ATHENS — If you’ve been paying attention lately — and thanks to the wonders of digital analytics, I can see you have been — you’ve noted that Georgia’s new football coach has been getting it done on the recruiting trail of late.
In the last few days we’ve watched as Kirby Smart and his staff have flipped a quarterback and a place-kicker from the Crimson Tide to the Bulldogs. Yesterday, Houston County quarterback Jake Fromm decommitted from Bama and then committed to UGA. Same thing happened earlier in the week with 2016 place-kicker Mitchell Wasson, who will be joining the Bulldogs as a preferred walkon this summer.
And there are strong indications that it’s not ending there.
Cam Akers, a 4-star running back out of Clinton, Miss., and the top player in that state, de-committed from Alabama yesterday. That this occurred after he visited Georgia over the weekend is not a coincidence, in my opinion. Case in point: The kid reportedly dedicated to Smart his power-clean lift of 315 pounds (I’m sure there’s an interesting inside story to that).
And, lest we forget, 5-star receiver Demetris Robertson of Savannah at one time was an Alabama commitment. He might still go there or end up at Stanford and it may be May before we know where he goes. But no matter how one slices it, Smart has the Bulldogs back deep in the conversation with Robertson. The 2016 recruit and No. 1-rated wideout will be giving Georgia his last visit next weekend, as I understand it.
I’m not a recruiting guy, by vocation now or by natural interest ever. Maybe it’s because I’ve been a college beat guy for most of my career. I pick up these guys when they get to campus and I wave goodbye as they move on to professional careers, whether it be on the football field or not. Maybe I’ve seen too many 5-star busts and 2-star boons.
That said, I do not overlook or underestimate the tremendous importance of recruiting. I served for a short spell as the AJC’s recruiting reporter and I can say in no uncertain terms there’s a general correlation between highly-rated recruiting classes and on-field success.
And these recent developments in particular can’t be downplayed. In Fromm, Georgia didn’t wrestle away some non-descript defensive back or developing lineman. This is a face-of-the-program-type kid who was tossing passes back and forth with A.J. McCarron just a week ago. And not just that, he’s coming despite the fact that the Bulldogs already have a high-profile guy at his position on campus in Jacob Eason.
The key, Fromm’s father said, was Smart. Smart was their main contact and their most dynamic relational contact at Alabama. Now he’s at Georgia and the Fromms said that changed everything, both with Bama and with Georgia. Akers has offered similar feedback. As we’re learning, Smart was that guy for a lot of Alabama recruits.
But it goes deeper than that from what I’ve been able to see. Ever the salesman, Smart’s pitch at Georgia has been this:
Alabama’s great and I can attest to that and I can certainly understand going over there and trying to help them secure a national title for the fifth time in the last eight years. Or you can come to Georgia and take advantage great educational and post-educational opportunities while trying to do something that hasn’t been done in a generation. Can you imagine what that would be like? Imagine what your future prospects in the state would be like if you could bring that big trophy home!
It’s early yet, but obviously Georgia and Alabama are going to be butting heads over a lot of recruits. Always have really. It’ll be another thing entirely if the Bulldogs win battles over prospects in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa and Mobile, or the occasional back from Mississippi. But those aren’t the ones that matter most.
It’s when Georgia and Alabama both have their sights on a Peach State kid who plays a position of great need and clearly has the ingredients to be a difference maker. Those are the ones the Bulldogs have to win on.
And at the moment, they are.