St. Pius cornerback Geno Smith and Harris County defensive end Jordan Jenkins will see their lives undergo a dramatic change over the next few weeks and months.
Smith and Jenkins both are high school juniors and top contenders to be ranked Georgia’s No. 1 college football prospect next year.
For now, they are relatively unknown among college football fans and recruiting junkies. They carry out each day’s activities without much special attention or notice from others. They don’t have 50 friend requests awaiting approval on Facebook.
All of that will begin to change after Wednesday.
After signing day, the public’s infatuation and idolization with this year’s group of Georgia’s elite seniors, including Carver-Columbus tailback Isaiah Crowell and Thomas County Central defensive end Ray Drew, slowly will fade.
The spotlight will shift to the state’s next group of football stars, with Smith and Jenkins leading the pack. A year of recruiting drama is yet to unfold for the elite members of the 2012 class.
“I’ve enjoyed it so far,” said Smith, who already has 18 offers, including ones from Georgia and Georgia Tech. His two most recent are from Notre Dame and Oklahoma.
“I haven’t let it become overwhelming. I’ve been to a lot of different places and met a lot of different coaches. It has been a good experience so far.”
Smith asked his mother if he could skip school Wednesday to stay home and watch media coverage of signing day. She said “no,” therefore Smith said he will catch up on the news maybe on a classroom computer, or after school on TV.
“I’m excited about the next 365 days,” Smith said. “Most importantly, I’m excited about my senior year of football at St. Pius. I think we can win state because we’ve been so close the last couple of years.
“As far as recruiting, it will probably be a long process. I’m thinking my plan will be to commit on next year’s signing day, or the week before it. I want to take my time to study the colleges after my senior year of [high school] football, and make the best possible decision.”
Jenkins says he doubts he will pay much attention to Wednesday’s recruiting festivities. After school, he will either attend basketball practice (he averages 12 points and eight blocks with a 40-inch vertical leap) or do light workouts in anticipation of track season.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder has a dozen early offers, including Alabama and Florida. Unfortunately for Georgia and Georgia Tech fans, Jenkins has no homegrown allegiance to the in-state schools — although both are in his early top five. He is a military brat, living in Alaska, California, South Carolina and Washington before his family settled near Fort Benning around five years ago.
“Recruiting has been crazy so far, but I enjoy it and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Jenkins said. “It has given me more confidence. I mean, I’m confident … but those scholarship offers make me remember that someone thinks I’ve got some talent. They also motivate me to work harder to prove that I deserve them.”
Woodward Academy defensive lineman Jordan Watkins says he is “in awe” after getting nearly 20 early offers, including ones from Georgia Tech, Penn State and Notre Dame. The 6-6, 265-pounder still is surprised by every new scholarship offer or handwritten letter from college coaches.
“Right now, I consider it to be a huge blessing — something that thousands of kids all over the country dream about,” Watkins said. “I know the next year is going to be crazy. I just have to make sure I stay focused on academics and doing everything I can to put Woodward Academy in position to win a state championship.
“After that is out of the way, I will worry about the college situation. If I get picked for one of the big all-star games, I want to bring my defensive-line coach [Matt Brennan] with me and commit on national TV.”
Buford linebacker Dillon Lee, who has around 10 offers, says he knows what to expect from the recruiting process after observing it with his older brother, Georgia offensive lineman Dallas Lee. The younger Lee counts Georgia and Georgia Tech among the offers.
“[Dallas] says everybody is going to want me to come to their school, telling me all kinds of different stuff,” Dillon said. “I just have to pick the best situation for me.”
Ironically, Dillon says that philosophy means — at this point — that he is unlikely to play on the same team with his brother in college. Georgia is recruiting the 6-foot-4, 227-pound Lee at tight end. “I can’t see myself at tight end in college, I’m not a huge fan of playing offense,” Lee said.
Is Lee serious? Many brothers dream about playing together in college.
“We played together in high school at Buford when I was a freshman,” Lee said. “We never really planned on playing together in college. I don’t know … I’d rather play against my brother because we always have fun competing against each other in everything.”
“We’re pretty close and talk all the time. That wouldn’t change if I played at another school other than Georgia. I’m not saying I won’t go there, but Georgia has never really been my top choice or dream school.”
His favorites are Alabama and Florida State. Said Lee, “I like [Nick Saban] and Alabama. [Kirby Smart] would be both my defensive coordinator and position coach if I went there. I really like the facilities and everything they have going on down there.” Lee made his first trip to Florida State this past week for a Junior Day.
At Lithonia High, offensive lineman Joe Harris may the best college prospect out of the DeKalb school in years. The 6-foot-3, 300-pounder got his first offer as a sophomore (from South Carolina) and is now up to five, including Georgia and Clemson, with many others on the brink.
“Georgia is my most recent offer,” Harris said. “It was special to see [Mark Richt] at my school. He told my coaches that I was an athletic big man who has quick feet and knows how to use my hands well. He likes the way I finish blocks.”
Hillgrove tailback Kenyan Drake has five offers, including from Georgia and Georgia Tech. Drake says he learned a lot about recruiting by watching his high school teammates, brothers Jabari Hunt-Days and Synjyn Days (both have committed or signed with Georgia Tech).
The Hillgrove-to-Georgia Tech pipeline? The Yellow Jackets were Drake’s first offer last summer, and the Days brothers have been heavily recruiting him ever since.
“They have been great role models with how they handled their recruiting business,” Drake said. “They were always real humble about all the attention.”
Drake said he has serious interest in Georgia Tech, but also is very high his most recent offer, Alabama. Drake said Saban told him he was athletic enough to get a look at running back, wide receiver and defensive back at Alabama.
“It’s real humbling,” Drake said. “You have all these big-name coaches that you’ve seen on TV come by your school and say they want you. And you’re thinking, ‘Wow, they want me? I wasn’t sure that coach even knew about me.’”
By February 2012, Drake and Georgia’s other elite seniors-to-be will have many, many others knowing about them.
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Prep Zone
Now it’s your TURN. Who do you think is Georgia’s No. 1 high school football player for next season? State your case below.