THE TEN AT 10:
1. Four-star defensive back Avery Walls of Eagles Landing Christian Academy had an incredible 33 scholarship offers. In the end, he chose one of the schools that was farthest away from his McDonough home.
Walls on Tuesday committed to California over co-finalists Michigan and Oregon. Oddly enough, neither Georgia nor Georgia Tech ever offered.
“It’s a long way from home, but the coaches and teammates I’ve met there are going to be my family,” said Walls, after announcing his decision to a gathering of coaches, teammates, faculty and students Tuesday morning at ELCA. “In the end, it came down to academics. I wanted a degree that was going to last a lifetime. That was the case with all my finalists.”
It was a monumental day for Walls, a 5-11, 185-pound safety. He took his last exam at ELCA and graduated on the same day. He’ll next play in the U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio on Jan. 8, then reports to Cal as an early enrollee on Jan. 12. He’ll also play in the USA Against the World all-star game Feb. 2 in Austin, Texas.
“It’s really back to work now,” Walls said. “I know where I’m going now and now I have to prepare for it. They play great football in the Pac-10. It’s a great league for DBs and I’m looking forward to the competition.”
Walls will play strong safety for Bears. In one season at ELCA — he played at Union Grove the previous two seasons — he finished with 55 tackles and two interceptions and also had 450 yards and nine touchdowns as a part-time running back. He also was a kick returner.
2. Conversely, Jay Rome is expected to stay much closer to home. The AJC Super 11 tight end, a five-star prospect from Valdosta, was one of 18 official visitors to Georgia this weekend and the Bulldogs made a major impression on him and his family. So much so that the UGA fan sites basically proclaimed him on the verge of committing any day now.
To be sure, the Dogs are clearly the team to beat in the Rome Sweepstakes. But don’t pencil him onto the roster just yet. Stan Rome, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound tight end’s famous father, said his son still plans to take visits to Alabama and Clemson, which are both scheduled for January.
“Georgia is probably at the head of the list,” the elder Rome said. “We could definitely see him going to Georgia and we’d be comfortable with that. But does that mean everybody else is out of the picture? No. Georgia has definitely stood out but I wouldn’t say they’ve closed the deal.”
3. Georgia did close the deal on at least one prospect, however. Longtime commitment Justin Scott-Wesley, a wide receiver from Mitchell County, wavered to the point of calling himself “50 percent” committed to the Bulldogs after a visit to Louisville last month. But he upgraded that percentage to “100 percent” after taking his official visit this past weekend.
The key for Scott-Wesley — the fastest football player in the state with a state record 10.35-second 100-meter time — was a Sunday morning meeting between his family and coach Mark Richt.
“He assured us he was going to be there and told us about all the things we could accomplish together,” Scott-Wesley said.
Georgia fans will be glad to hear that Scott-Wesley thought the many elite recruits in town for the weekend “really jelled together” and that the Dream Team concept could happen.
4. Likewise, Georgia Tech apparently made an enormous impression on four-star prospect Darian Cooper of Hyattsville, Md. The 6-3, 275-pound defensive lineman from DeMatha Catholic High was one of more than a dozen prospects who made their official visit to The Flats this past weekend. He used words like “fantastic” and “amazing” to describe his trip to JacketsOnline.com.
“It was amazing,” he said. “I had a great time. It was just the people, the atmosphere and the fact it’s a real metropolitan city, right in the middle of Atlanta. You have all the big lights, all around, but at the same time it’s kind of tucked away. I like you can make the campus as big or small as you want.”
Cooper is also considering Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State as finalists. He was one of several major prospects in town to get a closer look at the Jackets, DB Blake Countess of Owings Mill, Md., and DE Roderick Byers of Rock Hill, S.C.
5. I had a long conversation Monday with Debbie Crowell, Isaiah Crowell’s mom and the most important single entity in his recruitment. She said she’s “about to go nuts” with the craziness that is the contact period but that that she is trying to manage through it. I’ll be writing something from her perspective later but here’s the pertinent news she shared for the time being:
(a) Isaiah hasn’t committed anywhere yet and is not about to. They will visit Alabama Jan. 14, Georgia Jan. 21 and Auburn — that’s right, Auburn — Jan. 28. “We’ll shut down after that and go into deep meditation,” she said.
(b) Kirby Smart was at the Crowells Monday recruiting for Alabama (along with running backs coach Burton Burns). She said Smart didn’t mention anything about going to Florida but did say “his buddy” was just named the head coach there.
(c) Richt is the speaker at the Tri-Cities all-star banquet they’re attending Tuesday night and they’re looking forward to seeing him again.
6. I’m working on a story about junior college recruiting and interviewed Butler County (Kan.) Community College head coach Troy Morell for it. One of his star players, DE Cornelius “Tank” Carradine, took an official visit to Georgia last week and is supposed to make an announcement either Wednesday or Friday of this week, depending on which Internet fan site one trusts. His finalists are UGA, FSU, Ohio State and Alabama. “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Morrell said of the 6-foot-5, 265-pounder, who led the NJCAA in sacks with 16. “He’s at home now [in Cincinnati] and I doubt he’ll talk to anybody. To be honest, he’s somewhat overwhelmed by the whole thing.”
7. Speaking of impact junior college players, it appears Georgia is also closing in on 6-4, 340-pound nose guard John Jenkins of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Reached by phone in Perkison, Miss., on Monday, Jenkins said UGA coaches would be meeting him and his family in his hometown of Meriden, Conn., this weekend. Jenkins is an Oklahoma State commitment but said he’s getting a lot to think about from Georgia, Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas and some others. He said the Bulldogs are “recruiting me the hardest” but he wants to take visits before making up his mind. So far the only official he has made was to Houston.
8. The little back with the big name — Ralph David Abernathy IV – has found a home. Better known in these parts as “RDA4,” the 5-foot-7, 165-pound running back committed to Cincinnati over the weekend. Abernathy also had offers from Ole Miss and Air Force, as well as a number of smaller schools.
“I really liked the family enviroment there,” said Abernathy, who visited this past weekend. “And talking to the players and the commitments and the coaches, everybody was talking about winning a national championship and I really liked that.”
After rushing for nearly 2,000 yards as a junior, Abernathy was limited to about 700 his senior season while missing several games with a high-ankle sprain. He said the Bearcats believe he can come in and help them immediately as a kick returner while trying to earn playing time as a running back and slot receiver.
9. Florida commitment Clay Burton told the Orlando Sentinel initially he didn’t know who Will Muschamp was but, now that he does, he likes the hire. The 3-star linebacker recruit from Venice, Fla., was at one time was seriously considering Georgia Tech.
10. THIS & THAT: Muschamp contacted 5-star DE Ray Drew of Thomasville by phone while he was making his media rounds with U.S. Army All-Americans Monday in New York City . . .Florida commitment Ryan Shazier, a linebacker from Plantation, Fla., took an official visit to LSU last weekend and will take one to Ohio State this week, according to GatorSports.com. . . . Gators commitment Nick Waisome of Groveland, Fla., took an official to FSU this past weekend, according to the Orlando Sentinel. . . . WR Kelvin Benjamin of Belle Glade, Fla., will announce Thursday between Florida, FSU and Miami, per GatorSports. . . . Offensive lineman Taylor Gadbois of East Paulding made an official visit to Kentucky this past weekend. He’s also planning officials to Georgia Tech, Michigan State and N.C. State. . . .
Word was former Georgia signee Toby Jackson was thinking of going smaller time this time around. Sure enough, according to Scout’s Chad Simmons the final 2 for the big defensive lineman from Griffin by way of Navarro (Texas) Junior College are Baylor and UCF. . . . The Under Armour All-America game recently released its final roster for the 2011 game (to be played Jan. 5 in St. Petersburg, Fla.) and it includes 10 Georgians: Crowell, Rome, Scott-Wesley, Valdosta’s Malcolm Mitchell, A.J. Johnson of Gainesville, Xzavier Dickson of Griffin, Pope’s Thomas O’Reilly, Gabe Wright of Carver-Columbus, Quan Bray of Troup and James Vaughters of Tucker.