Scout.com recruiting service hosted the first annual College Football Kickoff dinner at Coosa Country Club. UGA offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart each spoke about their programs to a crowd of fans, coaches and high school prospects.
Bobo has strong connections to Rome with his father coaching at Armuchee and West Rome High in the 80’s and 90’s and his sister playing basketball at Shorter College.
“Rome has a special place in my heart,” said Bobo. “I will always call it home.”
Smart said that the area is stocked with good football.
“There are so many good players and lots of support for football in the area,” said Smart. “All the players that have come to our camps from around here are well coached also.”
Bobo said that this area was important for UGA recruiting because of the great athletes that play in Rome and northwest Georgia.
“This area has given us some good players, and we will continue to recruit it to try to get some more to come play for the Bulldogs,” said Bobo. “We know how important football is in this area, and you always want guys in your program that come from areas where football is this important.”
Scout.com southeast regional manager Chad Simmons said Rome was a great choice to host the event.
“It’s the perfect spot for it,” said Simmons. “Especially when you’ve got schools like Calhoun, Pepperell and Darlington close by, not to leave out Adairsville, and you’ve got big-time players in each class.”
Smart said that just the opportunity to advertise his program and get exposure was reason enough for him to come.
“Every event that I get to speak at or one of our coaches, it’s our job to show it off and that’s what I’m paid to do,” said Smart.
Both Smart and Richt work under head coaches that have gathered a reputation as great recruiters with Smart coaching with Nick Saban and Bobo with Mark Richt. They said they have learned a lot from each.
“Coach Richt has taught me just to be myself and work hard when I’m recruiting,” said Bobo. “He’s a very genuine person and very family-oriented.”
“Most of all I’ve learned the organization side of things from coach Saban,” said Smart. “He’s a very intense guy and goes full tilt at everything he does.”
Both Smart and Bobo said they were excited about the upcoming seasons for their teams and named a couple of guys that may not be household names that could make an impact.
“Every year is exciting because you get a new group of leaders and new players to fill the shoes of those who aren’t there anymore,” said Bobo. “Joe Cox has definitely earned the respect of his teammates, and there is an opportunity for some of our freshmen to step up and play in Orson Charles and Marlon Brown.”
“We are expecting a lot out of a lot of guys,” said Smart. “Our biggest concern is senior leadership, but James Carpenter and Robby Green have been two players who’ve stepped up in the spring and impressed at their positions.”
Several top prospects were at the event from Georgia and Alabama with two commitments being made. Woodward Academy running back Juwan Thompson made his commitment to play at Duke during the night as well as a surprise commitment from Newnan safety Alec Ogletree to Georgia. Scout rates Ogletree as the No. 2 safety in the country.
Former Model player and current Cherokee County (Ala.) safety prospect Desmond Brown was also in attendance and talked about his recruiting process.
“It’s really an honor and a privilege to be asked to come to something like this,” said Brown. “You try not to let the recruiting process get tangled up in your mind. You have a promise to your team and to your coach that you have to fulfill.”
Brown’s teammate and quarterback prospect Coty Blanchard was also at the dinner as well as Darlington defensive tackle Alex Sentell. Sentell is considered a sleeper prospect and said he enjoyed that role.
“I kind of like being the underdog and that’s the way it’s gone so far,” said Sentell. “I’m just waiting it out and hoping that I get an offer from somewhere soon.”
Scout.com writer Rusty Mansell said that he hopes this is the first of many banquets of this kind in Rome in the years to come.