Justice Haynes-Arch Manning-Joenel Aguero
Elite 2023 recruits Justice Haynes, Arch Manning and Joenel Aguero are three of the most wanted recruiting targets for Georgia. (Instagram)
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Georgia football recruiting: How much will NIL influence the decision of top 2023 prospects?

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s the Intel. This rep takes a look at NIL. Will it be a key factor for a lot of decisions? What does it mean to the class of 2023, if anything?

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There have always been a few stock questions for reporters to use when talking to a major recruit. They could almost be a quick study guide about how to cover college recruiting.

  • Best visit?
  • The best relationship with a college coach?
  • Which school recruits you the hardest?
  • Which school has the best fit for your major?
  • Which school have you been to the most?

Yet somewhere over the last 15 to 21 months, there was a new element to look into. That’s the movement around collectives at the big-boy programs and what name, image and likeness opportunities mean to the big-time recruits.

That’s the new question. It is also a topic that not every prospect’s family has all the answers to. Or even a strong foundational understanding.

At least not yet.

DawgNation has made a point in this cycle to see what some of the nation’s top 2023 targets have to say about the matter.

The topics here are pretty simple.

  1. How much are you thinking about NIL as you go through your process?
  2. Will NIL opportunities be a major factor in your decision?

The findings here are pretty non-scientific. No control measures were used. There is also the assumption that no player or their family circle will come out and say something like ...

“Dorms don’t matter. The student learning support system doesn’t matter. Good development can happen in a lot of places. The weight room doesn’t matter. I’m looking at zeroes and the NIL deal.”

Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin was blunt about what he thinks is going down. Nobody was Kiffin-level candid.

Yet what they do show is a pattern.

Especially for those with a rooting interest in the University of Georgia and its national championship football program.

The Bulldogs have a type. It is a type that will echo a lot of the things that Kirby Smart has been saying lately when it comes to NIL and things getting out of hand.

It will also sound a lot like what senior receiver Kearis Jackson said at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin.

With that preamble out of the way, let’s take a look at what everyone had to say.

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5-star QB Arch Manning (New Orleans, La.)

Manning’s father told DawgNation that NIL will not be a key influencer on his decision. He would like to play at a strong program.

But they will look to fit, his on-campus life and what a university will offer him away from the locker room.

“That, more than anything, will be us going back to the old school way,” his father Cooper Manning said. “Certainly evaluating things on the merits of each school well before anything like NIL ever existed.”

5-star safety Caleb Downs (Hoschton, Ga.)

“You definitely have to see it as a factor but you can’t stress it. You have got to keep the main thing the main thing. Football is the main thing. You have got to keep it the main thing. School is the main thing. You have got to keep it the main thing. Then you can look at that [NIL] aspect after all of that.”

“Try to get what you can. But don’t make that the main focus.”

“It is another thing to think about but you can’t stress about that. If you stress about money in college, then you are not going to get that money in the NFL.”

5-star safety Joenel Aguero (Lynn, Mass.)

“The game is changing a little bit. I will say it has a little bit of an effect, but I wouldn’t say too much to be honest. I know my plan. I know if I do what I have to do in college it is really all about performance, to be honest. The better you perform, the more money you are going to get.

“I feel like anywhere you go, the better you perform, the more money you are going to get. I would say it is a factor, but I wouldn’t say it is really my main factor.”

“Development is key for me here. Are you going to get that $15 mil? Are you going to one day get that $50 mill with my second contract? Everything. That’s definitely more important to me. Being developed by a good coach. I’d rather make that $15 or $50 million later on that you know making $200,000 right now and not really getting developed by a coach. Or making a half of a mil now and not really getting developed. I’d rather get developed by the best coach and make that money later on.”

5-star OT Samson Okunlola (Brockton, Mass.)

“I feel like it is a part of every top recruit’s process right now but for me, it’s not really the main thing. For me, I’m not going somewhere that I can make the most ‘NIL” at. At first, I’m applying to a school where if there was no football or no NIL. I’m going to try and fall in love with the school. Then fall in love with the staff. See how stable the coaching staff is. A program’s stability is always a big thing.”

“For me, it is finding great coaches and stable coaches. NIL is really a little more backdoor for me. Kind of in the background for me. At the end of the day, you want to take advantage of any opportunity. You know this is the first time that it has ever happened. I would say take advantage of every opportunity.”

“I feel like it also depends on your situation. Do you really need that money right now? Or are you willing to grind it out? But with any program, you go to, if you play well and you excel, you should be able to get some form of NIL with the local businesses and stuff like that.”

4-star RB Justice Haynes (Buford, Ga.)

“Any NIL deal is not really a worry of mine. For the reason is, where ever you go, if you produce on the field, then you are going to get that. You are going to earn that. You have got to go earn that.”

“I think where right now a lot of guys are worried about the money. They are like ‘Oh, I am going to take my money right now’ and they lose sight of the real goal. The real goal is you trying to shape into a better man and a better person and then ultimately, everyone wants to make it to the league.”

“I feel like that has turned everyone’s head away from that part. They are like ‘Oh I’ve got my money now and I’m good’ and they are not going to work as hard. The way I see it with NIL is that I have to go work harder. You’ve got to go get that stuff. I want more of it. I want to be the best. I want to go get the biggest contract. You want that. Just go work harder. You’ll get that. That’s the way I see it.”

4-star DL Jamaal Jarrett (Greensboro, NC)

“I know it sounds crazy but NIL really isn’t a big role in my recruitment. I mean it’s something good to have once I get to school.”

“But I’m not going to a school because of the amount of money I’d make there. I’m going because of the four values of the school that I consider. Home feeling. Academics. What surrounds the school and player development. Will I be in good hands at a program if anything happens like an injury, etcetera?”

4-star EDGE Jayden Wayne (Tacoma, Wash.)

“I’m not really focused on that even though they talk about it a lot. “I just want to play football and win a natty and graduate. I let my parents talk about all that other stuff.”

4-star JUCO wide receiver Malik Benson (Lansing, Kan.)

“To, me NIL won’t or doesn’t really play that much of a factor. When I pick my school, like with my five schools in my top five, then NIL is going to be everywhere. But I think like the real money is really going to come once I go to the NFL.”

“I mean, a few thousand here or whatever the school (collective) offers you, that is going to be great. But that’s temporary money. The money that is really going to last is being a first-round pick and stuff like that.”

“It is going to be different for me. Just because I am coming out of JUCO. Not getting a lot of money but to me it is all going to come. I’m more excited for the development piece I am going to get at my next school really. The exposure there, too, and all that.”

4-star LB CJ Allen (Barnesville, Ga.)

“NIL is not going to be a factor in my decision. I feel like that comes along once you get to a school. You have to earn it once you are there. That is not going to be a factor in my decision.”

4-star WR Anthony Evans III (Converse, Tex.)

“I don’t know. It is hard. I’m 16 years old. It is definitely hard with all the money being thrown at you at such a young age. I don’t know. That’s something I can’t really speak on right now.”

“I try not to focus on the money part of it now, though. Because I know I am going to make money where ever I go.”

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Bottom lines: Just how important is NIL to a decision right now?

It really is a matter here of almost the better the player, or the more higher-rated the player, the less of a factor that publicly seems to be.

The top 50 recruits in the country aren’t worried about the pot of NIL dollars. They are concerned with money, but it is more than $15 to $25 million that would come from being a top 10 pick in the NFL Draft one day. That’s more prevalent to them than any healthy amount well into six figures that they might receive in a NIL deal with a certain collective.

They are thinking three or four years down the road.

If they aren’t careful, the quick payday might not be the best place that sets them up development-wise for that best possible chance of earning that first big NFL contract.

That’s the most common line of thinking shared over and over by the top 2023 prospects in the country, including some priority targets for the Bulldogs.

SENTELL’S INTEL

(check on the recent reads on DawgNation.com)

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