Isaac Nauta — the nation’s No. 1 tight end — is committed to Florida State. But he made his “sixth or seventh” visit to Athens since his freshman year on Sunday. He told the AJC that UGA is now clearly his No. 2 team.
“Georgia I would say right now is probably second for sure,” Nauta said. “Another thing is they have stayed on me since I committed. I don’t know if a lot of schools realize that or not, but that stuff is pretty big.”
Nauta said he’ll be in Athens for one of his five official visits this fall. He’s also planning to return for UGA’s elite “Dawg Night” prospect camp on July 18. He spent approximately two hours at UGA during his most recent trip.
“It was a good visit,” said Nauta, who transferred to Florida’s IMG Academy this year from Buford. “I got to talk to Coach (Mark) Richt and (tight ends coach) John Lilly and they were able to reestablish what they have been saying all along with me. They told me how bad they want me. My point in doing that is I was back home down the road and Georgia has been right in my top five from the very beginning. Why not stop by and take another visit?”
The rising senior felt that the Bulldogs were his second choice when he committed to Florida State last December.
“Georgia grows on me all the time,” Nauta said. “One because it would be super easy for my family to go to a game and I have got a lot of friends in Georgia. That’s one reason why it is always climbing for me. But just to be able to sit and talk to Coach Richt on a Sunday when he is normally not there was just great for me yesterday. Just to do that on a Sunday when he is normally not there. That was real cool of him to come out and spend some time with a guy like me.”
His parents now live basically a curl route away from Ga. 316 in Dacula. The ride to Athens is about 50 miles away.
“He made a comment to Mom a little bit ago,” his father Jay Nauta said. “My wife tends to think that he will flip, but I don’t know.”
The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder believes he is still the top tight end on the board in Athens.
“Every time I have gone up to Athens it has always been how much they want me,” Nauta said. “They always roll out the red carpet for me.”
When he committed to FSU last year, he had a real good feeling about Tallahassee. His family spent seven years in Jacksonville and the Seminoles were his dream school growing up. He is fond of FSU tight ends coach Tim Brewster.
He wanted to get a bit of distance from home in Atlanta, but it now appears the lure of playing out-of-state has lessened. In fact, his move to Florida to attend the IMG Academy might have given him an early taste of life away from home that might work in Georgia’s favor.
Nauta said Southern Cal has been recruiting him very hard of late. He said that Auburn, Florida, Michigan and Ole Miss have also not stopped recruiting him.
“I would say Southern Cal, Florida and Georgia are recruiting me equally as hard right now,” he said. “Those schools are all recruiting me the hardest.”
UGA’s pitch consists of two factors: 1) The versatility tight ends have in the offense; 2) The lure of playing for an offensive coordinator with NFL experience in Brian Schottenheimer.
“They just continue to explain all the things I can do in the offense,” Nauta said. “They said Coach Schottenheimer will always have a tight end on the field and for a guy like me that’s what you want to hear. You want to be able to block and stuff but you also want to be able to make plays. Georgia has a pro-style offense and they develop big-time quarterbacks and throw for a lot of yards every game. So for a tight end, that’s really perfect.”
Nauta told the AJC his best time in the 40-yard dash has been at 4.56 seconds. That shows he has the wheels to run under a few deep balls like the ones that incoming five-star quarterback Jacob Eason can let fly. Eason’s impending arrival to UGA is a major attraction for Nauta.
“I’ve seen him a couple of times and he is definitely a great quarterback and a great guy,” Nauta said. “He’s definitely going to be a good one. What stood out for me with Eason is I was at a camp with him one time in Orlando. I saw him throw at least a 70-yard deep ball and I was thinking ‘Wow, that’s pretty good’ and that’s a guy you want to play with if you can.”
He will still be an early graduate at IMG. He said the thought of de-committing does not weigh heavily on his mind. He plans to take all five of his official visits this fall.
“At the end of the day I will do what’s best for me,” Nauta said. “It comes down to my future and whatever it is I can’t make everybody happy. This is one of the bigger decisions in your life and you can actually be selfish and do what you want for once. As a player, you definitely have got to take full advantage of that and take all your visits and make sure you are picking the right school.”
Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.