DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. — Brian Herrien reached his goal line.
According to school officials at New Manchester High School, the unrated 6-foot-1, 210-pound running back prospect will be able to qualify and enroll at UGA. The achievement goes far deeper than becoming the first SEC recruit from the five-year-old high school.
Herrien entered his final semester believing he needed to get all As in his three remaining core courses and achieve a 16 on his ACT in order to qualify. He did more than that in recording an 18 on his most recent ACT attempt. That gave him some wiggle room in order to qualify to sign at UGA for its Class of 2016. He only had to make all As and Bs in the spring semester.
What’s next? A big day tomorrow in Athens.
“We found out at some time yesterday that he became academically eligible to sign a D-1 scholarship and he is going to Athens tomorrow to meet with coach (Kirby) Smart and some of the other coaches at the University of Georgia,” just-retired New Manchester coach Rob Cleveland told DawgNation. “Unless something unforeseen happens he will sign a full scholarship with the University of Georgia tomorrow. They are going to go over that transcript one final time. I have been told he is going to get offered tomorrow and he is going to sign tomorrow.”
New Manchester assistant principal and athletic director Shawn Bissell outlined the next step in the official process. It is very important at this time to state the grades are in and they are known, but they won’t become official until his final transcript prints from the school district office on Monday morning. That final transcript will then be sent to the NCAA Clearinghouse for approval.
Bissell has been in contact with the UGA staff regarding Herrien’s status.
“We have looked at his grades on the computer,” Bissell said. “It has been like he needs this and he’s got this. Then you look at this grade and what he needs and he has that. Then you look over here and he has it there, too. Just by checking all those things off it now looks like in my opinion he is qualified. … Right now unless there is something that I don’t know it looks like he is there.”
Cleveland said Herrien started to buckle down in the second semester of his junior year to boost his grade-point average
“He had a lot of catching up to do,” Cleveland said. “From the on-the-field standpoint, there was never a doubt. We just had to do a really great job and he has done that to become qualified. Once we got Brian on board with how important he had to take this to become academically eligible, he’s done everything he needed to do and more in the classroom. We’re awfully proud of him. He led (GHSA Class) 5A football this year in rushing with 1,970 yards in just 10 games. He’s just a special football player and one of the best running backs and players I have seen in all of my 28 years. … I’m just proud to say that I got to coach a player like Brian Herrien in his career. Especially in my last year.”
Herrien went through ACT tutoring sessions and reported to school early to do make-up work and to make sure that he stayed caught up and on top of all of his assignments. He told DawgNation back in March that he had to make quite the classroom comeback.
Herrien said his transcript issues were also compounded when a school representative mistakenly input one of his grades as a “D” instead of a “B” on his grade report.
That was fixed. He told DawgNation in March he had a 2.16 grade-point average at this time. If he gets all A’s this semester, he would qualify with a 2.5 average. He made one “B” last semester. He had to finish this semester out with a 4.0 GPA if he made that 16, but the 18 made qualification on the NCAA’s sliding scale a little less taxing.
To ensure his marks moved those few points north, Herrien arrived at school an hour earlier than his peers. He does all his extra work and any needed assignments, adds tutoring after school and then goes home to study.
The senior started waking up at 5 a.m. every morning in late March to study for his ACT and take practice exams online. Herrien told DawgNation in March that “he wanted this more than anything” and left no doubt that he would 100 percent sign with UGA once he qualified.
His former coach made it clear about what Herrien did not do originally and how his priorities changed. He thinks he will also succeed in the classroom at UGA.
“I don’t think Brian understood how extremely important his grades were early on in his high school career for the academic side of this scholarship,” Cleveland said. “But I think once Brian saw the possibilities he had with football, he was able to overcome the hole he had gotten in. He’s been perfectly capable of qualifying the entire time. He’s an intelligent young man. I just think he was lazy in the classroom early on and he had to work hard in his junior and senior year to catch up. Luckily for him and the University of Georgia he was able to do that.”
UGA did not sign a full class this year and Herrien becomes the 21st member of the 2016 class at UGA. There’s still the possibility that 3-star defensive lineman and outside linebacker Mykelle McDaniel (Grayson High School / Loganville, Ga.) could also join the class if his transcript clears the final hurdles to qualify.
The coaches at UGA told Cleveland they felt Herrien was explosive and that he could come in and make an immediate impact. He’s a physical back and he’s been timed between 4.4 and 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
“Brian is very hard to tackle one-on-one,” Cleveland said. “He showed that every Friday night. There were many times we would have a breakdown in the blocking and Brian just refused to lose yardage. Very hard to tackle. People had to gang-tackle Brian Herrien. There weren’t many guys who could bring him down one-on-one.”
Cleveland could not recall when anyone brought him down with a solo tackle.
“Maybe if he slipped then,” he said. “I just have visions of him dragging guys along down the field and that dates back to his sophomore year.”
The relationship with Smart was a major factor. The UGA coach was recruiting him when he was at Alabama and Cleveland felt he would’ve gone to play for Alabama if Smart was still there once he qualified.
Herrien ran for 340 yards and several touchdowns in a big upset of a Top 10 North Paulding team as a sophomore.
“He was a hoss for us,” Cleveland said.
Herrien popularized the one-handed snatch that went viral on social media earlier this spring.
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. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.