Top 7 stories: SEC wins appeal, UGA’s biggest surprise in recruiting, and days of Herschel again?

It got overlooked with the news that the NCAA is transforming college cafeterias into Golden Corrals, but the SEC won its appeal of a recruiting rule on Tuesday.

The NCAA’s Div. Legislative Council rescinded a controversial rule interpretation that you can read about in detail right here. Basically, we’re back to original interpretation where high school seniors who qualify to enroll early can sign financial aid agreements with multiple colleges – which in turn, gives those colleges recruiting benefits such as “unlimited contact” with the prospect until he signs a binding national letter of intent (NLI).

The NCAA got this one right because under the previous interpretation (which still allowed a prospect to sign financial aid agreements with multiple colleges but only the first college would get the recruiting benefits), it was totally set up for colleges to commit countless secondary recruiting violations. That’s why the SEC appealed. You see, unlike the NLI program, which is governed by the NCAA, colleges don’t have to share information about financial aid agreements with each other, and that was guaranteed to lead to all kinds of confusion (and those pesky secondary violations).

Now what’s interesting is: What will happen next with this issue? Some have predicted that the biggest trend in recruiting for this year will be colleges trying to get as many kids as possible to sign financial aid agreements so they can have the gigantic advantage of “unlimited contact,” including in-person visits. No doubt, it is a game-changer on the recruiting trial.

Theoretically, if you have enough 5-stars that quality to enroll early in college, this could jack up recruiting to an intensity level that hasn’t been seen in 30 years. Remember those stories about college coaches camping out in hotels in Wrightsville, Ga., for months to recruit Herschel Walker? Those days could be coming back. Personally, I like it. I like it when hard work is rewarded. Let’s see which college coaches are willing to put in the hard work.

UPDATED: In the new interpretation, the NCAA also said if a kid signs a financial aid agreement with a college but doesn’t enroll there, that college could be penalized for “recruiting violations.” What kind of violations? And how severe? Here’s what the NCAA spokesman told the AJC: “The level (and therefore the penalty) would not be predetermined.  The level of all violations is reviewed based on the specific circumstances of the case, and is based on significance, advantage gained, amount of benefit, etc.”

Here’s the rest of our seven:

  • What is Mark Fox’s biggest recruiting victory since he was hired as UGA’s basketball coach in 2009? The easy answer is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was a 5-star out of Greenville High School in 2011. He’s the only prospect that Fox has signed in five years that was ranked above a 3-star recruit. So a different question: Which UGA recruit was the biggest surprise under Fox? Somebody asked me that, and I can’t say that Caldwell-Pope was a surprise at all. Fox had a huge advantage there because KCP’s best buddies from AAU (Nick Marshall) and high school (Kenarious Gates) were already headed to UGA (both for football). I thought about Yante Maten, the 6-7 forward from Michigan who spurned Michigan State and was scheduled to sign with UGA on Wednesday. But Maten only got the Michigan State offer a couple of weeks ago. But if Michigan State had offered Maten early, and UGA still won? Ding, ding, ding — that would be the easy winner. There’s Charles Mann and Juwan Parker, but my vote for Mark Fox’s biggest recruiting surprise would be Marcus Thornton. The former Westlake High School standout was only a 3-star but was named the AJC’s 2010 Mr. Basketball after a monster senior season. He signed early with Clemson, but was granted a release after a coaching change. UGA beat out Georgia Tech, Alabama and Texas in a spring showdown that I would consider Fox’s grand recruiting achievement.
  • Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but is there a little tension between UGA’s Mark Fox and new Auburn coach Bruce Pearl? I asked Fox what he thought about Pearl’s comments that “Atlanta is still SEC country. It’s not ACC country.” Fox’s response? “I don’t pay a whole lot of attention what comes out of … out of stuff like that. Atlanta is a city that has produced very good players. Again, we had five of them this year that were very good players for us. It is in the SEC (footprint), and it is a major metropolitan area.”
  • If you are wondering about Georgia Tech’s basketball recruiting, they could add one more prospect later this spring. Abdoulaye Gueye, a 6-9 center from Birmingham, lists Georgia Tech and Texas Tech in his top two after taking an official visit to the ACC school this past week, per JacketsOnline’s Kelly Quinlan. Georgia Tech signed two in November’s early period: shooting guard Tadric Jackson of Tift County and center Ben Lammers of San Antonio.
  • You know how a prospect’s height (but not really weight), 40-yard dash time, vertical jump, and power clean are some of the measurables that the college scouts salivate over? Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson is looking at a new factor in his evaluations: Armspan. And it makes sense. Said Johnson: “It’s hard to play with the old prototype linebacker that could stop the run and was a liability in coverage. They’ve got to be able to run, these days. We put a huge premium in trying to recruit length. Not just height, but armspan and those type of things, because so much is done in pass coverage and blitzing where arm length and overall length is such a big factor.”
  • One website has described this as “the most awkward Nick Saban photo ever taken.”
  • Christian Coleman, an All-State DB from Our Lady of Mercy, has signed with Tennessee to run track.  He originally signed a non-binding “Memo of Understanding” with Valparaiso, back on signing day (Those are the documents that players who sign with FCS non-scholarship programs). Currently, Coleman is ranked in the top 100 nationally in four individual events — the 60 meters (6.84 seconds; No. 1), the 100 meters (10.38), the 200 meters (21.61; No. 70) and the long jump (24 feet, 7 1/2 inches; No. 3). In Georgia, he is the defending Class A State Champion in the 200 and long jump, and was the High Point Performer Award winner at last year’s Georgia Olympics. His father is one of the AJC’s high school bloggers, Seth Coleman.
  • Bonus: UGA is looking for high school football teams across the Southeast to participate in its 7-on-7 tournaments and OL/DL camp on June 5-6 and June 12-13. The teams will get instruction from UGA’s coaches. Send an email to for more info.


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