Delando Crooks takes closer look at UGA

Athens is starting to become a familiar destination for Delando Crooks (Atlanta/Carver). The 6-foot-4, 265-pound offensive lineman took his first visit to the University of Georgia on Jan. 28 for the program’s first junior day, and then made a return trip for the inaugural Very Important Dawg Day March 3. On Thursday, Crooks was again in town, but this time was a bit different.

With Crooks being basically the only recruit on campus, he was able to spend time with athletic director Greg McGarity and executive associate AD Dr. Carla Williams and sit in on a class. He also got a chance to see practice. His uncle, Troy Vaccianna, said the academic portion of the visit was of great interest to Crooks.

“Delando wanted to know if the Georgia State classes would be accepted and if they would be transferable because he is dual-enrolled right now,” Vaccianna said. “The info they gave was very valuable to him in ensuring he is taking the right classes, not just for credit at Georgia, but in general.”

Crooks has plenty of other options to choose from, including offers from top programs such as Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. He is taking the time to ensure he is making the right decision.

McGarity and coach Mark Richt once again made sure to sell Crooks on what Georgia had to offer, the benefits of earning a degree from UGA, and the bright future he could have in Athens. The rest of the coaching staff was not shy in efforts to add Crooks to the 2013 roster.

“Coach [Rodney] Garner, Coach [Mike] Bobo, Coach [Will] Friend and Coach Richt did not make any bones about it,” Vaccianna said. “They told Delando they need him up there. They did not beat around the bush about it and they said they think he would be a great asset to the team.”

The visit to Georgia was a thorough one, lasting from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and beyond, and it included a chance to take in the Bulldogs’ third practice session of the spring. Crooks watched Kenarious Gates and Watts Dantzler line up as the first-team offensive tackles, and Austin Long and Mark Beard with the second team.

“Practice was interesting because they did everything very similarly to how we do it at Carver with the 5-minute periods and groups,” Vaccianna said. “It was just the beginning of practice, but Delando left feeling he could compete.”

The Bulldogs have had ample opportunity to make a positive impression on Crooks, which could bode well for a program that has just 11 offensive linemen on campus, with two offensive tackles, Zach DeBell and Xavier Ward, out recovering from surgery, and another lineman, Kolton Houston, still not declared eligible to play. At the moment, Crooks has no leaders to announce as he continues to evaluate programs showing interest.

“Delando is open to anyone that offers, and he is going to consider them all as well,” Vaccianna said. “He is going to take his time, evaluate all aspects of the programs that have offered and not rush into a decision. With the dual enrollment, he does not have a lot of free time, so when he makes his college decision he will then evaluate if he is going to enroll early or not. He is just a young man right now, so he is trying to enjoy the rest of his time in high school.”