PHILADELPHIA — Let’s imagine that a recruiting strategy session at Georgia back in February went something like this:
Get us a pair of All-American tailbacks. They have to be that good to restock projected depth chart holes created by two previous All-Americans.
We like that dynamite athlete from Mississippi, the playmaker from Pennsylvania and that big-time talent from Texas more than anyone else. It might be easier to pull the guys in Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, but we’d rather get those three.
Oh — and one more thing — can we possibly lock down commitments by September? Running back is a critical need for us in 2017. Please do that. Thanks so much.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart did not hand that assignment to running backs coach Dell McGee back in January. If he did, McGee could’ve said “I got this” and went to work.
Still, McGee delivered on all of that.
Georgia won the commitment of Texas four-star RB Toneil Carter (Langham Creek/Houston, Texas) on July 10. Pennsylvania four-star D’Andre Swift (St. Joseph’s Prep/Philadelphia, Pa.) also chose Georgia on Sept. 1.
How did McGee do it? The answer was building relationships. The genuine kind. Not a slick sales pitch.
Darren Swift, the father of the nation’s No. 4 RB and the newest UGA commit, shared an inside view of how McGee recruited his son differently than other coaching peers. Swift said McGee’s approach was one of the central factors in his son’s decision.
“Dell McGee is incredible,” Darren Swift said. “He is a top-notch recruiter and he sold me fast. He sold me, but it didn’t feel like it was a sale. All of the things he told me made it clear it was never about D’Andre the football player. It was about him as a person. They say student-athlete, but Dell always made it about D’Andre the student. Not the athlete.”
It was his son’s decision, but McGee still recruited everyone close to the St. Joseph’s Prep standout.
“He would reach out to me and my wife periodically and it was always inspirational,” Darren Swift said. “He would send us inspirational scriptures because we are both Christians. Uplifting scriptures. Nothing towards ‘Dre’ and coming down to the school and blah blah. Of course, he did share how Georgia would use him if he chose the school, but he always stayed true to that main thing. I felt at home with Coach McGee fast. He always stayed true with a consistent message. It kind of reminded me of the way (his high school coach) Gabe (Infante) has always been with D’Andre.”
The Swift family wanted to see D’Andre play in the South. They actually lived in Metro Atlanta (Powder Springs) for three years when D’Andre was young.
Darren Swift said Clemson and Georgia stood out as potential fits.
“You had the opportunity to visit the schools and the staffs blew us away,” Swift said. “Georgia and Clemson are both amazing in the way those universities stood out academically. What they offer the kids academically is unimaginable. They set it up where you really can’t fail. To me, that played a major part. I wanted a structure academically for D’Andre that’s set up the way it is here at St. Joseph’s Prep.”
The check marks came like this: Academics. Faculty discussions. Great football. Meeting the current players. The final point of separation was the contact with each coaching staff.
McGee was the closer.
“That’s what sold it for me,” Swift said. “(Coach McGee) talked to my Mom and my Dad daily as much as he did me. Probably even more. That was real big.”
D’Andre Swift said it worked so well he knew he was going to Georgia in July, but waited two months to let the word out. Darren Swift said his family took three trips to Georgia and he was sold after G-Day.
The family’s third trip to UGA piggybacked a trip to the Rivals 5-Star Challenge in Atlanta in late June. That one erased all possible doubt.
Swift outlined one other core reason why his son chose Georgia.
“It was the coaches and the tradition Georgia has always had with its running backs,” Darren Swift said. “How strong their running backs have been. The backs who go to Georgia with the opportunity to go to the next level end up fulfilling their potential by going to play at the next level.”
The nation’s No. 4 RB added another reason why.
“There were multiple reasons,” Swift said. “The biggest part was Coach McGee and Coach Smart. I mean I got to speak to them on a daily basis. They were honest about stuff on the field and off the field. Just great men and great coaches on the field.”
Swift will take all five of his official visits (Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia and Penn State) but made his thoughts clear regarding Georgia.
“I can’t wait to get out there,” Swift said. “Whatever they give me (to do) I’m just going to do it to the best of my ability.”
He’s still hearing from other programs, but don’t expect a flip.
“I’d say I’m locked in,” Swift said. “That’s where I feel is the best place for me but schools are still trying to talk to me. I will be respectful and listen. They wish me good luck in my games and I say thank you and good luck to them as well.”
Follow Jeff Sentell 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.