AJ Harris-Georgia recruiting-UGA recruiting
5-star CB AJ Harris
Courtesy photo

AJ Harris: Bulldogs are locked in a big-time battle for the 5-star CB in 2023

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry details a fight for 5-star CB AJ Harris in the 2023 class. This is already a battle worth paying attention to.

=============================================================

Aaron Joshua Harris was adrift in his recruiting process in August of 2020. He didn’t have any offers or really process at all for that matter.

The naturally gifted cornerback had the skill set to earn every offer in the country, but the pandemic affected that. “AJ” could play at a high level but had yet to put those traits on film yet.

He was a rising sophomore at Glenwood High School (Phenix City, Ala.) at that time, but did not have any camp evaluations or in-person workouts. He also played in the private school AISA league in Alabama. It was like he had everything working against him in terms of getting that initial much-needed exposure.

That situation is laughable now given that Harris is the nation’s No. 2 CB and No. 23 overall recruit (per the 247Sports Composite) for the 2023 cycle.

But it was very real.

There was a time when he reached out to area prospect Jackson Meeks in the 2021 cycle. Meeks saw his recruitment spike in August of 2020. Harris even asked Meeks a question on an Instagram post about what he needed to do to get noticed.

“It was right before the season,” Harris said. “I want to say in the August time frame. I was just curious. Jackson Meeks and his recruitment picked up during that time frame. I had not yet played a game for Glenwood but I planned to have a good season.”

Harris wanted to know how a player goes about showing the world what he can do.

“Just wanted to get the recruiting popping for me,” Harris said. “I wanted to get as much information from Jackson as I could. I just wanted to know how do you get on the radar for these coaching people.”

Meeks, a gifted 2021 receiver prospect, committed to UGA last September. He shared simple advice: You have to place trust in your coaches. If you are good enough, they’ll find you.

“My family and I talk about that a lot because it wasn’t just me asking Jackson Meeks,” Harris said. “It was my whole family putting out minds together to figure out how we could really do this. I was reaching out to Jackson Meeks about ‘Dang your recruitment is taking off and how can my recruitment take off’ and things of that nature. Then my family and I put our minds together to figure out how to make that happen.”

Fast forward to now. When the 6-foot-2, 185-pound rising junior goes anywhere, he’s treated like he’s one of the few corners in America that can flip his hips, stay in phase and flash ball skills. Harris and his family will never lose sight of their initial perspective.

“It shocks me every time. Every time I step on campus it is like ‘Dang this is the same program I saw on TV when I was a young man’ and it is always crazy to me. My family and I basically talk about that after every visit.”

Kansas was his first offer. That was just five months ago.

“It was crazy because last October I was praying and working so hard to get this opportunity and it does get emotional. I believe some kids take this for granted. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Especially being in front of Georgia. There are so many kids I know that just want one opportunity to play at one school. They don’t even want all the offers. They just want one opportunity to show what they can do to get one offer. That’s why I’m so grateful. I tell people who now ask me the same questions I once had. I tell them God paved the way. Just work hard and pray that it is in God’s hands that this will be the route he has for you. He can do the same for you. All this happened because of him. Not me. I didn’t choose my route. He pushed me in a direction, then I worked hard and he blessed me with everything I have now.”

Those “blessed” moments now stack up. There was one at UGA for the first of his two trips this month.

“Georgia floored me and my family immediately as soon as I got there,” Harris said. “We had driven over in a van and the new facility doors just opened and Dell McGee, coach [Dan] Lanning, coach Kirby [Smart], [defensive backs] coach [Jahmile] Addae, the recruiting coordinators were all at the doors just waiting for me they were like ‘Welcome AJ’ and it felt so welcoming to me and my parents. It caught us off-guard.”

“That’s one thing that was better about Georgia to me. That was unbelievable. Just having the whole coaching staff while the camp was going on and 7-on-7 and for them to just stop what they are doing and just welcome me at the door. That’s just crazy.”

That feeling is right at the top in terms of a “wow” moment for Harris this month.

Addae spent the whole day with Harris on his first visit. That’s while UGA was running a 7-on-7 camp. That was time he prioritized to know Harris instead of evaluating all the 7-on-7 campers.

UGA could film those. They could not get that time with Harris back.

“That was just crazy,” Harris said. “He said that I was just what he expected and I was everything what [his trainer] Oliver Davis II told him about me and more. He liked how I got in and out of my breaks and he liked how I was a sponge and willing to listen and take his critiques when he was ready to give them to me.”

Georgia asked Harris if he wanted to camp. If they asked, would he be ready to? He said yes.

So then the Bulldogs asked. They wanted to see him work. Harris immediately obliged and went to his car and got his cleats. He’s one of those rare breeds that stays ready.

“I was ready because you have to be willing to learn and I also wanted to do it because if Georgia is the spot for me then I need to know what I am coming to and how Addae coaches,” Harris said. “I got to see Addae in a coaching atmosphere. I did some 1-on-1s and I got to see how he coaches through that stuff.”

AJ Harris said that Ohio State really impressed him on his visit and camp workout there earlier this month. He highlighted his interaction with well-known Ohio State assistant coach Kerry Coombs on that trip.
Instagram, Dawgnation

AJ Harris: A ringing endorsement from Jaycee Horn

This recruitment will be watched closely. Especially for a rising junior. That’s for two very good reasons.

Harris has the talent that first-round NFL cornerbacks take notice of. Jaycee Horn, the first cornerback taken in the 2021 NFL Draft, has worked out with Harris. They share the same trainer in Oliver Davis II.

When it comes to an assessment, the eighth overall selection pulls no punches.

“He’s really ready right now,” Horn told DawgNation this week. “It is crazy because he has got the size and everything and he’s not even in the 11th grade yet. Two more years. That’s crazy. He’s filled out. He’s got great technique.”

Horn then paid him an even bigger compliment.

“He reminds me of myself,” the NFL first-rounder out of South Carolina said. “He is real mature for his age. Real mature. His play is mature, but just how he acts off the field. I was with him all day yesterday working out with him and just talking to him he’s got the same mindset I had coming out. I just tell him if he works hard and stays out of trouble, then the sky is the limit for him. He’s got everything.”

He also doubled down on his previous evaluation.

“AJ is ready right now,” Horn said. “He’s going to be a Day 1 ready-to-play guy in college football in two years. He’s there right now. It is crazy he is only now going to go play in the 11th grade. He was out there working with NFL guys yesterday with us and if nobody told you he was just past the 10th grade, then nobody would know.”

“That’s how good he is right now. He fits right in training with NFL guys right now.”

The second reason also adds weight to this decision. Harris believes once his process runs its course, it will not include any post-decision drama.

“I believe I’ve told you this before but once I commit, I am not talking to any more schools,” Harris said. “I am locked into whatever school I commit to.”

AJ Harris is a 5-star CB prospect in the Class of 2023. Notre Dame was one of the four schools which really impressed him this month.
Twitter, Dawgnation

Have you subscribed to the DawgNation YouTube channel yet? If so, you will be able to see special 1-on-1 content with Georgia football names like Jake Fromm, Gunner Stockon and Brock Vandagriff here.

A.J. Harris: The background that shapes his outlook

Harris comes from strong and humble roots. His family is retired military. His father, Daniel, was stationed in Germany for most of his childhood. He didn’t move over to America until he was nine or 10.

That contributes to a keen worldview. Name any city in Europe. This Under Armour All-American can rattle off he’s been there.

As Horn stated, there is a clear maturity there. It stands out as clearly in a face-to-face conversation or a real-life encounter as his play does on the field. Harris lives out what it takes to be a winner in real life and a bonafide 5-star in every facet of the field.

“It is just crazy how God has been working in my life,” Harris said. “He’s such an amazing God. I can’t thank him enough.”

Harris, who is still just 16, grew up going to Smart’s football camps. At those, he befriended and dueled with Georgia 2023 commit Pearce Spurlin III. Those two are very close and will always be close. They were in Athens together on Saturday for the scavenger hunt event.

That’s not to say this process will be tidy for Georgia. If we looking at this from all sides, the Harris recruitment is shaping up as a bare-knuckle brawl between Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

Harris told DawgNation he has felt a “home” feeling at each of those four programs. Clemson and Georgia had him feeling those “home” feelings first.

“It has definitely been that feeling a few times since that Clemson and Georgia visit,” Harris said. “After going to Notre Dame and Ohio State, it has definitely opened my eyes a lot. It has given this decision a lot more to think about and to put some more thought into it.”

He set out this month to see if could reach a decision before his junior season. But the degree of difficulty there now looms large.

“I still believe I can,” Harris said. “I know what the coaches have to offer. I know what all these programs have to offer and I know what my goals and aspirations are. Some of those four schools line up with all my goals and aspirations and some of them aren’t all the way lined up.”

“I believe it is definitely possible for me to still make my decision before my junior year.”

He came back for a Georgia visit this past weekend. He wanted to do the same for a lot of schools that are very much on his mind.

But the NCAA dead period returned today. That stretch will now last until July 25. There will be another week then for on-campus visits.

It is out of bounds to say those schools are the only four on his mind. Harris is also open to Florida, South Carolina and Virginia Tech.

“I’m not going to limit this to just four schools,” Harris said. “Maybe there are other schools that are trying to get me to their program. I’m definitely trying to give everybody their fair shot in recruiting me rather than just me limiting myself to four schools as a sophomore.”

Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame and Ohio State have established a standard, though.

“Truthfully it does seem like those are the schools which have recruited me the hardest leading up to all of my visits,” Harris said. “Those are the ones which also showed the most hospitality towards me and my family.”

Team Harris is looking for something unique.

“My family and I are looking for what would help me the most on and off the field rather than pros and cons,” Harris said. “Ok, this school can do this for me. This school can do this for me academically off the field and this school can’t do that. We basically are trying to find out who can benefit me the most on and off the field so I can become a better young man, get my diploma and be in a great situation if football doesn’t work out.”

“A lot of people talk about Notre Dame and things like that. They say ‘How can that be a top school for you’ but they just don’t understand. Notre Dame is one of those schools that can set me up for the rest of my life if football doesn’t work out. That’s something my parents and I look into. Big time.”

Notre Dame’s 10-to-1 ratio between students and teachers caught his family’s eye. He’s planning a degree in business or physical therapy. The bonds he built with a few physical therapists coming back from injuries shaped his interest in that field.

Did you know the weekly DawgNation.com "Before the Hedges" program is available as an Apple podcast? Click to check it out and download it.

AJ Harris said he loves the way that Clemson develops the student-athlete into a man off the field.
Courtesy photo, Dawgnation

Have you subscribed to the DawgNation YouTube channel yet? If so, you will be able to see special 1-on-1 content with Georgia football names like Jake Fromm, Gunner Stockon and Brock Vandagriff here.

Zooming in on four spotlight schools for AJ Harris

In a nutshell, Harris already knows what he wants. This month of discovery has led to that. He’s not able to ascertain which one of those four schools provided him the best visit.

Yet what he has seen reflects how difficult his choice might be. In short, Harris wants to find the off-the-field player character development offered by Clemson. He wants to do that at a program where his head coach reminds him of Kirby Smart. He’d like for his position coach to be as natural a teacher and as knowledgeable as Ohio State DBs coach Kerry Combs.

Lastly, he’d like to earn a degree that will sparkle on a resume like one from Notre Dame.

That is what he likes best about each of those four schools. Here are a few more targeted comments for each school.

Clemson: “One of the biggest things in my heart right now about Clemson is how genuine the whole coaching staff is. Just how Clemson really tries to make you a better young man and grow to be a stand-up man in the real world. That’s really unique to me on how they try to make their kids active and to go see different parts of the world. When you go see different parts of the world, you come back with a different mindset.”

Harris has a “genuine” relationship with defensive backs coach Mike Reed. The Clemson program known as the “P.A.W. Journey” scored major points with the Harris family.

“I just like how they encourage things like that. That makes better young men. They encourage their players to always be active. Too much time on your hands is the devil’s workshop.”

Georgia: “I love coach Kirby to death. Coach Kirby and I, man, I remember just yesterday I was at his camp. Shaking his hand. Trying to get the scholarship from him. For me to have a Georgia scholarship [offer] and for him to recruit me and show me the same love he showed me when I was in the sixth grade was just crazy. I just love the bond I have formed with Coach Kirby. I know I can call him whenever and I can talk with him about anything and we have a good relationship. I like the atmosphere of Georgia on a visit. They definitely showed a lot of love to me and a lot of hospitality to my family.”

“That was big for me and my family just seeing how much love they showed us.”

Notre Dame: “What they can do for me on and off the field. On the field, they still play Power 5 football. They are still in the playoffs every year. Or every other year. They still have got a chance to do something big with the football program. That is big for me on the field.”

“Then there is just the off-the-field aspect of the program. Getting that degree can set you up for the rest of your life. Coming out of college at Notre Dame you can have a guaranteed job with that degree. That is big for me rather than just having a worthless degree. A Notre Dame degree speaks volumes to who you are as a man because that is not an easy school to go to. I definitely like what they can do for me both on and off the field.”

Ohio State: “The coaching staff. Coach [Kerry] Coombs and [head] coach [Ryan] Day. Just the whole coaching staff showed me and my family hospitality. Just me understanding that it is really a family feel up there. Because I got to get around the players a little bit. I got to see how the players interact around the coaches. It really seems genuine up there. Nothing forced. When I got to talk to the players, they talked highly on the program. Nothing felt scripted or anything like that. It really felt like this is the place that they want to be and they really try to make you a better young man and a better football player there.”

The best moment of that Ohio State visit earlier this month was easy to peg.

“Working out with coach Coombs,” he said. “He’s amazing, to say the least. I just like how he coaches. I’m a high-energy guy when I get on the field, too. My energy and his energy matched when I took that visit and put those cleats on to do the drills and get into it. I liked how much he taught me. He really taught me a lot within an hour’s workout. That’s something that definitely sticks out to me.”

Smart + Coombs + the Notre Dame degree + Clemson’s off-the-field character development = His ideal school fit.

Is that about it?

“Yes, sir,” he said.

And thus there’s the riddle.

“Most definitely,” Harris said.

He views these options as an extreme blessing.

“Did it make my decision harder with these trips this month?” he said. “Yes, it did. But it was definitely a blessing for me to be able to see these programs and get a feel for how the coaches act and things like that.”

“Some people could be different on the phone than in person.”

Harris and his family would like to make that decision in the next 2-3 months, but they are shrewd.

“I know I don’t have to make this decision,” Harris said. “I’ve got time. It is not like something that has to be done. I don’t have to make this decision in August or September. I don’t have to rush it because I don’t want to make the wrong decision trying to rush it to make a decision to hurry up and commit by a certain time frame.”

It is hard to believe that AJ Harris lived abroad until he was eight years old. He didn’t play any live football until he was nine years old. His father Daniel E. Harris (at right) is retired from 20 years of service in the U.S. Army. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

AJ Harris: How has the experience at UGA been this month?

“Amazing.”

That’s the phrase Harris used to describe his first UGA visit. That came right after a trip to Clemson.

It was another time warp back at UGA in front of Smart. Harris was at Smart’s summer camp the last time that happened. That’s where he earned a camp standout honor.

“It is kind of funny looking back at it,” Harris said. “I remember the camp A.J. from back then who was trying to earn an offer and to get on his radar. I was just trying to do anything to get on coach Kirby’s radar back in the day. Now I am just trying to show him why he did offer me and try to prove him right. To prove why I should be at the top of his board and make sure all my technique is fundamentally sound. It was fun being out there with coach Kirby and [defensive backs coach Jahmile] Addae.”

Georgia was emphasizing his worth to the 2023 class before that workout. That session escalated his stock.

“After they saw me work out they said ‘oh yes we need this here’ and ‘this is something we need in Athens’ and ‘we need a lockdown corner like you’ and that was after I did three one-on-ones and didn’t lose a rep. They had to take me off the field and I didn’t really want to. I’m a natural competitor, but that was something they hadn’t seen from me in a while like that. Not in person. It had been a while since they had seen me in a camp and a competitive situation like that.”

As it turns out, it had been right at four years. That was when Harris was camping for Smart back in middle school.

It was important for him to see how Addae coaches.

“I just like how he has laid-back,” Harris said. “He wasn’t really a rowdy type of guy, but he got his point across. I definitely like that because in person I’m very laid-back and I’m not really a loud type of person. I don’t really like all that yelling stuff. I just liked how he did that.”

Smart came up and gave him a bear hug on that first visit.

“He caught me off-guard and I got scared a little bit,” Harris said. “We were looking at the Jumbotron in the weight room and I was so mesmerized. I wasn’t really paying attention and coach Kirby came up from behind me and I jumped back a little bit because I was scared a little bit. I was so in tune to seeing how the Jumbotron and the weight room worked.”

“Kirby is such a great guy. I just like his energy. He was also there with me working out and he was pointing out things where I could do this and this and instead of this. I like how he can flip that switch on to teach me and then once we get off the field then he loves me like I was one of his own kids.”

AJ Harris is at the very top of the board for UGA in 2023. He grew up attending the Kirby Smart Football Camps as a kid.
Courtesy photo, Dawgnation

SENTELL’S INTEL

(check on the recent recruiting reads on DawgNation.com)

Leave a Comment