 9, 2015 (old staff)
- No. 7 OT Darrell Simpson: Offered on May 4, 2016
- No. 8 OT William Barnes: Offered on Jan. 25, 2017
- No. 11 OT Nana Asiedu: Offered on May 25, 2016
- No. 16 OT Colten Blanton (Texas A&M commit): Offered on May 25, 2016
- No. 18 OT Rasheed Walker: Offered on Feb. 24, 2016
- No. 19 OT Christian Armstrong: Offered on Feb. 20, 2016
- No. 20 OT James Ohonba: Offered on April 27, 2016
- No. 21 OT Qadir White: Offered on Jan. 17, 2017
- No. 2 JUCO OT Badara Traore: Offered on Feb. 29, 2016
- No. 25 OT Antwan Reed: Offered on Feb. 23, 2017
- No. 26 OT Rafiti Ghirmai: Offered on March 2, 2017
- No. 28 OT Maxwell Iyama: Offered on Feb. 25, 2017
- No. 30 OT John Campbell: Offered on Feb. 1, 2017
- No. 38 OT Daniel Faalele: Offered on Jan. 24, 2017
- Unrated OT Doug Johnson: First offered by old staff on Aug. 9, 2015
Let’s run down a few possibilities. Some of these offers are long-standing, but it also looks like seven of those 20 offers have been extended since mid-January.
Nation’s No. 6 OT Richard Gouraige
Gouraige has had his offer from the Bulldogs for more than a year. He was offered by the old staff, but offensive line coach Sam Pittman also quickly got in touch.
The 6-foot-6, 275-pounder won all his reps at the Nike Opening regional in Orlando but didn’t make the final 5 for the OL/DL showdown.
He left the event thinking he had more work to do to master all the aspects of his craft. As for the schools he has in mind, he stated he doesn’t have a top school.
But he did already have a positive impression of Pittman.
“He’s a great guy,” Gouraige said. “We always kick it with each other and talk on the phone and text a lot. He always gets a lot of players into the NFL. That is important, but my main goal is school and getting all my academics first and then football.”
Business management will be his degree pursuit.
“I mean all the schools are the same really,” he said. “They all have the academics. It is just the different cultures and the atmospheres there.”
He said Florida was his dream school growing up. They are also recruiting him heavily.
“Alabama is recruiting me the most,” he said and noted the Crimson Tide have compared him to former standout Cam Robinson. “Just follow his steps and get taught by a great coach.”
Gouraige is already in a group text message with other priority Tide recruits.
He also noted how Alabama sends him a lot of mail. Those coaches text him every day. They tried to get him on the phone on National Signing Day last month, but couldn’t reach him. He was not able to shake loose of his school commitments that day.
Georgia was coming hard, but not like the Tide. The nation’s No. 61 overall prospect estimated UGA’s push was “88 percent” of what he’s seen from Alabama.
He hasn’t made any visits to see either school. He hopes to do so during the summer.
Gouraige recently went to North Carolina on an unofficial visit. But there is no timetable regarding his decision.
“It doesn’t really matter,” he said. “If it is the right fit for me then it is the right moment for me. I don’t want to put a specific date to when I am committing. If it is right, then it is right.”
Clemson has been popular among the predictions for his eventual choice. That sounded logical.
“I love coach (Robbie) Caldwell, coach (Tony) Elliott and coach (Dabo) Swinney,” he said. “I love those guys. They (want to) make me one of their players. They always talk to me every day to see how I am doing and how my family is doing really.”
Most of the scouting reports he has seen do not focus on his footwork and technique. That’s something he pays a lot of attention to. The rising senior wakes up with the intent to get better at his craft every day.
“I’m very smart so I know when the right move can be done or not,” he said.
He said he doesn’t want to be too heavy heading into college. He was right at 275 pounds last month.
“I know they are going to put it on me the right way,” Gouraige said.
Nation’s No. 7 OT Darrell Simpson
Simpson picked up his offer from Georgia last May. He plans to whittle down his list to a top 10 or a top 11 before his senior season.
He’s thinking about committing toward the end of his senior season. When asked about his top schools, he named Texas A&M and then Georgia.
LSU is also recruiting him heavily.
He’s thinking about making it to Baton Rouge this weekend. He also plans to visit UGA during spring practice or for the spring game on April 22. Simpson also said he could take a trip to Athens for a game this fall.
Simpson rates as the nation’s No. 64 overall prospect for 2017. He fits the size mold at 6-foot-7 and 337 pounds.
The 247Sports Crystal Ball reflects a forecast for the Texas native to sign with the Aggies.
Nation’s No. 8 OT William Barnes
Barnes rates as the nation’s No. 67 overall prospect. He measured at 6-foot-4 and 311 pounds at the Nike Opening regional in Orlando.
How does he feel about Georgia? He knows Pittman.
“I talk to the offensive line coach up there,” Barnes said. “He told me that they loved my film and that they want me up there. They definitely want me to come up there for a spring practice or a game.”
He said he’s been to UGA before. That came along a summer bus tour.
“I loved the facilities up there,” he said. “Especially the weight room. The weight room is really nice.”
Does Georgia have a shot?
“Oh yeah definitely,” he said. “They are a great program. I could actually see myself playing up there.”
Barnes said it seems to him like Florida and North Carolina are reaching out all the time. He was also very impressed by the attention he’s received from Miami. The academic profile of that program is another plus for the Hurricanes.
The 4-star prospect seems a tick away from the elite category. He had several great reps at the Orlando regional, but pass protection would be an area for growth.
Look for him to take time with his choice. He planned to make his decision on National Signing Day.
Does he fit what Georgia is looking for? Barnes seems more like a guard for Pittman.
He’s fond of the Gators, especially offensive line coach Brad Davis.
“They are a great school,” he said. “Coach Davis is an awesome guy. I love checking out the facilities out there. It is just a great place to be. Especially family-wise and being out there. I just love being out there and hanging out with coach Brad Davis and also talking to coach Jim McElwain.”
Barnes felt the coaches at North Carolina have spent considerable effort in building a relationship.