Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s the Intel. This rep has a quick lap around the weekend that was with 13 official visitors and a few key surprises from a potentially quite fruitful 48 hours in Athens.
Weekend one of the June official visits is in the books. Will it be one for the history books, too?
Well, there was a part of the weekend program where the phrase “biggest recruiting weekend in Georgia football history” was used.
Not sure if that was the exact quote or not, but I’ve had that shared a couple of times from folks who feel that was the gist. Or something pretty close to that.
Maybe that was what folks felt they heard. Either way, it might not be far off the mark.
That serves as a quality bridge to sharing a lot of quick-hitters about the weekend.
It was at least the “largest official visit weekend in Georgia football history” just going off the number of elite guys in town. Believe the count went up to 11 prospects ranked among the nation’s top 125 overall prospects in the current recruiting cycle. That’s a lot for a program that has rarely hosted more than six to eight official visitors at one time over the last few years of the Kirby Smart era.
Having 13 official visitors, plus a few others, in town on the same weekend is a logistical 3rd-and-23 as far as landing an ideal recruiting weekend goes. There is such a thing as too many great players in town for officials.
How did the ‘Dawgs do? It was a tremendous challenge hosting so many prospects and not having anyone feel isolated or out of the loop.
Instead of that, the Bulldogs had all the guys feeling like a collective across several moments. No, not that collective. Like a collective by Webster’s definition circa 2019. Not 2022.
As one might imagine, that was the carefully calculated Smart way to go about the weekend.
That’s enough dancing. Let’s just hit the hole hard with the rest of this post.
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Quick-hit things to know from Georgia’s official visit weekend
- Georgia, when it comes to a big weekend like this one, does not miss. That’s the case here. The Bulldogs hit all the major points with all their major targets. The bulk of numbers was a show as each impressive player got the chance to look and see not just what they could be, but what Georgia already is and what it could be if the majority of them signed. To put it clearly, that is likely to happen.
- How does one figure that out by more than conjecture? While polling the official visitors about the one word or words to best describe this weekend, that landslide pick was “surreal” and that was unique. That’s not something we are used to hearing All-Americans use to describe an OV weekend in Athens. Legacy TE commitment Pearce Spurlin III felt the program has hit a new level after the 2021 season and the 2022 NFL Draft. The Bulldogs are a proven winner and a championship program. That really was the missing piece for this team to amplify its message on the recruiting trail.
- The Bulldogs, known for OV surprises, did not disappoint. The Bulldogs had a neat little wrinkle here and there. The recent addition of the all-white uniform also did not disappoint. The players that were in town have universally raved about that clean all-white look. They want to see the Bulldogs wear that full uniform variant in actual games. Not just social media buzz on visits. This may surprise a few folks, but several very strong voices in that potential class feel the all-white tops every other Georgia uniform combo, including those black jerseys which now seem a little 2007 or 2017 compared to what everyone wore this weekend.
- Georgia’s message on NIL: Another quick poll of all the invited guests found that the name, image and likeness movement is not going to be a big thing for the UGA on the front end. NIL will be a great resource for the program with its established players, but it will not be a Topwater Plug or a Soft Plastic Jig to get future Bulldogs to Athens. This weekend was built around stacking up guys that already really like Georgia and can see themselves playing there. That was before being surrounded by the red Sanford LED lights and immersed in Athens for a full 48-hour weekend.
- Damon Wilson, the nation’s No. 6 EDGE and No. 44 overall prospect for 2023 on the 247Sports Composite rankings for 2023, also showed up this weekend for what is believed to be an unofficial visit. Wilson is as impressive physically, on film and then projection-wise as anyone the Bulldogs are recruiting for that position. He put out an Instagram post captioned “Path Chosen” and quickly had to follow with a “Not Committed” reaction on his Instagram story.
- There will be a lot of casual recruiting folks scanning these quick-hitters looking for Arch Manning info. Pretty sure there will not be much detailed direct reporting that comes out of this visit from his side of things. This is just not the time in his process for that. What can be said it the visit went very well, he enjoyed himself at all times and just loved being around the specific group of guys he was with this weekend. This weekend was a deep dive into the Georgia football plan, the offense, the way the ‘Dawgs work and the heart and guts of the offense.
- That said, it was highly interesting how Georgia paired him up with 2022 early enrollee Oscar Delp for the second time. Knowing Delp well and his personality, it was going to mesh well with the 5-star out of New Orleans. Delp served as his player host on the official and I can’t think of a better Bulldog to have had those duties. This was a weekend where Manning needed to look around and see like-minded, driven and very talented athletes that could be a part of his life when he is 20, 30, 40 and 50 years old.
- The visit for 5-star Caleb Downs should be seen as just as important a visit as any. The fact that he’s such close friends with Justice Haynes is interesting to see develop. Especially the way they both plan to take three of their four officials together this month. For Downs, this was a chance to show how Georgia will develop him as much off the field as it does on the field. If we’re being honest, Downs could sign with Tulsa or Toledo or North Dakota State and reach the NFL, he’s that driven and talented. So he needs to see more than just a football path.
- Alabama and Ohio State also loom large in the eventual Downs decision. The big thing each of them will have to show Downs is NFL development first. Notre Dame is also in contention as his next official visit. The first-round NFL example of Lewis Cine will play well for Georgia. The development path of Eric Stokes from three-star with barely any true cornerback film to NFL first-rounder is also a point to emphasize. But beyond that, the lucky school that signs Downs will show him his life after football might also benefit the most from putting on that one school’s colors. There was one specific former Bulldog on hand this weekend with a message that had to hit home for Downs and his family.
- Just going to drop this right here: If the Bulldogs do sign offensive line prospect TJ Shanahan Jr. out of this visit, he will be a true anchor commitment. The Bulldogs built their 2022 offensive line class with players with upsides far higher than any recruiting ranking. That’s not the case with Shanahan. The full write-up on his story and visit will be one of the most fun to share soon. This is a top 125 prospect and a 5-star for at least one service. He’s a plug-and-play warrior that finds an alternate psyche when he steps onto the field. Not only that, he’s a guy that makes a distinct imprint on anyone he comes across. TJ is a worker and one of the more physical players Georgia could sign in any class.
- A little more on Manning: He’s just a regular guy. A regular kid. Funny. Loves football. Loves the work that goes into football. A lot of the official visitors on hand said he reminded them of themselves actually. He was a lot taller in person than most thought. At 6-foot-4 plus and 220 pounds, that was likely going to be the case.
- 5-star cornerback AJ Harris out of Alabama was another impressive addition to the official visitor list. He’s been high on Georgia going back to his middle school days as a Kirby Smart Camp MVP. That interest level in the ‘Dawgs has been off and on over the last year mixed with a strong interest in Clemson, Florida, Notre Dame and Ohio State, among others. We’ve learned things went very well between the Bulldogs and Harris. Every stone was flipped over and smoothed out. Especially in the areas of depth chart, development and what it would like to be a Bulldog. The staff let him know just how much they would like to see him in this class.
- Former Bulldog great Thomas Davis was on hand: What he had to say about his time at Georgia, the support he got from the program and alumni fan base during and after his career hit home. It was an impressive new layer to what was already a robust itinerary for every official visitor. When he shares what he did at Georgia and the NFL, there’s not a young player with the future squarely on their mind that will not listen to what TD has to say.
- The Davis resume glows: He was an All-American out of the SEC, a first-round draft pick and played 16 seasons in the league. He was an NFL Walter Payton “Man of the Year” who recovered from ACL injuries to the same knee in three consecutive seasons. Davis, spotted in high school by the ‘Dawgs playing basketball, was a safety in college but a Hall of Fame-caliber LB in the NFL. No one will ever forget him breaking his arm in the NFC Championship Game, having surgery the next day and playing in Super Bowl 50 two weeks later. Do you think that guys like CJ Allen, Downs, Harris, Gabe Harris, Justice Haynes and Raylen Wilson paid close attention to that?
- Jalen Hale’s potential place in this class would be a boost: He’s the nation’s No. 7 WR and the No. 40 overall recruit. While his name has been connected to other schools, we must recall he took his first unofficial visit to UGA and immediately said it was one of his best visits. He knew he was going to come back for an official. He got to see a lot about UGA this weekend and was very pleased by how things unfolded. There are a lot of names linked to Georgia in this class at receiver, but Hale’s potential in this class should not be overlooked. Georgia needs to go long on playmakers at receiver in this class. Hale would be a terrific potential piece.
- Remember “93KDay” back in 2016? This could very well be one of those weekends that leave a time stamp on the Georgia program that directly alters the course of a few seasons and maybe a half-decade of momentum to come for the Bulldogs.
- When will some of that momentum start? I’d look to see a busy summer for Georgia as far as stacking up the 2023 class goes. Most of the big news should come in July and early August. There may be an outlier or two to that, but that’s the current read of the green.
- Why is that? A lot of these young men want to do two things: 1) Take their visits in June; 2) Have those moments; 3) Make sure those visits verify where they had been leaning; 4) Get their decision out of the way to focus on their senior year. It sounds like the prototype for a perfect Bulldog recruit in 2022, but a lot of these young men care more about playing football than being recruited to play football. The main thing to them remains their senior season of high school. That is what is important now. It certainly sounds a lot like “The Georgia Way” these days to this reporter.
- This will never get written up enough or pointed out enough in this class, but there might not be a more well-respected member of the 2023 UGA class than legacy TE Lawson Luckie. The Norcross star is as solid as it gets. He never gets too high and too low. He’s sort of like the Steve Rogers of this group because he maintains his composure and perspective like few of his peers can.
- To make sure we finish strong, we saved this item about All-American RB Justice Haynes for last. To emphasize how great a visit it was for Justice and his family, he said it could not have gone any better. We will have a full update with Haynes to follow today. It will draw attention to a lot of things, most notably how the Bulldogs used D’Andre Swift over and over as the perfect player parallel for what Haynes could be in Athens. Except Swift didn’t have all of the many pieces on both sides of the ball and waiting in the wings that the next Georgia tailback signee will.
- Speaking of Haynes, he did get his wish: Check out this “group photo” weekend pic in the end zone with the red LEDs blaring and everyone in those all-whites. That’s what Haynes was hoping for heading into the weekend.
Georgia's visitor list from this weekend presented in (mostly) full from left to right: TE Lawson Luckie, WR Raymond Cottrell, QB Arch Manning, S Caleb Downs, EDGE Damon Wilson, RB Justice Haynes, EDGE Gabe Harris, DB Chris Peal, OL TJ Shanahan Jr., LB CJ Allen, CB AJ Harris, TE Pearce Spurlin III, LB Raylen Wilson and WR Jalen Hale.