Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I’m coming around to the belief that the biggest story about Georgia’s 2014 recruiting is going to turn out to be Kendall Gant’s.
Gant, as many of you are aware, is the Florida defensive back whose longstanding commitment to Georgia was terminated this week, essentially by mutual arrangement, due to academics. Carvell talked to Gant’s coach and got the gory details.
“It was either Thursday or Friday of last week. I was sitting in on that meeting when McClendon told him. He basically said because Kendall hadn’t passed the test yet, they were going to have to take that scholarship and give it somebody else because they couldn’t afford to wait. They needed to make sure they filled their needs at the free safety position. That was the first I heard about all of this. I said ‘He’s fixing to take a trip to Marshall, and Marshall has the (NCAA partial qualifier) program. All he has to do is deal with what he’s supposed to do. He’s on campus, and they’re going to be involved with him the whole year. But at Marshall, if he passes the test, he’s there to go on the first day. And if lines up and he wins the job, he starts at Marshall.’”
Georgia doesn’t take partial qualifiers. Marshall does, which makes for a pretty simple call if you’re a kid who doesn’t want to go the JUCO route. And Gant clearly doesn’t, according to his coach.
“He didn’t make a final decision about that trip until after the communication we had with Georgia. Marshall offered him a trip because we have another kid committed there. Kendall wasn’t sure what he was going to do until after his conversation with (McClendon). Again, that was the first time I had heard they were going to pull the offer, and give it to somebody else even if he gets his two extra points and passes the test. He would still have to go to JUCO, and (Gant) didn’t want anything to do with JUCO because you’ve got to have a 2.5 core and an associate’s degree – and Marshall gave him an out on that. They said, ‘We’ll sign you. If you don’t make it, we’ll prop you. If you make it, you’re going to line up and compete for a free safety spot.’”
Gant and his coach (“It will always be on my mind. I will always have that question mark there.”) are clearly disappointed by Georgia’s decision not to hold a spot open, and on a certain level I can certainly understand that. But I’ve also got to say as somebody who’s shaken his head more than once over the way this staff has handled roster management in other classes that I welcome what appears to be a more clear-eyed, or hardass, depending on your point of view, approach to signings. Gant’s coach talks about the possibility that his player eventually makes his test score, but that’s a hope, not a guarantee. If things don’t work out academically, that means Georgia’s left a slot open in a class that’s not going to be a large one.
Not only that, but Gant would then be left with the JUCO option that sounds very unappealing to him. I’m not saying Georgia’s done him any favors, since he wanted to be in Athens, but there’s something to be said for honesty, particularly if the kid has a legitimate option in Marshall. It’s either that, or Georgia goes down the oversigning trail, something Richt has no appetite for doing.
What I don’t know is whether this is a one-off call, based on the staff changes, or whether it heralds a different approach in Richt’s recruiting philosophy. Georgia seems to have approached signing day more aggressively this year than in years past, but, again, it’s hard to say how much of that is due to the change at defensive coordinator and short-term talent evaluation. I hope it indicates that Richt has finally grown as tired of leaving money on the table, so to speak, as most of us have, and that the days of dressing less than 70 scholarship players on the in-season roster are behind the program. We shall see.