Persistence is key in recruiting.
Head coach Kirby Smart is a great example of this, considering his approach to recruiting players. For instance, if a prospect has verbally committed elsewhere, that won’t deter Smart and his coaching staff from still recruiting the player.
As a result, Georgia was able to flip Lee County safety Otis Reese, previously committed to Michigan, and Crisp County linebacker Quay Walker, previously pledged to Alabama, on National Signing Day last week. By doing so, it helped land the Bulldogs the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation.
While flipping a recruit might be exciting to Georgia fans, Smart said that’s not the kind of thrill his coaching staff is seeking.
“To me, there's no great sensation in flipping a kid because I don't think it teaches kids the right thing,” Smart said. “I think we as the coaches, and coaches in the profession understand I have tremendous respect for the (coach) on the other side of that flip. A lot of those guys are my friends. A lot of those guys I worked with. So it's great for the fans, and they all want to make a big deal about it. But ultimately, it's really about the relationships we've built with that kid all along.”
Smart pointed out that flipping Reese may have seemed like a last-ditch effort that worked in Georgia’s favor from an outside perspective. But what it essentially boiled down to was a yearlong relationship the Georgia coaches established with the Lee County star.
Reese committed to Michigan two summers ago, but that didn’t stop Smart, former outside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer (now at Tennessee) and inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann, his primary recruiter, from forming a bond. And in the end, that work paid off for the Bulldogs.
“The fan thinks that Otis Reese decided (late) that he was going to go to Georgia. That wasn't the case,” Smart said. “There was a relationship that was developed over the last year.”
Recruiting is often a long game. Some prospects may think they know where they want to go to college early only to reconsider late in the process. In Georgia’s recruiting class of 2018, nine players were previously committed to other programs.
Like Reese and Walker, defensive back Nadab Joseph was also a flipped recruit after breaking a verbal pledge with Alabama to sign with Georgia during the early period.
Six of the aforementioned nine signees, however, weren't technically considered flips since they re-opened their recruitment, for varying reasons, before signing with the Bulldogs.
In addition to Reese, Walker and Joseph, the following players held commitments elsewhere: quarterback Justin Fields (Penn State), offensive lineman Cade Mays (Tennessee), outside linebacker Brenton Cox (Ohio State), outside linebacker Adam Anderson (LSU), defensive back Divaad Wilson (Florida) and running back James Cook (Florida State).
Georgia did a good job of maintaining relationships with prospects committed elsewhere. Mays was a longtime Tennessee commit who seemed destined to play for the same school his father, Kevin Mays, competed for. But as Tennessee was enduring its 4-8 season, which led to head coach Butch Jones' ouster, Mays decided the Volunteers weren't for him anymore.
And Georgia, having maintained that relationship with him, still had a strong enough relationship to step in and fill the void.
“These are kids that they're torn. It's a tough decision,” Smart said. “We make it hard. We make it hard as coaches on them. When they do the flip, I know there's somebody on the other side of that. I've been on the other side of that. So I'm not one to get into enjoyment of that. I think it's more about what's right for the kid and how is his future going to be best served by going to the University of Georgia academically so he can set himself up for success in life.”