Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry details a narrowing of the recruiting timeline for 5-star ILB target Smael Mondon Jr. of Paulding County High School in Northwest Georgia.
Smael Mondon Jr. sent out this tweet on May 11.
— Smael Mondon Jr (@SmaelJr) May 11, 2020
Mondon is one of the top players on the Georgia recruiting board for the 2021 cycle. The rising senior at Paulding County High School ranks as the nation’s No. 2 OLB and No. 27 overall prospect on the 247Sports Composite rankings
His tweet was, let’s just say, open to interpretation.
Mondon had previously sketched out a plan to commit late in his senior season. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder had some noble reasons. But everybody had a plan for their recruiting journey. That was until a pandemic hit America square in the mouth.
Did that mean he’d commit on June 20? Was it a top school release? Did it mean a commitment in the month of June? Was it just a way to show off that cool logo? Did that mean something else entirely? Trending pop culture reference?
Paulding County coach Van Spence shared the breakdown of what that means.
“It is not June 20th,” Spence said. “It is June blank of 2020. He’s basically saying he’s going to be open [to commit] in June. If he’s not feeling it June 1 through June 28th then he could commit on June 29th. He’s just leaving a day open in the month of June. That’s basically what he is saying.”
It is a to-be-determined day that feels right for Mondon in June.
“He’s open for the month of June. I think he’s close, but I personally told him to stay with the plan you had. Trust yourself. That’s who you are as a person. The one thing I do not want to see is him commit, then de-commit and commit again because he was hasty with his decision. That’s not what he’s about. That’s not what Paulding County football is about and it is not what I am about with one of our kids.”
Smael Mondon Jr: Looks like a top 4 has been cast
Auburn. Georgia. LSU. Tennessee.
According to the best of Spence’s knowledge, that’s the top 4 for Mondon. That’s what Spence has been told.
“He’s told me that he’s been having a lot of conversations with college coaches of late,” Spence said. “Which is clearly legal right now with the NCAA and with three of the schools in his final 4, he’s been to numerous times. He says that he is going to keep talking and keep looking and looking and hopefully then eventually by June some of this stuff will be lifted. That was his thought process.”
Unfortunately, the NCAA came down with a ruling last night that will extend the recruiting dead period to June 30.
Division I extends its recruiting dead period. pic.twitter.com/Gt2Aq1Mkb9
— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) May 13, 2020
Spence said he does not feel that will affect Mondon’s decision.
“It doesn’t change it,” Spence said. “There are quite a few schools that I have talked to who have told me if he committed tomorrow to School A, they are still going to recruit him. They also say even if he committed to their school and he says he still wants to go on his official visits, then they are going to support that.”
“It really doesn’t change because I think he’s getting close with his decision. He has not told me where. I will tell you that now before you even think to ask the question. He has not told me who he is committed to. I have a very good idea of who the top two are. I know there are four schools there, but I feel it is between two of the four. But [the NCAA ruling on the dead period extension] doesn’t put a wrench into anything here. I’ve talked to a school that’s not in the four that has said they are going to keep recruiting him no matter what. I’ve talked to a school inside his top four that said even if he commits and says he wants to take all five of his visits, then they are going to support that.”
The feeling is Mondon will not need a month of June visits to fill in the blank for his commitment choice.
“He’s been to Georgia five times,” Spence said. “He’s been to Tennessee three times. He’s been to Auburn three or four. He has not been to visit LSU. I don’t think not being able to visit schools in June will affect his decision.”
What does Spence think that Mondon is looking for here?
“I think he is a guy that wants a solid relationship with his position coach,” Spence said on Wednesday night. “That is an important thing. He feels there is a level there for guys who are staying and guys who aren’t transitional from job to job to the next better job. Smael is a relationship guy. He wants to know that person. He wants to know what they are all about and go all in for that guy.”
“That’s what he is looking for from a coach. There are a lot of solid guys. I mean I talked to Gus Malzhan earlier today. Good dude. I talked to Kirby [Smart] last week. Those are the two head coaches I have talked to recently. What I am saying is the head coaches are all great, but the position coach and the guy who is recruiting him here now that is the key. That’s what Smael is about. He wants that guy he can build that relationship with and go to war for him.”
How has UGA done recruiting Smael Mondon Jr. so far?
Based on Spence’s listed criteria, the Bulldogs have positioned themselves well. Chalk that up to the work of co-defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann.
“I talk to Glenn regularly,” Spence said. “Coach Schumann I think has done everything in his power to be the best recruiter and to pull a top prospect to his program. I can’t say enough about him because I think he’s a good man and he’s a good coach. But the way he goes about it here in a professional way and a classy way also stands out. I think that he and Smael have a good relationship.”
“At the end of the day, I think that Georgia is high on the list and I think that coach Schumann has done a really really nice job. He’s constant with pursuit but it is very, let me make sure we say this right, it is very ethical and it is very professional in the way he goes about his business.”
There are swirls of rumors daily about Mondon from various fan bases. Spence said that if he learned that Mondon has already made a silent commitment anywhere, it would be a surprise.
“He has talked to me and said ‘Coach I will let you know before I let anyone else know’ and I didn’t ask him to do that,” Spence said. “He and I have a good relationship and I will tell you this right now if he is silently committed anywhere, then it would be a shock to me.”
LSU is the defending national champion. The defensive reputation for that program at the LB spot speaks for itself.
Auburn has just four commitments at this time and is rated No. 11 in the SEC. The Volunteers have artificially created momentum for their class by taking 21 commits at this time, including 11 of those 21 pledges over the last month.
What kind of job have those other schools done in recruiting Mondon?
“Let me start with Auburn first,” Spence said. “Auburn will fill up its class because [inside linebackers coach] Travis Williams does a great job recruiting players. ‘T-Will’ is a top-notch dude. So Auburn will be fine. Auburn is Auburn. I think a lot of people are on the hype train with Tennessee.”
“They’ve done a good job getting their fans and their people to sell sell sell. I’ll wake up every morning and I’ve got 75 notifications on Twitter that says ‘Go Big Orange’ or ‘Come to Tennessee’ so they’ve done a nice job on that. But I don’t think that matters but unfortunately it does sway some decisions.”
Tennessee has its ace recruiter, Brian Niedermeyer, as the primary contact for Mondon. Niedermeyer was a defensive graduate assistant at Georgia in 2015. Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt was the defensive coordinator at UGA at that time.
“Got a lot of respect for coach Niedermeyer who was even at the University of Georgia for a while,” Spence said. “I will say that he has done a nice job. He has a good relationship with Smael. He’s able to relate real well to the players. He’s a good guy.”
Pruitt visited Paulding County during the last open period for off-campus recruiting prior to the quarantine.
The major casualty for Smael Mondon Jr.’s new timeline
There are a lot of things that have been wiped off the grid by the global pandemic and this spring had the potential to kick off some “Glory Days’ for the Paulding County program.
That will matter little on the human scale, but this is a football blog and a college football space, so it certainly deserves a mention here.
PCHS alum Antonio Gandy-Golden was selected by the Washington Redskins last month in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-4 receiver made a name for himself as a big-play receiver (2,433 yards and 20 touchdowns in two seasons) at Liberty University.
— Antonio Gandy-Golden (@gandygolden11) May 14, 2020
That feat was a parade or “Antonio Gandy-Golden Day” worthy in his hometown. Now combine that with Mondon’s story. He’s rated as the nation’s No. 1 OLB for the 2021 class by ESPN. Rivals.com has him as the nation’s No. 4 OLB prospect.
There were 70 college football coaches that came by to see Mondon during spring practice in 2019. There would have been maybe 100 more swing by to see him this spring. At least.
When they did, the schools would also see his teammates, too. There are other college football prospects in the program. Mondon’s exposure was set to benefit others in the program.
That’s why the plan was for Mondon to wait until very late into his senior season to make his college decision. Those recruiters would still flock to the Paulding County games this fall. The Patriots are set to have their best team to this point during Spence’s time leading the program.
It is a sad consequence for the Paulding County program. There are many of those across America. But that doesn’t make it any less impactful to those that have made a significant time investment here.
Mondon is the first recruit to draw an offer from UGA and this type of national recruiting attention in the history of the program.
“Without a doubt,” Spence said. “This whole thing. The effort he was putting in. What we were doing in the mornings to get better with all this momentum. The number of kids that were showing up at six or seven in the mornings. In my four years, this was the pinnacle of what we have been here. Kids were following his lead. The effort was phenomenal and our kids were working hard.”
“So this really really took a hit on our school. Not on Smael now. Because he’s going to be great. He’s going to be a great student. He will get all As and Bs this semester. It was just all these really nice schools were going to be visiting and see all the other kids at our place. It just hits us hard right now because there are a lot of, I mean a lot, of good things going on right now with our program. We’ll make the best of it, but it could have been even better but it got derailed here by the coronavirus as our kids will say.”
There’s just the culture here that endures.
“At the end of the day we are all healthy and safe and still working to get better,” Spence said. “So that is a good thing.”
Check out the February 2020 DawgNation conversation with Mondon:
Mondon’s impressive 2019 season highlight reel also follows below.
(the recent reads on DawgNation.com)
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- The 5 things you haven’t read yet about recent OLB commit Elijah Jeudy
- Georgia OL commit Micah Morris made a silent pledge to UGA quite a long time ago
- 4-star OLB Elijah Jeudy makes his college decision
- Jermaine Burton: Why coming home meant everything to Georgia’s next great WR