Just eight days removed from Georgia’s dominating win over TCU in the National Championship game in Southern California, UGA football coach Kirby Smart made the recruiting rounds in Savannah on Tuesday.
Smart made stops at Savannah Christian, Calvary Day, Jenkins and Benedictine in an important visit to Savannah, which has earned the reputation as a hotbed for Power Five talent in recent years.
Georgia wrapped up a 15-0 season with the 65-7 victory over TCU on Jan. 9 as Smart and his Bulldog squad won it all for the second year in a row. But there’s no time to rest as the end of the football season means recruiting season is hitting its stride.
On Friday, Alabama coach Nick Saban, who has led the Crimson Tide to six national titles, visited Savannah with stops at Calvary Day and Savannah Christian (he missed a visit to Benedictine as the school was off on Friday).
How Dancial Jackson landed at SSUWhy Dancial Jackson was the perfect fit as assistant basketball coach at Savannah State
2022 All-Greater Savannah football teamHere’s the 2022 All-Greater Savannah high school football team and Coach of the Year
The coaches were checking in on some top notch talent. Savannah Christian has a pair of stellar sophomores in Elijah Griffin and Logan Brooking. Griffin, a defensive lineman, earned an offer from UGA as an 8th grader and is ranked as the top sophomore recruit nationally, regardless of position, by On3.com Recruiting.
SCPS’s Griffin one of nation’s top starsHow Savannah Christian’s Elijah Griffin has become one of the country’s top football recruits
Brooking, a linebacker and tight end, is the son of former Georgia Tech and Atlanta Falcon star Keith Brooking.
“It is pretty amazing to have the two best college coaches in the country coming by to check on our players,” said Savannah Christian coach Baker Woodward, whose team reached the Class 3A quarterfinals this year. “I was a little bit star struck, but they are great guys. I kept my cool because we’re here for business. We’ve got a great sophomore class with Elijah (Griffin), Logan (Brooking) and (running back) Zo Smalls — they’re great players and drawing a lot of interest.”
UGA interested in Benedictine stars
Britt and Smart have a lot in common — as Britt also led his team to its second straight title, albeit on a smaller scales as the Cadets repeated as Class 4A state champions. Britt said he and Smart go way back — as Britt was Smart’s player host when he took a recruiting visit to Georgia Southern back in the day. Britt wasn’t able to sway Smart from his eventual landing spot in Athens, where he earned All-SEC honors as a defensive back in his senior season of 1998.
BC looks to reload and go for ThreepeatHow Benedictine can reload after second straight football state title to pursue a trifecta
Georgia is interested in BC players like junior quarterback Luke Kromenhoek, who has committed to Florida State, and sophomore offensive tackle Jacobe Ward.
“It was really cool seeing Coach Smart again — it was like we had a rock star visiting campus,” said Britt, who has won four state titles in 12 years leading the Cadets. “I was just trying to protect him as much as I could from everyone who wanted to take pictures with him, but he was very gracious. I’ve known him for a long time. He congratulated us on our championship and asked about our players, and everyone was excited to congratulate him too.”
Jenkins football players catching eye of national champion UGA
Smart visited Jenkins, where he has a Valdosta State bond with Warrior coach Tony Welch, as both have coached at the Division II powerhouse.
And there was another connection as offensive lineman Camron Thompson is drawing the interest of Power Five schools despite being a freshman. The fact that he is the younger brother of UGA star Nolan Smith, who started his high school career at Calvary Day before transferring to IMG Academy, gives him a strong family standing within the UGA program. Junior linebacker Lorenzo Cowan is also on Smart’s radar, along with Isaac Smith, a sophomore two-way lineman.
“It was great talking with Coach Smart again,” Welch said. “We have that Valdosta State connection. He sat down in my office and was talking about what a great leader Nolan (Smith) has been with the team. He said he is a great leader who will call anyone out — and he’s one of the best he’s ever coached.
“Coach Smart was really nice, taking pictures with a lot of people. We’ve got some great players like Lorenzo (Cowan), whose stock is definitely rising — we were proud to have Coach Smart stop by.”
Alabama, UGA make stops at Calvary Day
Smart also made a stop at Calvary Day, the home of a pair of junior four-star recruits in tight end Michael Smith and quarterback Jake Merklinger and highly-regarded sophomores in defensive lineman Buddy Mathis and wide receiver Doopah Coleman.
“I was struck by how nice of a guy Coach Smart is,” Calvary Day coach Mark Stroud said. “He’s just a salt-of-the-earth type of guy, a kind person who was nice to everyone he interacted with. He related well with everyone, and took a lot of time with the younger students — I think that says so much about him.
“And then we had Coach Saban here last week. These are big-time coaches who are hitting all the recruiting hot spots, and we’re thankful they came by to see us at Calvary. Coach Saban was the same way, a very cordial man who was great with the kids,” said Stroud, who has a record of 250-108 in 31 seasons as a head coach. “The thing is — once you get past the initial part of meeting them — you realize they are just ball coaches at their core. They love coaching football and they love the kids, and they make you realize how lucky you are to work in the coaching profession.”
Dennis Knight covers sports for the Savannah Morning News. Contact him at Dknight@savannahnow.com. Twitter: @DennisKnightSMN
Leave a Reply