Posted: 11:04 am Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

UGA kicks off signing day with 2 surprises (UPDATED) 

By Michael Carvell

TE Hunter Atkinson

TE Hunter Arkinson

UGA had two big surprises to kick off signing day.

The first was Isaiah McKenzie, the 4-star wide receiver from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., who committed to UGA over Ole Miss and Virginia Tech. McKenzie got an offer from UGA on Monday, and picked he Bulldogs because his best buddy is his high school teammate at American Heritage, Sony Michel, the 5-star running back who committed to UGA last summer.

The second surprise was West Hall High School tight end Hunter Atkinson, who flipped from Cincinnati to UGA after getting an offer from Mark Richt on late Tuesday night.

“Basically, he was going to go to Cincinnati but Georgia came in and contacted me last yesterday evening,” West Hall coach Tony Lotti told the AJC. “Coach Richt called and said a spot had opened up. They had said all along if they could free up a spot, they wanted him. I guess some developments yesterday evening freed up some spots.”

The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder was one of the state’s most overlooked prospect but got recent offers from Cincinnati, Purdue, Louisville and — on Wednesday morning — UCF.

Atkinson also sparked interest from Georgia Tech, and had grayshirt offers from Alabama, Auburn and UNC, among others, to enroll on scholarship in January 2015. He committed to Cincinnati a few days ago while on an official visit, but was hoping for a last-minute call from UGA.

“He was very excited to get that call,” Lotti said. “He has wanted to be a Georgia Bulldog since he was a kid. I’m so happy it has worked out for Hunter the way it has. He had a great relationship with the Cincinnati coaches. They were wonderful to him. But when Coach RIcht called, the kid was able to fulfill a lifelong dream, and he felt like he needed to take it. Anytime a kid can realize a dream, I think that’s a good thing.”

“For a kid growing up in Georgia, they have dreams of playing at Georgia Tech or Georgia. I grew up in this state. Fortunately for this kid, his dream of playing for the University of Georgia has come true. When Coach Richt called him, that was the phone call he had been waiting on for his entire life.”

Atkinson was recruited by UGA to play tight end. He is the second tight end for this recruiting class, along with Jeb Blazevich of Charlotte.

“He is going in as a tight end,” Lotti said. “His whole attitude is that he hopes he gets the opportunity to compete for the tight end spot, which he has been told will be the case. However, he will play wherever they want to help make the University of Georgia successful. I could see him maybe earning a spot on the defensive side. And who knows? He may grow another couple of inches and play on the offensive line. He’s still growing in his body.”

Hunter Atkinson (247sports)

Hunter Atkinson (247sports)

Atkinson was timed at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash at several college scouts, and we wrote several times how we didn’t understand how Atkinson didn’t have 20+ D1 offers. Look at his film.

This past season, Atkinson caught 51 passes for 740 yards and 11 touchdowns. Atkinson is rated as a 3-star and the state’s No. 80 overall prospect.

“Georgia is getting a big and physical kid who has exceptional hands and moves extremely well,” Lotti said. “Like I said, his best football is in front of him, He was the talk of the North-South all-star game – being as big and physical as he was, but also with how soft his hands were.”

Cincinnati was understandably disappointed by the news. “They didn’t take it very well,” Lotti said. “I believe in doing the right thing. So when this started breaking last night, I called them and gave them the heads up. I think they are really good people, and I can understand why they are disappointed because they knew he was a sleeper. They’ve said it over and over that they felt like he was a steal. They’re disappointed, and I’m disappointed for them, but this was a kid who wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream.”

UGA offensive coordinator Mike Bobo on Atkinson: “Hunter’s a guy that obviously we got on late so a lot of you guys may or may not have known about him, but he is a big, athletic kid. Daniel Inman, one of our giant GAs, is like 6-7, 315. Those guys were standing beside each other and they looked like clones. Obviously he doesn’t weigh as much as Dan, but he’s 6-6 around 250, 255 pounds. He’s a guy we started watching tape on in the middle of the season that did a little bit of everything. He lined up at receiver, he lined up at tight end, he lined up as a wildcat quarterback. He’s a big athlete. I really don’t know how big this guy’s going to become and what he’s going to become. Like I told him last night, we’re expecting you to come in and get ready to play. I believe he’s got a chance to do that. I believe he’s an SEC football player. With the way recruiting’s going now and early offers and early commitments, sometimes these late bloomers you sometimes miss out on him. Fortunate enough we were able to offer that guy and he’s part of the Bulldog family.”

Got an item? mcarvell@ajc.com

mcarvell@ajc.com

– By Michael Carvell, AJC’s Recruiting Blog

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30 comments
BulldawgRick
BulldawgRick

Congratulations to Hunter!!

 Proud to have a Spartan on the Dawgs side of the ball..

This kid will flourish at TE (or OT or DE)..

From a guy that has see him play...

FalconsOnTop13
FalconsOnTop13

Vote for Kennesaw State for NCAA's 6th Fan!!!! Tweet the hashtag #Kensaw or go to NCAA.com/6thfan and find KSU and vote. Show your support!!!

RambleOn84
RambleOn84

Looks like the Dogs finished strong...congrats from this Jackets fan.


Now, we just need to work on beating y'all every once in a while.

SvenOttke
SvenOttke

I'm not sure what happened to my original post from yesterday and mysteriously I couldn't post for a few hours.  Certainly MC wouldn't ban me for just stating facts.  I'm not sure how the Isaiah McKenzie commit was considered a surprise.  The rumor was all the rage on this very board on Tuesday.  I also stated that Atkinson flipped from Cincy to UGa. 

TouchdownGurley
TouchdownGurley

As a Hall County native, I can tell you Atkinson comes from a terrible football program and that's probably why he has flown under the radar. West Hall made the playoffs for the first time in at least 10 years this season and their teams are almost always awful. He was a huge part of the reason they made the playoffs this season. They were also a run-first team without the best quarterback play, so if he had been in a different system, his numbers would have been ridiculously good. 


Though I have never liked West Hall since back when I was in high school, I am happy a talented tight end who I believe was underrated has signed on with Georgia. It is so refreshing to hear a coach say the player has wanted to play for Georgia his whole life. Those guys are the ones who will likely work their butts off at Georgia. Congrats on joining Dawg Nation, Hunter. 

keendaddy
keendaddy

Two great pickups for the Dawgs! Very pleasant surprise. I love what both these kids bring to Georgia. Our TE's are now restocked and maybe we just got the return guy we've been lacking!

Michael Carvell, got any stats on McKenzie? 40 time?

BrownDog
BrownDog

For the Saban haters, here's some complexity with your cereal:


‏@TimWatts_BOL A source close to Elisha Shaw told me a few weeks ago only Nick Saban and Tide staff stood by Shaw after injury.

WDE
WDE

Hunter Congrats and welcome to the Bull Dog Nation! Best of luck on the field and in the classroom ! Go Dogs !

BrownDog
BrownDog

Great for HA. Had to be a very special night for him and his family.

TampGator1
TampGator1

kerryb.....


Again.....you have to be committed somewhere to be flipped.  Leaning is not committed. 

kerryb
kerryb

I always love seeing kids commit that have dreamed of being a Georgia Bulldog.  Those will be committed and dedicated from the start.

TheOldGuy
TheOldGuy

Welcome to Athens young man. Study hard and play great football.

stripesofzebra
stripesofzebra

By no means a fan of UGA but I'm happy for Hunter.  I couldn't believe he wasn't getting more offers.  He is a beast from seeing him play first hand.

kerryb
kerryb

This kid moves well and has good hands if he adds the weight he could develop into a very good LT.

TampGator1
TampGator1

But a 6'6" TE with potential is a got get on any day of the week.......no matter where he de-committed from or to.

TampGator1
TampGator1

mrcvsj.....


Don't think Jordan Jenkins was ever committed to Bama.  Can't flip unless they were committed to someone else. Jenkins, I believe was a NSD commitment to Georgia over Florida and Bama. 

Bubbatavious
Bubbatavious

When can we flip a kid from going to teams like Bama, Clemson or a FSU?  CIncy??? WOW

Dawg-Gawn
Dawg-Gawn

@BrownDog:

complexity?... you really humor me with your passive/aggressive personality... Shaw can not qualify academically or medically and I doubt the NCAA will allow Shaw to apply for a medical hardship for an accident that happened during his HS playing days... just more Saban/Bama deception... just ask Alvin, he knows exactly the cereal that's served up in Tuscaloosa...

"BELIEVE" in the G

stripesofzebra
stripesofzebra

And that is the first time I have seen myself in someone's recruiting video. 

kerryb
kerryb

@TampGator1  He was more leaning toward Bama than us in the final week.  He was all but committed there and was widely known that he was going there.

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

@Bubbatavious  Does it really matter if we get a kid to flip from those schools? The guys that want to be at UGA are here....you always gotta bring negativity you troll

kerryb
kerryb

@Bubbatavious  You always make the dumbest comments on these blogs.  Did you not read that Bama and other schools wanted him?  Georgia last year took Dalvin Belemy away from FSU when he was all but committed.  We took Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley away from Clemson who wanted them badly and was from the Carolinas.  We took A.J Green, Tramel Terry away from the Carolina schools that wanted them.  We took Malcolm Mitchell and Jordan Jenkins away from Bama.  We took Jay Rome away from Clemson where his father played.  Inform yourself before you make a comment dumba**.

BrownDog
BrownDog

@Dawg-Gawn  


So Saban gives an injured player a chance for a college experience and he, in your highly evolved opinion, is doing something wrong? 


Gosh, you really are the smartest guy in the room. 



BrownDog
BrownDog

@kerryb @TampGator1  


KB, not quite. Jordan started trending Dawg about two weeks out. Remember his mom saying she felt safer with him being in Athens, and then his dad started talking about Alabama's depth chart. 


JJ was a longtime UA lean, but that changed in a hurry after Christmas.