Jeff Kiziah can recall a time when a quick-footed 13-year-old walked onto the football field at Hickory High School.
“You’re not going to see many extremely aggressive 13-year-old kids,” Kiziah, the former offensive line coach at Hickory, told the AJC. “And that’s probably why people didn’t see the package that we saw.”
That once-13-year-old kid from Hudson, N.C., is Landon Dickerson, a now 4-star offensive lineman who has emerged as a top UGA target after visiting with the Bulldogs twice in the last two weeks.
Dickerson is roughly two years younger than his peers. And despite the age difference, Dickerson, now the No. 3 offensive lineman in the country, per Rivals.com, yields offers from 19 schools, including Alabama and Auburn.
In recent weeks, UGA, too, has expressed serious interest in the 6-foot-5, 297-pound still-growing prospect, and the feeling is mutual. His most recent UGA visit was on Sunday, where he admits he had nothing but positive interactions.
“I know the tradition of Georgia and the football they play there,” Dickerson told the AJC. “It’s been consistently good for the past however many years.”
Dickerson says that finding stability at the head coach position is key, as he’s endured three head coaching changes at Hickory in three years. He says Mark Richt’s desire to finish out his career in Athens will be an important factor when considering UGA.
“I kind of ask coaches, ‘Do you plan on being here for the next four or five years?,’” Dickerson said. “He’s been there for 15 or so years, and he says he plans on staying. I was pretty happy about that.”
He was also happy to hear about the prospects of playing both guard and tackle. UGA offensive line coach Rob Sale told Dickerson that he’s built for either tackle position, but that he could see playing time at guard, too. Such versatility, he says, will be critical to have in achieving his goal of playing at the highest level.
“If you have the ability to play guard, that’s not only going to help you in college, but if you’re able to get to the next level there’s only eight spots on an NFL roster for lineman,” he said. “If you can play every spot, that’ll up your stock.”
As it stands, Dickerson says he’s “really considering” UGA, though he doesn’t have any particular order yet. And while he’s hopeful he can get back to Athens for UGA’s game against South Carolina, he has not yet determined if he’ll take an official visit.
Added Dickerson: “They’re definitely in the running for me.”
Along with UGA, Dickerson says the schools that stand out the most to him are Michigan, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Auburn and Florida State. His first official visit will come on Sept. 12 when he heads to Michigan.
As for when he plans on committing, that remains unclear.
“Whether it’s next week or four months from now, it’s going to depend on when that one school clicks,” he said.
Not having a set list to this point of his recruitment may be a benefit to the Bulldogs, though, as Kiziah concedes to the AJC that Dickerson has been upbeat about his time spent with the team despite getting into the mix not long ago.
“Georgia is kind of getting into the game late,” Kiziah said. “I don’t know if that matters or doesn’t matter to Landon, but I haven’t heard anything but positives (from him).”
“They’ve definitely got his attention.”
Regardless of where he goes, though, Kiziah, now Dickerson’s mentor, says the 16-year-old will remain as steadfast in his approach to his recruitment as he has in developing his game.
“Having a kid that’s as highly recruited as he is, you’d think it would have changed him a little bit, but it hasn’t at all,” Kiziah said. “You’re lucky if you have one kid like him to coach in your entire life.”
Kiziah, who played both collegiately and professionally, says the 16-year-old is one of the most flexible offensive lineman he’s ever seen. And that’s a credit to Dickerson’s work ethic, one that includes a background in taekwondo. Kiziah says it’s helped further him along with his footwork and mobility.
“I’ve never seen a kid learn so fast,” Kiziah said. “I’ve seen a lot of football players, and I’ve never seen a player that can reach block as well as he can.”
“He’s pretty damn good.”
By Charles Kingsbury, Special for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution