UGA Football Offers Draw IMG Recruits Reactions

    UGA football's scholarship offers to 18 IMG Academy recruits drew some unexpected reactions.

    April 8, 2016

    UGA football’s scholarship offers to 18 IMG Academy recruits drew some unexpected reactions.

    The greatest moments in college football history, while organic and monumental in their own distinctive ways, all stem from the same thought.

    It’s the realization that while witnessing a watershed moment, the ripple effects will be everlasting.

    While it lacks the drama of a band flooding a field, or the sweetness of beating a rival on a missed kick returned for a touchdown, there is a trend forming in recruiting that boasts the potential to become a landmark in its own right.

    Mass scholarships, prospect blanketing or recruit Monopoly — whatever you care to call it — is picking up steam and could change the way college football coaches operate on the recruiting trail.

    A month ago Kirby Smart and the UGA Bulldogs extended nine scholarship offers to players at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

    All of the sudden St. Thomas Aquinas, which UGA had never signed a player from in Mark Richt’s 15-season tenure, was forming a connection with the Bulldogs.

    Smart was back at it Tuesday when UGA extended 18 scholarships — not a typo — to prospects at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

    IMG players are used to this sort of move, though. Both Tennessee and Buffalo have played that card already.

    “I’m definitely starting to see a pattern. Tennessee offered 20 of us. Buffalo offered 20 of us. Now, [UGA] offered 18 of us. So, I definitely see a pattern going on, and more schools are doing this,” said Cesar Ruiz, a 4-star center in 2017. “We’re a powerhouse because of the recruits we have. We have most of the top players in the country here, so I feel like it’s going to happen way more often.”

    Even though the move itself has been done before, the IMG players never saw it coming from a school like UGA or a coach like Smart.

    “It kind of came out of nowhere,” said Robert Hainsey, a 4-star offensive tackle in 2017. “It really was [surprising] for a lot of us. It was definitely an offer I wanted, so I was glad to get it.”

    Four-star oustide linebacker Jordan Anthony wasn’t even on campus when the offers came in, but news like that travels quickly.

    “Honestly, I was on the plane coming back here, my dad texted me like, ‘Did you hear? Georgia just offered 18 players on the team.’ I was like, Man that was crazy — especially and SEC school like that?’ That was crazy,” Anthony said.

    Neither Ruiz nor Hainsey had initially included the Bulldogs on their lists of top schools, though both plan to reconsider their recruitments and UGA now that they have offers.

    Anthony believes the impact is already being felt.

    “Everybody was shocked. I know we all would like to get down there and check it out,” he said.

    Ruiz and Hainsey have joked around with preliminary discussions on attending college together. Teammate relationships, especially between linemen, are strong, so it only makes sense to explore the possibility.

    Before UGA swooped in, there were five schools on both offensive linemen’s lists: Miami, Michigan, Florida, UNC and Ole Miss.

    Now, there’s six.

    “It kind of came out of nowhere. It really was [surprising] for a lot of us. It was definitely an offer I wanted, so I was glad to get it,” Hainsey said.

    Ruiz echoed his buddy.

    “It’s interesting really — getting all those offers at once. It shows how great our program is. Honestly, of course, all 18 of us aren’t going to go there, but the fact they offered 18 of is interesting, and I liked it,” he added.

    As Ruiz clarified, by no means does this mean UGA will warp into IMG-Georgia. But the move makes a lot of sense.

    Why would you try and eat rice with chopsticks knowing you can just dunk your face in the bowl and go to town?

    It’s bold, yes, but it’s effective. Even if Smart doesn’t land seven, five or even a single commitment from that batch of scholarship offers … the underlying goal is to establish a connection with the program — a pipeline.

    Again, it’s not as though the Bulldogs are breaking new ground with this tactic. But by continuing it, building on it, and it being floated through social channels, that’s what changes the game.

    Blanketing a school is not Smart’s brainchild, but it’s becoming his M.O. The ripple effects will be felt.

    Note: Scout rankings and ratings used in this article.

    MORE: Former SEC Quarterback Transfers To Big 12 Program


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