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Michael Carvell

UGA and longtime DB commit part ways (UPDATED)

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Ex-UGA DB commit Kendall Gant (AJC)

Ex-UGA DB commit Kendall Gant (AJC)

UGA and longtime Bulldogs commit Kendall Gant have parted ways.

The 4-star safety from Lakeland, Fla., switched his commitment from UGA to Marshall on Tuesday, his high school coach told the AJC.

Gant has yet to meet NCAA requirements, and his coach said the Bulldogs informed Gant that he could sign with UGA on Wednesday, but that he would have to enroll next year at a prep school or junior college – even if he qualified at a later date.

“It was the best decision for the situation that he had — That’s pretty much what it came down to,” Lake Gibson High School coach Keith DeMyer said.

“Right now, he’s not a qualifier, and Georgia wasn’t going to wait on him. They were taking that scholarship, and they were going to deal with somebody else with that scholarship.

“It’s just too many if’s. What if I do this? What if I don’t do this? What’s going to happen? There were too many question marks. As much as he wants to be a Bulldogs, and he’s always wanted that, it was going to be a tough decision for him.

DeMyer said he was informed about UGA’s stance by assistant Bryan McClendon last Friday for the first time.

“They were not going to wait on him to pass that test. They were pulling that scholarship, and they were going to give it to somebody else. They said they needed to make sure they were going to fill their needs at that free safety spot. And they weren’t going to sit and wait on him.

“He takes the test this Saturday. If he passes it, it wouldn’t have mattered because they were going to give his scholarship away anyways because he wasn’t a qualifier for Wednesday.”

Gant is the sixth de-commitment for UGA’s 2014 recruiting class. The Bulldogs have 18 commitments and are sweating out things with DT Lamont Gaillard of Fayetteville, N.C. (he’s “95 percent committed to UGA” after taking a visit there last weekend) and WR Gilbert Johnson of Miami (said he will sign with UGA, South Florida or Louisville on Wednesday). The Bulldogs will also add a few players by Wednesday.

Here’s a look at UGA’s Big Board.

Back to Kendall Gant: He’s some more questions with his coach:

How do you feel about that? “I understand that they’ve got to fill their needs but I think it’s pretty (crappy). If you want somebody bad enough, I think you have to wait until that last test in June until you give up. What my thinking was is that they wanted him, but they didn’t want him bad enough. And they felt like they had somebody else that they felt maybe wasn’t as good as him but good enough to deal with.

Gant committed to UGA’s former defensive staff. Do you think this had anything to do with the coaching changes? “That I can’t answer. I really don’t know. All I know is that when (McClendon) told us they were pulling the offer, he said if (Gant) signed on Wednesday, whether he passed it or not, they were going to give it to somebody else.

When you were told this for the first time? “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.’”

Do you think this had anything to do with Gant taking an official visit to Marshall last weekend? “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.’”

Will this situation affect your relationship with UGA on your future recruits? “It will always be on my mind. I will always have that question mark there. We’ve had kids here in the past that made it on the test. We had one people might know about who made it on the last test, and there was one team that waited on him. And he made it, and now he’s in the NFL. That was Bilal Powell, the running back for the New York Jets. Louisville waited on him, and Louisville got him. I don’t know about Georgia. It just surprises me that they pulled his offer. I made (McClendon) repeat the situation two or three times so Kendall would understand exactly what the deal was. He said ‘If you sign Wednesday, that would be great. But we’re going to put you at a JUCO. If you make that test score a week from now, you’re still not going to have that scholarship.’ They basically said they wanted him, and that’s why (McClendon) was here. They wanted him to sign on Wednesday, so he couldn’t sign anywhere else. (Gant) could say ‘I’m a Bulldog.’ But because he wasn’t a qualifier, and they weren’t sure he was going to make it as a qualifier, they were going to give his offer to somebody else that was coming in next week. So even if Kendall made the test score, he would not have a scholarship to Georgia this year.”

What was Kendall’s reaction to that news? “He’s kind of laid back and quiet. His eyeballs rolled a little bit. After (McClendon) left, we stayed and talked for a little bit longer. He understood then. That’s the first time he understood that there was not going to be anywhere for him there – that was the bottom line. That’s when he said I’m taking that trip to Marshall and we’ll see what they have to offer.”

Maybe there an understanding with UGA that Gant had to be qualified by a certain point and time? “No. We’ve had so many late qualifiers that people waited for. They were good enough that if they did make it, it was a plus for their program. If you look back at what Georgia had to say, he’s really saying ‘Kendall is really not good enough for us to sit and wait to get qualified. Or we don’t think he’s going to qualify.’”

Do you think Gant will qualify? “I’ve seen funnier things happen. The bottom line is that now there are 3-4 more tests he can take before the summer, and the last time he took it, he jumped two points. So if the kid is good enough, and you really want him, my thinking is you’re going to wait. And even if you don’t use the scholarship, you’re going to tell me that you don’t have enough people already on your roster that can’t come in and compete for a job at the SEC level? Those are just my thoughts on what we were going through when we were communicating (last week). But anyways, it all worked out. It was tough for Kendall to deal with. He put himself in this position. He finally understood that what you have in hand is better than what could be. The Marshall thing was right in his hands. He knows that if qualifies, he can compete for a job. If not, he’s going to be on Marshall’s campus anyways.”

Got an item? mcarvell@ajc.com

mcarvell@ajc.com

– By Michael Carvell, AJC’s Recruiting Blog

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