Buford (Ga.) High School, one of the premier programs in the Southeast in the last decade, has produced some high-caliber offensive linemen in the past five years. In 2009, Dallas Lee signed with Georgia, and in 2010, Kolton Houston did the same. DuVon Millsap signed with South Carolina the same year before enrolling at Itawamba Community College. Last year Vadal Alexander signed with LSU. And in 2013, it’s possible this pipeline of offensive linemen to the SEC could continue with Josh Cardiello.
After competing at Dawg Night last summer and attending Georgia's home game against Kentucky, Cardiello took part in the Rising Seniors program in December, starting in the Georgia Junior Bowl in Atlanta. Several programs had been showing interest, and a week ago Cardiello got his first offer from Florida. On Monday, South Carolina offered; on Tuesday, Georgia followed.
“It has been crazy,” Cardiello said. “Getting three SEC offers has been fun, and now I am looking forward to talking to the coaches more and getting to see what these schools are all about.”
The soon-to-be senior OL admits he was not prepared for the Gamecocks and Gators to pull the trigger on a scholarship, but he now plans to check out both schools.
“Things have changed, because before, I had three schools in mind that were showing the most interest in Auburn, FSU and Georgia,” Cardiello said. “Then schools that I have not been hearing much from offer me, like Florida and South Carolina. They believe in me enough to offer, so I have to give them an open chance and I am looking forward to taking visits to check them out.”
Cardiello got an offer Tuesday he had long been hoping to get, from the in-state Bulldogs.
“Getting the Georgia offer meant a lot,” he said. “I have wanted that offer for a while because they were the first school to show interest and I have a connection with Kolton Houston and some former players there, but I did not know when to expect an offer. Coach [Will] Friend said they liked me a lot, so it was really exciting to get that offer today.”
The news came from Georgia’s head coach himself.
“I talked to Coach Richt for about 10 minutes,” Cardiello said, “and he told me how much they liked me, and that I had an offer on the table as a center or guard. He said they are looking forward to getting this process going and that they would love for me to line up as a Bulldog.”
Cardiello played tackle opposite Alexander last season for the Wolves, but he likes the thought of playing center at the next level. He is willing to play wherever he is needed, however, in order to help his team on the field. He will visit Florida next weekend, then Florida State, and then Georgia on March 3 for their Very Important Dawg junior day. A visit to South Carolina is likely in the second week of March.
At the moment, Cardiello is just searching for that right fit.
“I want to give all these schools a chance and lay out all my options,” Cardiello said. “If the best fit comes I will commit, but I need to find the best fit for both me and my family.”
The 6-foot-3, 290-pound lineman gets plenty of advice from his coaches, as well as teammates -- and some former teammates -- who have already gone through the recruiting process.
One former teammate in particular was excited to hear the Bulldogs had extended an offer.
“Kolton tells me UGA is the best, and when I told him they offered he was pumped up,” Cardiello said. “He wants me to go there so that is a positive because he was like a mentor to me when I was a freshman at Buford.”
The coaches at Buford push their players to the limit and players, including Cardiello, feel it is like a college with the amount of work they put in. As many have before, Cardiello credits offensive line coach Christian Hunnicutt as a major factor in his development as a player in the last three years.
“I think I come off the ball fast, my feet are good and my punch is probably what I do best,” Cardiello said. “I think I have ideal size for an interior lineman because I am not too tall to get under the defensive linemen. I liked the way Coach Friend teaches linemen to play, and it is a style I could definitely see myself playing in.”