As signing day approaches, DawgNation speaks to the coaches of several top remaining targets for Georgia for a closer look at what makes them special.
With the loss of Chester Brown (Hinesville, Ga./Bradwell Institute), need to add another offensive lineman in the 2012 class becomes even more apparent. Right now there are just 11 linemen on campus, so whomever the Bulldogs are able to add come signing day will have a great chance of being called into action this fall. It just so happens that one of the top targets, if not the top target, remaining for Georgia is offensive tackle Avery Young (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Palm Beach Gardens). Auburn, Florida, Georgia and now Miami are the likely finalists for the No. 8 offensive tackle and No. 61 overall prospect in the country.
Young helped pave the way for West Virginia commitment Roshard Burney to rush for 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns and Alex Clark to go for 978 yards. The Gators went 9-3 last fall, losing to state runner-up Miramar in the third round of the playoffs. Looking back over the past few years, head coach Chris Davis is grateful for the chance to have worked with Young.
“It has been really easy coaching Avery the last few years,” Davis said. “His awareness of the game has improved. The offense that they ran when I got here was somewhat limited, but since then we have probably ran every kind of protection that we can at some point or another. His zone-stretch blocking has been phenomenal, and probably the strength of what he can do is getting to the second level and getting downfield.”
Young, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound Under Armour All-America Game selection, has offers from programs nationwide, and Davis feels Young's potential is as good as any lineman in the 2012 class.
“I think he has the highest ceiling of any tackle on any of his finalist’s board,” Davis said. “He has grown into a guy that can do some really athletic things. He can knock guys down on screens, he does extremely well in pass protection and is able to adjust to guys coming off the edge. Just things that go along with guys that started 30 games. But it has been really fun to see him evolve and be able to do different things.
"He is not going to have to lose any weight, which is something many offensive linemen struggle with. He weighs 290 pounds now, but before you know it, he will be 320 pounds while being faster and stronger than what he is right now.”
Were Young to sign with Georgia he would be playing under second-year offensive line coach Will Friend. Davis has kept tabs on Friend’s career, and with good reason.
“Will Friend is a guy that I have known for a long time,” Davis said. “His dad gave me my first job at Starkville (Miss.) High School. His dad Chuck is a legend in Mississippi, a hall of fame-level coach that has won over 200 games. Chuck and I used to listen to Will play when he was at Alabama, on the radio. I followed Will’s success as a coach from West Alabama, to UAB and obviously now at Georgia, and he has not changed a bit. He has always had the mindset of being happy-go-lucky and wanting to help people.”
As Davis watched both of the NFL conference championships Friday, he credited some of Friend’s coaching accomplishments to having a father in the same line of work. Davis has been impressed with Friend’s coaching ability, and he feels Young sees it, too.
“You have to look at these guys who are sons of coaches, like the guys we saw today in Jim and John Harbaugh,” Davis said. “They are very, very gifted in terms of what they pick up and are able to pass on to others. I had a chance to do some chalk talk with him, and I have watched his relationship with Avery evolve. He has done a great job recruiting Avery, and he has quietly recruited some great offensive linemen to Georgia.”
Family could play an important role in Young’s decision, but Davis feels the decision will ultimately fall on the ESPNU 150 prospect himself.
“I think the whole family has been involved, but ultimately it will be Avery’s decision, and quite frankly I do not think they know or Avery knows right now which one it should be,” Young said. “Will managed to develop a good rapport with [Avery's father] Willie Sr. I have not kept up with Willie Jr. too much because he just recently returned from the Detroit Lions a couple weeks ago. I do know that Matthew Stafford is there, so with him and Nick Fairley, I am sure there is a little bit of jockeying going on with those guys recruiting Avery through Willie Jr.”
Last weekend, Young made his final visit to check out the Hurricanes. Davis feels the trip to Coral Gables did little to help Young in his decision.
“He probably got more confused than he ever has been,” Davis said. "There are some top-flight people recruiting him, so it makes things difficult. In the end, it will be where he is comfortable with, where he can see himself having a good career, but more importantly finding people that he feels he could trust if football was not in the equation.”
Young is scheduled to make his announcement at 2 p.m. Feb. 1 on ESPN.